Future Factory: How 5G will transform industry, networking and communications

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Manufacturing looks set to become one of the first industries to be transformed by 5G. Until now, the full potential of IoT has not been fully realised as network capacity, speed and latency have been barriers. 5G could remove all these obstacles.

Transforming manufacturing

The connected factory is a mass of sensor technologies and their associated support networks. Only 5G and its ability to slice the network provider can offer the flexibility needed to deliver the core benefits of Industry 4.0.

Nigel Thomas, Head of Aerospace and Defence at Capgemini told Silicon:

“Within manufacturing, 5G will allow businesses to connect sensors to more of their equipment, which will provide them with data around how the equipment is performing when its next service is needed, and any issues it may be experiencing. However, the reality is that Industry 4.0 will struggle to deliver that full connectivity. Many manufacturers still use legacy machines, and as such are unlikely to put sensors on them as they may be unsure of what benefits they can get. Ultimately 5G will deliver a new age of Industry 4.0 for companies who can present a clear business case, but for those where the business case is questionable or not appropriate, the impact is less certain.”

The ability to expand and offer more personalised services across the manufacturing process has been pointed to by many as a core benefit 5G will offer. “For industrial manufacturing, production is expected to be far more scalable and adaptable, production schedules are expected to be much more dynamic, with organisations potentially having a greater product portfolio,” said Nozomi Networks’ Andrea Carcano. “Adaptive manufacturing could result in a growth in outsourced manufacturing, allowing organisations to scale and shrink production based on market demands.”

The propensity for change that 5G, coupled with IoT, could be transformative. Manufacturers are rightly cautious about how the hype surrounding Industry 4.0 and the promises of 5G networks will translate into tangible benefits that are affordable to implement.

Says Ian Hood, Chief Architect, Global Service Providers, Red Hat: “Manufacturers, like other business verticals, will need to change their way of thinking and develop their applications with the ability to automate the deployment of high volumes of change almost constantly. Manufacturers will need to design software solutions not with the mindset of a manufacturer but as a digital applications and services development business.”

With Capgemini’s Nigel Thomas concluding: “5G will have a slow-burning impact on manufacturing, and its rollout will share an analogy with 4G adoption. There was a slow uptake of 5G’s predecessor as the investment was phased in by the operators, and even now we struggle to get 4G everywhere. The impact of 5G will experience hockey stick growth – once the industry is confident in the benefits of its deployment, and the business cases stand up, we will see accelerated developments.”

What is clear is that the manufacturing sector will be one of the first use cases to see the transformative impact the 5G IoT partnership will deliver. There is little doubt that more investment will be needed to realise these advances if Industry 4.0 is to become a reality.

NEXT: Interview with Rohit Gupta, VP and Head of Manufacturing, Logistics, Energy and Utilities, Europe, Cognizant. 

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