Fourth Industrial Revolution

The future of manufacturing is smart, secure and stable

The Nestle Vera water smart factory is seen in Castrocielo, Italy, July 5, 2016. REUTERS/Max Rossi - D1BETPDIDFAA

Creating smart factories is essential to driving a scalable Industry 4.0. Image: REUTERS/Max Rossi

Erik Josefsson
Head of Advanced Industries, Ericsson
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Manufacturers today are seeking efficiencies in production, and the ability to deliver a broader mix of customized products to their customers.

They know that staying competitive will require operational processes and production lines to be integrated and adaptable in order to enable fast configuration changes and reduce lead times. And all of that needs to occur without compromising an inch on safety or quality.

The so-called mobile Internet of Things (IoT) is a way of connecting physical things, such as sensors, to the internet by having them use the same mobile networks as smartphones. It might just be the answer for those manufacturers.

Yes, investing in mobile IoT and creating smart factories is a massive undertaking, but it is essential to driving a scalable Industry 4.0.

Why do we need to introduce IoT into factories? Mobile IoT is passing new milestones on its way to becoming the technology of choice for local area IoT applications. Boosted by a strong uptake in North East Asia, mobile IoT connections are set to pass the 4 billion mark by 2024.

The number of connected devices increasing exponentially means the digitalization of a factory’s essential ingredients: assets, equipment, vehicles and processes.

Early adopters aren’t waiting around for five years for IoT to change their business – many are already using 4G. They’re leveraging mobile connectivity across all assets in their factories today in order to achieve smart manufacturing with mobility, security, and reliability.

However, 5G will be the catalyst for scaling the smart factory. Gathering together at Davos offers business and thought leaders a chance to applaud these innovators for the considerable risk they’ve taken on while initiating the transformation of their business through 5G.

These manufacturers have bet big on 5G and IoT delivering ultra-low latency, high bandwidth, and reliable communication to realize responsible consumption and production in their factories.

The solutions that this increased connectivity enables – sensors, cloud robotics, centralized tracking of goods, remote quality inspection, automated factory floors – don’t just keep their operations interconnected within one facility. They also have the potential to connect all of their factories and even the facilities of third-party partners, forming an ecosystem of smart manufacturing centres around the world.

Extending the power of connectivity beyond traditional operators will encourage new industries to partake in this mobile ecosystem. As a result, these early adopters have the opportunity to learn best practices from operators while also piloting new uses that inject novelty and innovation into their production processes.

And it’s that innovation on the smart factory floor that has the potential to produce countless manufacturing use cases around automation, location, and monitoring.

By using mobile connectivity to maximize data collection, both current and future customers can gain actionable insights. Automation, assembly control, cloud-based applications of robot controllers, workforce safety and asset management, traffic management, environmental compliance and workforce efficiency; these are just a sample of use cases that are likely to emerge from evolved workflow processes inside production centres.

These cases can also help point to the importance of collaboration within Industry 4.0. The partnership between Ericsson and Comau (FCA Group), a worldwide leader in advanced industrial automation solutions, serves as an illustration of the power of combined knowhow that comes from synergy.

It enables the development of technological infrastructures for the communication networks to be applied directly to industrial plants in the name of speed, security, and ease of use.

The combination of Ericsson's leadership in 5G and IoT technologies, and Comau's leadership in automated manufacturing systems, aims to prove the benefits of advanced IoT solutions for industrial automation.

By leveraging existing and future 5G network technologies, IoT platforms, Cloud and Big Data solutions, Comau and Ericsson’s combined efforts have enabled innovative services, increased competitiveness and efficiency for smart manufacturing, maintenance, and quality control.

This collaboration also aims to establish a strong research and innovation ecosystem where Ericsson, Comau and its customers, service providers, and other stakeholders can collaborate to boost ideas and share resources.

The World Economic Forum network offers the opportunity for other early adopters to come forward and showcase benefits they’ve seen from mobile IoT solutions for different manufacturing applications.

Transparency and shared knowledge around lessons learned from equipment or device data – such as vehicles, assets, public services and individual workers – will benefit companies, employees, investors and global citizens.

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