Manufacturing | How to deploy 5G

Articles Written by Jonny Williamson




Imagine a management team who believed the internet and the myriad opportunities it enables was nothing more than a fad. How much of a disadvantage would their company be against competitors who had all embraced eCommerce, digital marketing and cloud-based software systems. The same will soon be said about 5G connectivity, according to one expert.

That analogy chimes with that of mobile tech expert, Simon Rockman, who says that if you think of 1G as vinyl records, 2G as CDs, 3G as DVDs and 4G as Blu-Ray, then 5G is like the internet – an entirely new value proposition.

Comparisons between 5G and the internet aren’t surprising. Both have connectivity at their core, both offer unparalleled business growth opportunities and both are valued not for what they are but for what they enable. Where the two differ is in how quickly they transform every aspect of trade and commerce.

Today, an internet connection is as crucial to a manufacturer as a CNC turning centre or CAD software. Yet, it took decades for the internet to ascend from arrival to ubiquity. Most commentators agree that 5G will achieve the same feat within the next five years.

So, why should 5G be on boardroom agendas today? Manufacturing businesses face an abundance of challenges – internal and external, domestic and international. Many of these are made more acute by the rigidity of traditional production processes and assembly lines.

The majority of factory assets are fixed and have wired connectivity. Enacting change within such environments is often arduous and time-consuming. A wireless network allows equipment to be reconfigured quickly and easily. As a result, factory floors become more flexible, agile and responsive – capabilities synonymous with increased productivity and profitability.

Short term, you could achieve this with a Wi-Fi network. Before long, however, the constraints of Wi-Fi, i.e. a limited number of connections over a limited area, will hinder progress.

According to Ericsson, the digitalisation of factory equipment, workers, vehicles and processes means the number of connected devices will exponentially increase. Such connectivity demand, combined with manufacturing’s need for reliability, low latency and security, means 5G will swiftly move from nice-to-have to business imperative.

Indeed, the revolution has already begun. Real-world trials and testbeds are currently demonstrating the productivity, efficiency and innovation improvements 5G unlocks. A small sample of these are explored in this eBook, including:

  • BAE System’s Factory of the Future in Lancashire
  • Birmingham-based AE Aerospace’s Glass Factory
  • Connected Automotive Logistics at Nissan Sunderland
  • 5G Enabled Manufacturing at Ford’s Electrified Powertrain campus in Essex

Elsewhere, there are interviews with Ericsson North America’s Paul Chan Tse and Rab Scott, Professor of Industrial Digitalisation at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.

This series of articles was commissioned to answer the key questions many industrial business leaders are still wrestling with, including:

  • What is 5G?
  • What economic impact have early adopters experienced?
  • How do I build a business case for investing in 5G?
  • How does 5G integrate with my legacy IT systems?
  • How do I choose the right 5G network for my business?
  • What steps can I take to make my business 5G ready?

It’s been a pleasure researching and producing this series. Thank you to all those who provided their insights and direction, particularly Vicki DeBlasi and the UK5G team.

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