The global manufacturing industry has much to gain from implementing 5G connectivity into their Industrial IoT (IIoT) operations. This isn’t a secret to folks already embedded in IIoT and 5G, but many in the manufacturing space have been slow to adopt, nonetheless.
The largest and most important companies in manufacturing, however, are fully invested and are seeing benefits already in terms of avoiding downtime, creating efficiencies, and automating processes.
5G technology as part of an IIoT strategy gives manufacturers a smooth path to Smart Factory technologies like automation, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR), thanks to 5G features like low latency and high reliability for critical functions.
Let’s take a look at a few of the biggest and the best in the business.
Audi has been partnered with Ericsson on 5G for nearly 5 years now (see below on more of Ericsson’s 5G leadership), and last year, Audi unveiled a 5G implementation for its production line that uses a connected industrial robot to install a steering wheel airbag. This is a very dangerous step in the manufacturing line, and Audi is using wireless 5G to connect the safety sensors around the station and stop the process if a human enters the danger area.
At the end of 2020, Bosch launched its 5G-powered campus network at the company’s Stuttgart-Feuerbach facility, where it will use the lightning-fast 5G connectivity to transfer machine data wirelessly and nearly instantaneously. This kind of Industry 4.0 implementation across the campus network is designed to give the facilities managers control over what happens in the factory and how data is transferred, the company has said.
Ericsson has been beating the drum of 5G since people were still calling it a buzzword and a fad, and 4G hadn’t even been fully deployed. The company isn’t just about evangelizing, however. It has also deployed 5G into its own factories, where it uses automated vehicles, AR, and multitudes of environmental sensors to ensure uninterrupted operations, safer working environments, and fewer errors.
Chinese manufacturer Haier, which makes home appliances and consumer electronics, recently completed a proof of concept project on the deployment of 5G with edge computing and machine vision in its factories. The project was undertaken with the GSMA, China Mobile, and Huawei as partners. The project changed the manual human process of inspecting stainless steel refrigerators for damage before shipping to an automated one that enables near-real-time analysis so defective refrigerators can be repaired quickly.
John Deere is using 5G in its manufacturing plants right now, having spent more than half a million dollars on CBRS 5G licenses, and is ready to demonstrate the value proposition of providing more capabilities than Wi-Fi, and adding flexibility to the production line by simply adding wireless 5G infrastructure.
GE Research, which has been playing with 5G for years now, in April of this year announced that it will work with Verizon Business to tap into the provider’s 5G network to launch a testbed for healthcare, energy, and aviation applications of 5G and IIoT. The company said that it sees the superior network speed and capacity of 5G networks as a key tool to leverage Digital Twin, AI, AR, autonomous machines, machine learning, and countless other IIoT solutions in the manufacturing environment.
Volkswagen is using a private 5G network to connect more than 5,000 robots and many other systems at its Wolfsburg, Germany factory. The network is Nokia’s, and reportedly it uses the dedicated 3.7-3.8 GHz industrial band. The auto manufacturer has been taking advantage of the ultra latency and reliability of the 5G network to connect its systems and production lines, and that leads to value and, crucially, return on investment.