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

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

Rohit Gupta is Cognizant’s Vice President for the Products & Resources Business unit. In this role, he is in charge of the Manufacturing, Logistics, Transportation, Energy & Utilities business division across Europe. As a recognised industry leader with more than two decades of experience in the information technology industry, he is also responsible for incubating and growing strategic business transformation programmes in new industry sectors for Cognizant. Rohit graduated from Delhi University with a degree in Computer Engineering

With the arrival of 5G, what is the fundamental impact it will have on manufacturing?

“Industry 4.0 triggers a string of use cases that appeal to the manufacturing sector, all of which could be deployed at scale. In particular, the advent of 5G is likely to yield immediate business results for manufacturers; from predictive maintenance, remote condition monitoring and rapid 3D scanning for quality checks, to rapid design prototyping via additive manufacturing, end-to-end supply chain visibility, AR/VR and co-bots.”

IoT needs fast communications networks. Will 5G usher in the new age of Industry 4.0?

“We expect 5G to catalyze Industry 4.0 adoption amongst manufacturers globally. In most cases, market dynamics are likely to force them to deploy 5G communication networks sooner, if not later.

“In an Industry 4.0 context, the notion of real-time becomes a very important ingredient, be it discrete manufacturing units or process industries. Picture this typical maintenance resolution example that could soon be a reality: A maintenance engineer is operating on a defective robotic arm in a factory in Gothenburg based on the advice of an expert located in the main plant in Coventry. At the same time, the Stuttgart-based robot parts vendor immediately confirms lead-time for the faulty piston, following fault diagnosis.”

What are the challenges manufacturers face when harnessing 5G across their factories and supply chains?

“Given that 5G is only in its early days, there might be few challenges to its adoption, such as hardware compatibility. The hardware on the shop floor and the associated networking assets must be 5G-ready in the first place. Without this prerequisite, we may not see ample market adoption – ‘industry ecosystem convergence’ will be a critical factor in driving product development that is suitable for 5G channels.

“There are also serious security concerns around 5G – according to a 2018 NTT Security survey, manufacturing is one of the most targeted sectors for cyber-attacks. As 5G is an enabler of diverse Industry 4.0 use cases, building a security strategy that is effective and relevant will be imperative.”

As 5G becomes available to manufacturers, which processes will it have the most impact on initially?

“We expect 5G to significantly influence most facets of the manufacturing value chain – it is designed to support higher broadband throughput, ultra-reliable and low-latency communication, and massive scale for Industry 4.0 communications.

“In particular, 5G is likely to improve production efficiency, transparency and flexibility, such as time-sensitive process optimization to support zero-defect manufacturing. Elsewhere, 5G will enable wireless management and control of robots and co-bots, improve operator safety, and provide the platform for edge computing to cater to applications involving high sampling frequency rates.”

How will a manufacturer’s wider business have to evolve and change to make the most of 5G?

“Manufacturers are likely to have built their own ‘circles of ecosystem’ of stakeholders and partners to deliver their products and services to targeted markets. For instance, ‘a core ecosystem stakeholder’ may be involved in supplying the components (supplier); an ‘adjacent ecosystem stakeholder’ may be engaged to ship the product (third party logistics), and an ‘extended ecosystem partner’ would deliver services (product installers).

“5G deployment should be viewed as an over-arching strategy that brings together the manufacturer’s ‘circles of ecosystem’ to ensure that the value created is not lost mid-journey. However, this is a strategic piece that manufacturers may need to crack before deploying 5G networks within their value chain. With a strong strategy, every player within the ecosystem will benefit from a joint 5G deployment strategy, as it is likely to involve sharing the infrastructure load amongst partners, enabling a more profitable and faster time to market.”

“One of the core tenets of Industry 4.0 is cross-industry convergence; disruptive vendors from other non-manufacturing industries are likely to offer solutions that cater to the emerging needs of Industry 4.0 versus traditional supplier vendor base. As a result, we are likely to witness more joint ventures, acquisitions, collaborations, partnerships and ecosystem-driven moves that will drastically alter the traditional competitive landscape.”

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David Howell

Dave Howell is a freelance journalist and writer. His work has appeared across the national press and in industry-leading magazines and websites. He specialises in technology and business.

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