5G and factories of the future, Telecom News, ET Telecom

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Factories today are in the midst of continuous change in the technology they employ. Even when they deploy a variety of advanced machines to improve efficiency and automation, they are relying on the outdated use of Ethernet cables to send important data. These machines could offer much more value if they were connected and managed by reliable wireless networks.

As the fastest and most reliable connectivity enabler, 5G will provide a range of innovative use cases to increase plant capacity and enhance agility, freeing operations from the dependence of wires. For the average factory, a lot of the wireless value of 5G will come from the fact that connecting cables to every machine and sensor in a factory is simply not viable. This is where 5G will be a game changer. A wireless environment will also make processes smarter and less static, which is increasingly critical in today’s factories.

Smart collaboration

Factory environments of tomorrow will see Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) operating in workshops, salvaging components, removing pieces of junk and freeing workers for more important tasks by taking over less critical tasks. Meanwhile, 5G-enabled facilities will benefit from sensors placed everywhere, monitoring production processes and collecting data to inform machines and production managers. This will significantly improve the speed of operations, improve maintenance capabilities and increase safety.

In fact, the extremely low latency and reliability of 5G will mean that one day soon many machines essential for future factories will become something like non-human colleagues, working closely and transparently alongside their colleagues. humans to help them throughout their day. day to day process. Essentially, this means that the era of “collaborative robots” is just on the horizon. And from there, the possibilities will only increase.

Make critical connections

Today, we are already seeing a range of businesses opting for cellular connectivity. As an example, Atlas Copco – the world’s leading manufacturer of vacuum solutions, generators, power tools, etc. – took a similar step last year, working with us and Orange to bring wireless connectivity and smart manufacturing to its Atlas Copco Airpower plant. in Wilrijk, Belgium. Several major car brands have also joined, such as Mercedes-Benz, which is the new fully connected Factory 5G site near Stuttgart, “is setting new standards in terms of digitization, automation and climate efficiency.” These companies and others like them recognize the value of transparent communication (inside and outside, via local and global networks) for enhanced capabilities and greater flexibility.

Our own 5G smart factory in Lewisville, Texas has been recognized by the World Economic Forum as a global leader in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). The Forum awarded the site its prestigious “Global Lighthouse” designation in recognition of Ericsson’s deployment of next-generation technology at the site and its subsequent impact – including an impressive 2.2x improved performance per employee compared to a similar site without automation and improvements 4IR.

Compared to a similar site without its automation and 4IR enhancements, the 5G automated factory with connected robots improved throughput by 120% per employee and reduced manual material handling by 65%. In fact, almost all of the initial 5G Smart Factory training was done with our teams with almost no face-to-face interaction. They used virtual reality (VR) to connect with their colleagues at our other smart factory in Tallinn, over 8,000 km away, to receive all the knowledge they have gained since opening their smart factory in 2019.

A study we conducted in conjunction with KPMG found that a factory using wireless communication has the potential to reap an additional $ 1 worth of value per square meter – every day. Assuming a floor of 10,000 square meters (the smallest that can typically support a factory today), that means almost $ 4 million per year in added value.

Monitoring of production processes will be much smoother with 5G, improving maintenance capabilities and allowing faults or problems to be corrected more quickly.

The move from wired cellular to wireless cellular connectivity brings greater flexibility to Industry 4.0 operations. The transition to Industry 4.0 will depend on the successful adoption of many new technologies. To accelerate smart manufacturing, digital twins of machines and operations will be a necessity, as will automation of factories and real-time control of equipment and tasks. For example, the Ericsson plant in Tallinn has demonstrated that with augmented reality troubleshooting, reducing average fault detection time combined with better ergonomics and faster information sharing can increase productivity by up to 50%. %.

Industry 4.0 will help make smart machines smarter, factories more efficient, processes less wasteful, production lines more flexible and productivity higher. Built on the basis of smart, secure and wireless connectivity, there are opportunities to extend machine life through predictive maintenance, support rapid material handling, monitor every detail of the machine. workshop and take advantage of collaborative robots simultaneously with mobile communication.

5G for the future

By leveraging 5G, we could combine remote expertise with virtual collaboration in one place (an XR canvas) to expand our teamwork capabilities. In the case of manufacturing, for example, 5G could be used in factories to create ‘digital twins’ (or virtual replicas duplicating real physical entities), allowing the simulation of various test scenarios and processes.

Now imagine working on the same complex product simultaneously with colleagues in several remote locations while everyone sees the result of the work in front of their eyes. This is exactly what Ericsson-powered 5G will offer UK vehicle battery maker Hyperbat as part of a proof-of-concept virtual reality digital twinning partnership with communications service provider BT and other leaders. technological. Here, 5G technology will allow design, engineering and manufacturing experts to cooperate on a 3D engineering plan from various locations to impact physical products at the company’s production complex in Coventry.

In the future, this means that with 5G, companies would be able to take advantage of expert help, for example, without requiring their presence on-site – which would not only reduce travel (and costs). financial and environmental issues), but would also accelerate solutions and problems. -solution while generally promoting smarter operations.

India can leverage 5G to make its factories more flexible and efficient than ever. And now and in the future, the increased agility and improved operations that advanced wireless connectivity will bring will be a critical part of India’s journey to realize its vision of “digital India”.

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