Part 2: A Blueprint for the Modern, Digital Factory

Share this post

November 2, 2021
Nick Applegarth and Graham Wilde

IoT digital transformation Automation 5G Connectivity

How 5G private networks enable the factory of the future 

We’ve already explored how manufacturers can use the seamless connectivity of 5G to elevate efficiency and productivity, while adapting fast to the shifting demands of the post-COVID world.  

But how else can private networks overcome traditional barriers to enable the factory of the future? 

Delivering scalability, reliability, and performance 

Drawing on a 5G network’s higher capacity for device density—up to a million per square kilometre—machines become more secure than when connected by Wi-Fi.

A 5G private network is pivotal in maximising connectivity uptime. Drawing on a 5G network’s higher capacity for device density—up to a million per square kilometre—machines become more secure than when connected by Wi-Fi. Greater connectivity means greater responsiveness and makes adding new devices and sensors totally seamless. And because 5G is so reliable, it’s easier to ensure user access to improved mobile connectivity for safety-critical equipment as it moves around the factory.  

The impact of all these benefits is clear: greater customer confidence, enhanced business reputation, and no more costly maintenance of legacy equipment. 

Making factory operations smarter 

Connectivity isn’t always considered first when developing a smart factory—but the advent of Industry 4.0 has made it mission-critical. IoT data isn’t much use if it can’t be accessed and analysed at pace. Manufacturers have struggled with limited connectivity for a long time—which is why 5G, with its hyperconnectivity, is now surging in popularity. Because it provides full site coverage and doesn’t suffer from the interference that a factory environment can sometimes cause with Wi-Fi, 5G facilitates the use of smart tools, with all the productivity gains they bring.   

5G provides full site coverage and doesn’t suffer from the interference that a factory environment can sometimes cause with Wi-Fi, 5G facilitates the use of smart tools, with all the productivity gains they bring.

The high bandwidth and low latency of 5G means you can combine HD Video and AI to give the ultimate view of what’s going on, whether that’s automated checks to improve quality assurance testing (and provide vital data for production planning), or CCTV to improve safety—cameras can spot workers in the wrong place, and can even notify you if someone is not wearing the right safety equipment. 

When things need fixing, or tweaking, you don’t need to wait for an expert to fly in. You can connect them remotely and use augmented reality (AR) via a handset or AR glasses, to provide remote technical assistance to one of your own team. The high speed and low latency of 5G means that you can use AR or VR goggles without that nauseating experience that comes from jitter with a poor signal. 

With the evolution of robotic manufacturing, 5G makes robot tracking and repair more efficient, and enables the use of autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs). After all, factories can gain tangible benefits from AGVs as part of the factory digitisation process. AGVs use less space than human-driven (or pulled) trolleys and carts, they don’t get sick, can operate 24x7, and you always know where they are. Also, the data gathered from AGVs can integrate with other systems to produce rich insights that help support decision making for the next phase of manufacturing transformation. 

It’s time to reimagine what’s possible on the factory frontline 

The impact of new and innovative manufacturing processes will only ever be as great as the connectivity that powers them. What matters most now is generating and integrating the information that spans teams, systems, sensors, and partners to produce goods that don’t come back, for customers who do. 

View infographic