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Manufacturers build up security efforts

Midsize manufacturers are putting security ahead of all other IT projects, while larger companies view enterprise resource planning as almost equally critical, a study shows.

Companies in manufacturing industries are putting more emphasis on security than any other information technology initiative, according to research from analysts at Gartner.

A survey released Wednesday by the Stamford, Conn.-based research firm concluded that manufactures are more focused on protecting their IT assets from external threats than they are on other technology efforts such as enterprise applications integration (EAI) and wireless infrastructure adoption.

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However, the study said that while midsize manufacturers are putting security ahead of all other projects, larger companies view enterprise resource planning (ERP) as almost equally critical to their technology spending plans. This year marks the second year in a row that security and ERP, software designed to manage business functions ranging from human resources to financials, ranked first and second, respectively, among manufacturers' IT goals.

Overall, manufacturers expect to invest significantly in IT security products and services over the next year. Roughly 60 percent of the companies polled plan to augment their existing safeguards in some manner, and 22 percent are prepared to undertake large-scale projects. The remaining 18 percent intend to maintain current IT security strategies and infrastructure.

As opposed to the past several years, companies plan to increase their IT budgets across the board in 2004. While the Gartner study did not detail how much manufacturers plan to raise their technology investments, it said a good deal of the money will go toward increasing internal staff salaries and addressing the issue of an insufficient number of IT workers. Wireless application development will be another popular area of investment, after several years of decline among end users.

Gartner believes larger manufacturers have historically invested greater amounts of time and money into building existing IT defense systems, allowing these companies to spend more energy on ERP and wireless applications. The reality that smaller manufacturers have fewer dollars to spend on nonsecurity-related initiatives also plays a role in this strategic difference, according to the report.

Another technology expected to garner significant investments from manufacturers over the next year is radio frequency identification tools, which promise to help companies better manage inventory and product distribution via chips armed with wireless antennas.