Head of UK5G
With the government predicting that 5G will achieve £173Bn incremental revenue in its first decade, UK factories have been running trials of this new technology for just over a year.
Initial results suggest that manufacturing could see a 1% increase in productivity from this new technology thanks to improved service quality, increased understanding of machine health and decreased machinery downtime.
Reducing machinery downtime
Sensor networks in a factory are nothing new. But 5G enables the connection of considerably more sensors in the same area and real-time data analysis, both of which can improve a factory floor manager’s decision making process. This idea of a dense sensor network gathering data on pressures, vibrations, temperatures and more, is the Massive Machine Type Communications pillar of 5G.
Worcester Bosch is one of the companies leading the charge in the trials of 5G in manufacturing. The team there believe that 5G has the potential to increase the efficiency of their plant by using such a sensor network to reduce the amount of time that machinery is out of action. They have installed 100 5G-connected sensors and two high resolution cameras on the factory floor. This equipment currently only focuses on the upstream section of production where the components are made as it is more heavily automated than the assembly area.
When comparing the speed of 4G and 5G-connected robots, Nokia found that the latter offered huge 260% productivity gain thanks to 5G’s significantly lower latency.
Improvements to customer service
Another manufacturer in the Worcestershire 5G Consortium, one of the six use case trials funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport of which Bosch is a part, is the machine tool builder Yamazaki Mazak. This company is deploying 5G to save customers time and money and provide a higher level of service quality.
Using a 5G-enabled augmented reality headset equipped with an HD camera and a microphone, an on-site Yamazaki Mazak service engineer can stream exactly what he is seeing to a remote expert and receive step-by-step instructions instantaneously on how to fix an issue, if he is unclear how to proceed himself. This reduces the risk of service engineers needing to return for a second visit if the first respondent is not trained to handle the issue that he encounters.
Robots work faster with 5G
Elsewhere, in Nokia’s ‘factory of the future’, employees work alongside complex sensor networks, computer vision technology and autonomous robots traverse the factory floor. When comparing the speed of 4G and 5G-connected robots, Nokia found that the latter offered huge 260% productivity gain thanks to 5G’s significantly lower latency.
Collaboration is key to success
Early participants of 5G trials in manufacturing are starting to share their lessons with the rest of the community. Unsurprisingly, skills have emerged as the potential roadblock to deployment. A 5G-enabled factory will require employees that not only understand manufacturing processes, but also the IoT engineering that will enable managers to make better decisions. Ongoing collaboration and communication between the UK Government, the technology sector and manufacturers will be key to ensuring the UK fills this skills gap and maximises the productivity potential of 5G.