The 5G Effect - How 5G will Make Manufacturing More Efficient and Resilient

The coronavirus has made the current living situation strange and challenging to deal with for all. The nature of the virus is such that many processes have had to change, inevitably putting mass amounts of pressure on several businesses and industries. 

This, of course, involves the manufacturing process and plants. Simultaneously, the COVID crisis has also highlighted how important it is for the sector to be resilient and agile. The nature of factories relies heavily on manual labor which is typically done on-site. Throughout the pandemic, factories have been forced to close in an attempt to slow down the spread of the virus. However, some organizations, like Audi and others, have been able to adjust their setup to accommodate for the change and, in turn, have ramped up production to help meet the demands the pandemic has created for essential products.

The use of 5G connectivity can boost factories, allowing them to cope and meet new demands and challenges while accelerating a shift that is already underway. Many machines that are used in the manufacturing process aiding efficiency and advanced automation would be able to deliver more value if they were connected to and managed on a reliable wireless network such as 5G. 

Currently, the process of manufacturing in factories relies heavily on ethernet cables. Ethernet cables are expensive and can significantly limit flexibility. Replacing them with new 5G high-performing operations which are wireless and work smarter has the potential to make way for real progress. 

Many within the industry of manufacturing understand that it is not viable to place cables on every sensor or machine. For this reason, real change can only come from adopting new technologies like 5G

Image source- Ericsson

Relying on cables has historically made the production process more static and provides a rigid way of working. Gaining amplified flexibility through the use of 5G wireless networks means switching production from one product to another will be simpler, one which may even be done overnight. Not having to worry about moving around cables means machines can be used for a variety of products, reducing costs. 

The use of wireless connectivity will usher an entirely new paradigm of manufacturing. The reason for this is because Autonomous Mobile Robots will be able to transfer components and goods on the factory floor, dispose of scrap materials and remove bottlenecks that will help workers focus on more value-adding tasks. Sensors will also keep tabs of the production process as parts move around the warehouse. The robots will also be able to continually feed data back to machines and production staff helping to optimize production and operations, improve safety and speed up maintenance. 

Over time, with the introduction of 5Gs low-latency, security and reliability, some machines will naturally become workers, working alongside humans and in close proximity to them, assisting with the production process. Connectivity of this level can propel manufacturing forward with the use of collaborative robots, as we have seen its success in the smart-device sector. 

The future of connectivity concentrates on how it will extend well beyond the shop floor. Not only will it have the power to link machines, sensors and workers together across the entire industrial site of the factory, it will also have the capability to connect the factory to the outside world. 

Research carried out by Ericsson and KPMG indicates that a factory that embraces wireless communication can unlock a value equal to an extra £1 per square meter every day which is an annual average of approximately $4million. IHS Markit also calculated that the global value of 5G in a worldwide gain is poised at $3.2 trillion in increase, rising to 22.3 million jobs by 2035. 

However, the move towards 5G is already underway in some parts of the world. Using robots that respond well to 5G will offer leverage to experts without the need for them to even be on-site, giving them remote control. 

This will again reduce travel and allow manufacturers to centralize smarter operations. However, like all things, there are some downsides. One of the biggest with 5G will be the maintenance of connectivity in the workplace and the fatal outcome of when robots stop working and do not respond. However, the positive outweighs the negative, allowing companies to excel. 

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