Research & Best Practices

How 5G Will Turbocharge the Smart Factory

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The smart factory sounds like a futuristic phenomenon, but it is a present-day reality where machinery and equipment work together to improve processes through automation and self-optimization.

Factories become “smart” through the use of the Internet of Things (IoT)—sensors, robots, CMMS and more—all working together to produce real-time analytics, giving manufacturers the ability to create automated processes that increase productivity and limit machine downtime. Most smart factories of today are currently operating efficiently on an Ethernet, WiFi, or reliable 4G LTE network; however, the fourth generation of mobile connectivity will soon be overpowered by the number of connected devices found throughout the factory floor.

While 4G was great to kickstart industry 4.0, 5G’s ability to handle the influx of the world’s connected devices will send it into overdrive. 5G in manufacturing will change the landscape of the industry by offering unprecedented speed and connectivity. It will redefine “real-time” monitoring and increase the scope of communication between equipment and devices. The 5G smart factory will be the fastest and most productive operation in history, with major advances in productivity, efficiency, quality and increased innovation.

The Impact of 5G on Industry 4.0

The Fourth Industrial Revolution would not have been possible with the fast broadband speeds of 4G LTE.  But with speeds 100 times faster than those of 4G and the ability to handle up to 10,000 times more data, 5G will become the first cellular, a wireless platform to offer reliable machine-to-machine systems—the digital infrastructure of tomorrow’s smart factories. The main beneficiary of 5G in manufacturing will be the true “connected facility,” where every piece of equipment is networked and connected, with processes and operations breaking new boundaries in efficiency and speed.

5G smart manufacturing will provide maintenance techs with real-time data collection and analysis in every area of the facility — uncovering possibilities, innovations, efficiencies, and enhancing warehouse and asset management. Beyond just 5G predictive maintenance, the connected facility will see benefits in every area of operations — including logistics, fleet management, quality management, customer service and more.

Early studies have shown that early adopters of 5G have increased productivity, efficiency and have reported a decrease in product defects. 5G’s contribution to this overall improvement in production output is estimated to boost global GDP by a little under $740 billion by 2030.

5G’s Improvements to the Modern Smart Factory

The adoption and implementation of the 5G network is going to revolutionize the manufacturing industry as we know it. In addition to increased productivity and efficiency, here are a few other benefits a smart factory will realize when operating on a 5G network:

Flexible Networking

While most manufacturers are accustomed to using Ethernet, WiFi, or 4G to connect factory devices, these networks are not always the most flexible. In contrast, 5G will allow manufacturers to adjust the network to their needs both on and off the factory floor. It will also help ease the introduction and utilization of devices like robots and sensors on a fast, reliable network.

Tailored Connectivity

The flexibility of a 5G smart factory will allow for tailoring to specific machines and operations without losing speed, coverage, or security encryption. This allows manufacturers to slice and dice the network to fit their needs — which according to a study by Ericsson and BT, is actually the most economically sound model for IoT service delivery.

Real-Time Predictive Maintenance

It’s estimated that the manufacturing industry as a whole incurs $50 billion in unplanned downtime costs each year. Real-time analytics provided by 5G’s speed will allow manufacturers to proactively gauge the wear and tear of their machines even faster, rather than taking a slow, reactive approach.

Safety

5G in manufacturing industry applications enables vast safety improvements by anticipating potential problems and reducing failures in as close to real time as possible. More data and analysis mean that facilities are better able to keep personnel and technicians out of harm’s way.

Sustainability

“Green 5G” is one of the most innovative developments arriving with 5G infrastructure, with the promise of reduced energy costs through operational efficiency and increased production sustainability. With more insight into processes and productivity, engineers and technicians are poised to zero in on reducing waste and emissions, making greater use of renewable resources and reduce overall energy usage.

Benefits of 5G for Smart Manufacturing

Enhanced reliability and security

5G offers unprecedented bandwidth, with signals peaking at 10GBs — largely making connectivity issues and network outages a thing of the past. This reliability is ideally suited for “mission critical” processes where even a small amount of downtime can have major repercussions throughout the business.

True wireless

5G is the first technology that can truly replace wired infrastructure, offering lower latency and more powerful connections than 4G technology. This eliminates wiring throughout the facility and enables more flexibility for solutions such as wireless sensors.

Full infrastructure support

The exponential improvements of 5G over 4G means that essentially, no matter how many devices are connected to a network, the system will continue to run at peak performance with no degradation of signal or quality.

Overall, 5G will provide improvements in the most critical areas for manufacturers today; better overall productivity, increased manufacturing rates and improved efficiency. If 4G was the catalyst for industry 4.0, then 5G will be its nitro boost. Want to learn how to implement an effective maintenance plan so that your facility will be ready to take advantage of 5G? Contact ATS today.

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