In a Smart Factory, 5G allows for the integration of machinery, sensors, platforms, robotics, and even the products themselves, which become increasingly smart.
It then becomes crucial for industries to have a network infrastructure capable of supporting – in terms of speed, coverage, and reliability – digitalization, automation of processes, and innovative services, three key ingredients for the development and growth of smart companies’ operations. In other words, we cannot think of equipping industrial production lines with sensors unless we are certain of the reliability of the network.
Will 5G drive the future of industry 4.0?
Today, companies take the path of digitalizing production plants and processes in order to improve competitiveness on international markets and to increase productivity. In this evolving industrial scenario, using smart, connected, and easily manageable machinery is the answer to the need to cut production costs and improve time-to-market.
With the increasing number of connected devices, businesses often have to wire up entire facilities to be able to manage the enormous volumes of data, sensors, and machinery, thus creating significant limitations in terms of agility and the ability to modify processes once started.
5G, with its extremely low latency and ultra-reliability, is the answer to the need for an alternative to cables, both for sensor management and for centralized control of functions and processes.
However, while on the one hand, 5G supports the growing demand for rapid, fast, and reliable connection of every Smart Manufacturing project, on the other hand, the latest generation of mobile network is, above all, an authentic revolution capable of innovating the manufacturing sector, contributing to the development of new business models.
It is a completely new approach: 5G is not only the evolution of 4G, but also an integrated network platform on which to build layers of value in terms of innovative digital services, and it is able to create novel scenarios for manufacturing companies, which are now faced with the need for a transition to new management and production paradigms.
To realize the so-called Smart Factory, the most important technological leap of the 5G paradigm lies in the possibility of differentiating data transfer depending on the service while using a single platform. Private and customized networks are no longer needed with 5G: it is therefore a model that makes even very vertical applications, which can address very specific needs, sustainable.
A Smart Factory is characterized by the adoption of strategies based on Big Data, innovative production processes, new modes of human-machine interaction, and predictive maintenance, to name just a few. All the new industry 4.0 technologies require an efficient and safe underlying infrastructure: it requires the transition to 5G.
5G enters industry 4.0 factories
In manufacturing, there are many scenarios that will benefit from 5G.
The most evocative case is certainly the one that involves collaborative robots, the so-called Cobots, designed to interact with operators in the production line, for example, and which can also be easily integrated in other processes.
The advantages of 5G are clear when considering the management and optimization of automatic guided vehicles, which are no longer used just to move goods or to manage the warehouse, but also as integrated solutions within the production process.
Then, we should not forget about “Digital Twin” scenarios, which involve the collection and real-time analysis of huge amounts of production data collected from machinery and sensors and, above all, actions of implementation and dynamic reconfiguration aimed at optimizing production cycles and warehouse management.
Furthermore, a scenario that will certainly benefit from 5G is predictive maintenance, particularly with the adoption of augmented reality and AI algorithms that will allow to better plan and manage the life cycle of equipment, machinery, and vehicles.
In short, a Smart Factory, thanks to 5G, promotes efficiency, favors the productivity and quality of the plants, and improves the working conditions of the employees.