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Smart Manufacturing Powered by 5G

5G mobile phone networks make all the headlines, who wouldn’t like to download a two-hour movie in 10 seconds, but some of the first ‘killer applications’ for 5G will be in manufacturing. The inherent nature of the factory, a controlled environment, addresses 5G’s biggest shortcomings while promising a decent return on a comparatively limited investment. In fact, the factory of the future has been waiting for 5G to call. Industry stands on the cusp of implementing what experts call ‘massive machine-type communications’ with billions of connections. 5G will act as the catalyst.

The modern factory is already a highly complex environment. Advanced machines and robots are equipped with a wide array of sensors connected to high-powered analytics engines in the cloud that assess performance, manage production schedules, maintain supplies and orchestrate all the activities on the factory floor.

By eliminating the need for wired connectivity, 5G will supplement the high-speed manufacturing environment with a far greater degree of flexibility. And the sheer richness of the 5G-enabled factory, which will have the capacity to maintain connections among far more sensors than either wired or previous wireless facilities, offers the potential to connect just about anything.

The COVID-19 pandemic only highlighted the value to be gained through greater automation and smarter, more resilient supply chains. The unique advantages of 5G in further automating the factory floor and incorporating new services into all kinds of products makes it a must-have in the post-COVID-19 era.

However, deploying these technologies in what looks to be a challenging economic environment will require a different mindset — one that fully takes into account the key role of technology in unlocking value.

Companies can focus on several key advantages to get the most out of 5G investments and transformative technologies in a challenging economy, these include greater automation, increased M&A activity and smarter supply chains. The advent of 5G has ushered in many more options for businesses that want to automate their operations, boost productivity and increase agility.

Most of the technologies on which the Fourth Industrial Revolution depends are in place — at least in theory. Advanced robotics and 3D printing, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, sophisticated sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, virtual and augmented reality, advanced data analytics — most manufacturing companies understand the value of these technologies whether they are in the supply chain, in production processes or incorporated into the products and services sold to customers. But few manufacturers have made the big bets necessary to implement these technologies throughout their operations.

5G may not be the missing piece that will generate the immediate gains in productivity inherent in the promise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. But no manufacturer can ignore its potential in realising many of the technologies and processes coming to the factory in the near future.

Download the white paper to understand how 5G networking can bring major operational benefits to the factory floor and how concerns about the costs involved and the potential business value can be addressed.

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