5G can change the game in manufacturing

July 11, 2022 | 11:00
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As the fastest and most reliable connectivity enabler the world has ever seen, 5G will deliver an array of innovative uses to increase factory capabilities and boost agility. Denis Brunetti, president for Ericsson in Vietnam and Myanmar, explains why freeing operations from wire dependency is the best direction to take.
5G can change the game in manufacturing
Denis Brunetti, president for Ericsson in Vietnam and Myanmar

For the average factory tethering its equipment with internet cables, a large part of 5G’s wireless value will come down to simple practicality, since attaching cables to every machine and sensor in a factory just is not viable. That is where wireless technology like 5G will be a game-changer.

A wireless environment will also make processes smarter, more flexible, and less static, which is increasingly critical in today’s factories.

Tomorrow’s factory environments will see autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) operating on shop floors, fetching components, removing pieces of scrap, and freeing up workers for more important tasks by taking over less-critical work. Meanwhile, 5G-enabled facilities will benefit from sensors placed throughout, monitoring production processes and collecting data to feed back to machines and production managers.

This will greatly enhance the speed of operations, improve maintenance capabilities, through accelerated awareness or even notification before failures occur, and increase safety.

Linking not only machines, sensors, and workers on industrial sites but also factories themselves to the outside world, 5G will enable facilities to stay automatically up to date with changing order patterns or logistical complications, for example, through the cloud.

Today, we are already seeing a range of companies opting for cellular connectivity. For example, the new and fully networked Mercedes-Benz 5G factory near Stuttgart sets new standards in terms of digitalisation, automation, and climate efficiency.

Range of advantages

Ericsson and Hexagon have examined five different smart manufacturing use cases that will enable manufacturers to conduct their operations more efficiently: Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), collaborative robots, digital twins, AR, and asset condition monitoring.

With many factories having wired connectivity, these fixed assets make it difficult to reconfigure the facility, whether to make custom products or shift to a new product line. But now, private wireless cellular networks are making the factory floor into much more agile environments.

Cellular-equipped factory layouts can be reconfigured instantly to adapt to changing requirements and products. That means manufacturers can meet customer demand for more customised products.

AMRs offer many benefits, such as freeing up forklift operators to do other factory tasks, and improving worker safety, since robots can easily manoeuvre through hazardous environments. Plus, they handle materials much more accurately, so they can eliminate up to 30 per cent of typical scrap.

By automating operations, manufacturers can forge a more efficient production process that dramatically increases yields, improves product quality, and reduces waste.

This level of automation requires robust wireless connectivity, and private networks are supplying the reliability and security needed to realise connected manufacturing. These smarter factories offer productivity-boosting technologies such as robotic assistance, rich visualisation tools, and AR.

In addition to the financial benefit, smarter manufacturing creates a substantial triple bottom line improvement – with an increase in safety for workers, plus a kinder environmental impact through reduced scrap and emissions.

We are committed to supporting Vietnam in becoming a regional and global smart manufacturing hub. Our ambition is further sharpened by the expectation that over two-thirds of global manufacturers will relocate to Asia-Pacific by 2025, with Vietnam clearly attracting a high number of these manufacturing opportunities.

In order to remain competitive, create better experiences and services, and increase efficiency and productivity while also achieving sustainability goals, enterprises will increasingly require 5G connectivity that is global, reliable, and secure.

Embracing new tools

5G mobile network capabilities will play a pivotal role in achieving this vision, supporting an accelerated adoption of Industry 4.0 across the nation. Vietnam has taken the right approach by deploying 5G in big cities and industrial areas first, to bring digital transformation to manufacturing facilities. Wireless digitalisation of enterprises through 5G will deliver a step-change in productivity and redefine the whole digital ecosystem.

In fact, according to our just-released Future of Enterprises Report, when manufacturing companies think of what advanced wireless networks they will need for ICT-enabled production tools, 5G is at top of their wish list. As we found in our research, a majority of manufacturers expect the introduction of 5G in their production system within the next five years

This report is based on our Industry Lab Study which was conducted across 22 countries to get a deeper understanding of the transformation happening in the manufacturing industry. Almost two-thirds of the surveyed manufacturers expect to be automated to at least 80 per cent within 10 years. Thus, cellular connectivity is fundamental to enabling new use cases. Cellular connectivity enables digitalisation by connecting wireless sensors, cameras, drones, and more as input to digital models and AI analysis.

With cellular connectivity, industries can take full advantage of remote control and automation throughout the production process. Cellular connectivity can boost connected worker capabilities with extended immersive reality, location awareness for safety, and machine interaction.

The use cases and the connectivity solutions that power them can be applied in a variety of key industries and can be customised and tailored to the specific needs, contexts, and goals of enterprises in these different industries.

Vietnam needs to continue to make investments in 4G networks in the country to enhance the experience of customers. And we continue to work with service providers in Vietnam towards providing 4G coverage in the country.

Beyond that, 5G will also enable Vietnam to unlock the potential of Industry 4.0 and will be the foundation on which Vietnam can further build on its digital transformation journey and realise the government’s vision.

Ericsson has been supporting Vietnamese mobile service providers with technical 5G trials since 2019, leveraging our technology leadership, strategic partnerships, and expansive 4G base - which can seamlessly and efficiently be upgraded to 5G capabilities when required.

As a trusted and long-term strategic partner in Vietnam’s ICT industry, Ericsson is committed to working alongside leading mobile service providers such as Viettel, VNPT Group, MobiFone, and Vietnamobile to expand 4G network coverage and capacity whilst also preparing for the commercial introduction of 5G through a series of technical and commercial trials.

In addition, Ericsson also recognises the need to lead the market in forging strategic 5G ecosystem partnerships that include cross-industry players, bringing them together with mobile service providers to deliver compelling digital transformation engagements and new revenue streams.

By Denis Brunetti

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