Utilising ICT to enable the transformation of manufacturing within this decade

November 22, 2021 | 09:58
The latest Ericsson Industry Lab Future of Enterprises report has predicted the widespread transformation of manufacturing enterprises in the coming years, including a rapid rise in ICT-enabled production tools such as augmented reality. Denis Brunetti, president of Ericsson Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, reveals more about the findings of the report.
Utilising ICT to enable the transformation of manufacturing within this decade
Denis Brunetti, president of Ericsson Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia

According to our latest research, most manufacturing enterprises expect to be at least 80 per cent automated within 10 years, with many expecting to see at least a two-fold rise in the use of ICT-enabled tools within the next five years. Such tools include AI software, video recognition, AR and VR, automated guided vehicles, and exoskeletons.

The report took an in-depth look at the future of manufacturing, gathering insights representative of about 145 million production employees across 22 markets, and found that most manufacturing enterprises have emerged largely unharmed from the worst effects of the COVID-19 pandemic – with 69 per cent reporting an unchanged or even improved financial performance since lockdowns began.

To handle this demanding environment and enable production employees to be smarter, swifter, and safer, manufacturers are introducing more ICT production tools. These tools can include: AI software, AR, co-bots, video recognition, digital twins, and remote-controlled machines and vehicles.

In fact, the use of such production tools is thriving and the report has identified nine ICT-enabled technologies that could become more powerful when enabled by wireless connectivity. While 60 per cent of the surveyed manufacturers already have Wi-Fi, 8 out of 10 expect to introduce 5G within five years. Some 70 per cent of manufacturers also expect to have implemented at least five of the nine tools within the next five years.

It is exciting to see wireless connectivity mature and become an enabler for businesses to put advanced system support in the hands of the people in the frontline, on the factory floor, in the mine, and along the supply chain. As reflected in the report, with automation increasing, manufacturers will be able to create more safe and efficient work environments, something we have also seen in our own factories – including Ericsson 5G smart factories in the US, Estonia, and China, which are all equipped with private networks.

Manufacturers that currently use three or more ICT-enabled production tools, defined in the report as tool frontrunners, enjoyed significantly improved financial performance compared to those who use no tools at all. A number of tools and technologies that enhance employee capabilities to work smarter, faster, safer, and with higher strength and endurance can help manufacturers master this new production ecosystem now.

With the digitalisation and automation that is taking place in factories, the role of the production employee is also shifting to include more oversight and troubleshooting. Around 70 per cent of such employees say they need higher skills in data analysis, programming, and thinking outside the box generally.

Manufacturers believe that in the long-term, automating all elements of work is going to be possible and economically viable. Three-quarters of decision-makers agree that automation has increased the speed of production; 68 per cent believe that it has or will lead to reduced costs; and 71 per cent believe that it has reduced dangerous tasks that carry the risk of accidents and wear-and-tear injuries.

As the fastest and most reliable connectivity enabler, 5G will deliver an array of innovative use cases to increase factory capabilities and boost agility, freeing operations from wired dependency. 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, and increase safety.

5G will be leveraged by Vietnam, making its factories more flexible and more efficient than ever before. And both now and in the future, the boost in agility and enhancement of operations that advanced wireless connectivity will bring is going to be a critical component in Vietnam’s journey to realise its Industry 4.0 journey.

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