The manufacturing industry is largely reliant on the quality of connections between technologies and machines, and 5G has the potential to transform the entire field and ignite the next phase of the industrial revolution. Industry 4.0 will be powered by 5G - here's how:
The tech perspective: Ultra-reliable low-latency communication (URLLC) increases productivity
Because of the decreased latency that 5G provides, the real-time updates between machines will actually happen in real-time with no lags or delays. This also means that much of the work can happen almost autonomously, so employees can supervise from a distance or remotely, receiving the same real-time updates on progress while simultaneously handling other tasks.
Arguably more exciting is the prospect of being able to use advanced technologies running on 5G. AI-powered sensors will be able to predict when certain machines need maintenance, reducing the opportunity for errors or down time. AR headsets can allow employees to remotely check-in on fixes, monitor the factory floor or even diagnose problems remotely. Robots can take over the mundane, everyday actions that take-up countless hours of an employees' day, leaving them free to take on more value-added work.
These gains will impact the business and the workforce, too. 5G will liberate the "man-machine" link so that employees can be truly virtual, and technology can be truly autonomous. Employees will have more flexibility, which increases productivity and employee engagement. Improved technologies and happier employees mean better business outputs a win all around.
The business perspective: real-time connectivity requires secured and assured performance
Not only will enhanced technology and increased employee engagement improve the business, but 5G will create entirely new avenues for manufacturers. Drones, for example, could be a huge asset for factories. They could conduct aerial site visits, provide transportation support and so on. But the current LTE network can't provide the secure foundation that drones need to complete these tasks. More specifically, they are easily interfered with, especially when the use case involves moving across large distances. Because 5G has network slicing capabilities, the drones would be set with a solid, non-interceptable field that would allow them to complete their tasks without employees having to significantly monitor their progress.
With manufacturing expected to be one of the first industries to really implement 5G, particularly private 5G networks, they'll also be better protected from rising ransomware actors. Companies will still have to adopt the right tools to monitor the network, but because 5G allows for more real-time visibility than its predecessors, IT teams can be certain they're getting all of the necessary information to secure their network.
The partnership perspective: Partnerships for better performance guarantees
Actual 5G adoption and implementation within manufacturing won't just change the factories themselves; it will also change the relationship between the manufacturing companies and telecom service providers. Because of all of the benefits 5G is poised to provide improved conditions for the workforce, encouragement of advanced technology production, and new business opportunities telecom companies will move from being just connectivity providers to being strategic partners. Manufacturers will need heightened performance KPIs to best leverage 5G, meaning they'll require increased transparency from service providers on dropped packets in communication links, jitter and latency. How service providers deliver on this information and on the network will determine how successful manufacturers are, making the partnership even more crucial for business success.
For a multitude of reasons, 5G has huge potential to completely transform manufacturing. But there's a lot of complexity in this, too, and companies need to make sure they have the right tools, infrastructure and drive to make 5G a success.
Sergio Bea, VP Global Enterprise and Channels, Accedian
Photo by Science in HD on Unsplash.