Connected factories have been around for a while. At this point, almost every manufacturer has adopted a “connected” system. But despite their many advantages, these systems have been challenging to scale. Low connectivity speeds and high latency with existing networks limit data transfer among connected machines and robots, hindering the full benefits of a smart connected factory.
5G telecommunications technology is a game-changer for manufacturers and may be the secret weapon to unlocking business success. According to several recent research studies, the benefits of 5G to global manufacturing could amount to nearly $750 billion by the end of the decade. Potential download speeds of 10,000 Mbps and 5G connections can eliminate network latency issues and power millions of connected devices with varied operating requirements. Processing data close to the factory assembly line, also known as Edge computing, with multi-access networks can further reduce latency. 5G networks are up to 100 times faster than 4G, can be installed in small areas and are ideally suited to a factory environment. Manufacturers that use 5G connectivity to leverage technologies such as automation, AI/ML, Internet of Things (IoT), AR/VR and robotics will enjoy the innovation advantage that 5G offers and helps them become a “Factory of the Future.”
Unique 5G Benefits for Manufacturing
Innovation, intelligence, integration, 5G and the guiding principles of Industry 4.0 will change the face of manufacturing, impacting industrial control and automation systems, planning and design systems and field devices. This technology can offer manufacturers flexibility in operations, cost savings, shorter lead times, employee safety and higher productivity. 5G connectivity for operations is reliable, scalable and plays a crucial role across the entire manufacturing value chain, delivering the following key advantages:
Flexibility in operations – 5G eliminates the need for wired connectivity, enabling a high-speed manufacturing environment with higher flexibility and lower latency to manage operations. Flexibility in operations could include a shop floor robot talking to a warehouse robot to manage inventory and adjust output.
Productivity boost – A complex manufacturing process will yield higher productivity gains from digitization. With improved data capture, advanced automation, and real-time monitoring for higher accuracy, 5G can significantly boost manufacturing productivity.
Real-time predictive maintenance – Broken machines can halt production, leading to millions of dollars in losses. 5G can enable real-time predictive maintenance that proactively prevents failures. Real-time IoT data streaming through 5G networks can help keep track of vital equipment parameters such as acceleration, temperature, humidity, etc., and raise timely alerts.
Employee health and safety – Equipped with 5G sensor-embedded wearables such as Smart helmets, employees can be guided through hazardous conditions and tracked in an emergency.
Cost savings – Costs decrease with efficient operations, connected supply chains, predictive maintenance and cutting down the overall effort to run the factory. In addition, on-premises computing requirements also reduce the costs of managing infrastructure.
Sustainability – The manufacturing sector is a big consumer of non-renewable energy and natural resources. These companies can lower energy costs and improve production sustainability by enabling the enhanced interconnection of production lines, robots, and machinery for Smart and digital factories.
5G Use Cases for Smart Manufacturing
Smarter, faster, and sustainable production lines are prompting manufacturers to make the most of 5G and move toward Smart Manufacturing. The manufacturing sector can benefit from 5G’s low latency, connectivity to millions of devices and higher throughput features. Here are some specific use cases:
- Intelligent Process Automation – 5G-enabled automation in a manufacturing environment can use control systems to monitor repetitive tasks usually performed by humans. All this is possible when 5G powers various elements with its network capabilities in the manufacturing environment. Manufacturers can increase efficiency and productivity with IoT sensors, AI-enabled vision cameras and autonomous robots.
- Connected Asset Remote Monitoring – 5G live streaming and remote monitoring are becoming more seamless in manufacturing. Monitoring production assets in real-time becomes possible even when the operator is not on the factory floor.
- Predictive Maintenance – Detecting anomalies in equipment before it turns into critical failures or performing maintenance before the equipment breaks down can be monitored by AI/ML 5G-driven tools, increasing equipment uptime, and reducing overall maintenance costs.
- Troubleshooting Enabled Through Augmented Reality – With equipment becoming more complex and skilled workers getting scarce, 5G can change the nature of repairs in the manufacturing sector. With AR-enabled devices like wearing Smart glasses and helmets, workers can connect remotely to senior technicians for timely resolution. This new remote assistance technology needs ultra-low latency, powered only by 5G.
- Automated Guided Vehicles – A portable robot or automated guided vehicle (AGV) follows a set path and transports heavy materials around industrial facilities. These AGVs can produce valuable data insights and reduce uncertainty. 5G plays a role in digitizing the manufacturing environment and connecting multiple AGVs.
The Landscape for Smart Manufacturing
The manufacturing landscape is changing dramatically. The ever-changing consumer demands and customization, the complexity of products, the introduction of newer technologies, the supply chain cycle and margin pressure are all growing and evolving. While 5G can improve standard metrics of manufacturing success, its value lies in the continuous innovation that can open entirely new business models and revenue streams.
To enable Smart manufacturing, Wipro just launched our 5G Def-i platform. This solution is built on open standards and provides a cloud-native environment, network APIs, and the third-party integrations necessary for manufacturers to onboard existing devices and infrastructure, incubate new apps and services and keep up with technology. The possibilities are immense on where and how to play in the manufacturing sector. With the right partner, companies can successfully navigate the new landscape of “Smart Manufacturing.”
Click here for more information on how Wipro’s 5G Def-I platform can help your enterprise.