Ford production to benefit from Ericsson’s 5G connectivity
As part of a new European Commission and European ICT industry-backed initiative to drive Industry 4.0, Ford Motor Company will benefit from Ericsson's 5G connectivity at its engine production plant in Valencia, Spain.
“New technologies can vastly improve production line efficiency, therefore increasing innovation capacity. This is essential given today’s competitive environment, and 5G is an instrumental tool to help us achieve this objective,” commented Alejandro del Portillo, Manufacturing Engineering and New Technologies Department, Ford’s Valencia Engine Plant.
5G connectivity trials in Valencia, Spain
Known as 5G-INDUCE, the pilot initiative is part of Horizon 2020 5G Infrastructure Public-Private Partnership (5G-PPP) – a joint initiative between the European Commission and the European ICT industry.
Other partners of the initiative include: ASTI Mobile Robotics, Fivecomm, YBVR, Intel, Gestoos, University of Burgos and Universitat Politecnica de Valencia.
As part of the initiative, the main next-generation capabilities to be tested at the facility include: autonomous automated guided vehicles (AGV) fleet management, smart AGV operations based on human gesture recognition and virtual reality (VR) applications.
The aim of the pilot is to optimise logistics processes and distribution chains in the factory warehouses to improve efficiency for Ford. As part of its efforts in the pilot Ericsson will enable edge computing, advanced robotics and artificial intelligence.
“The potential of 5G technology is being unlocked as digitalization of industries is advancing and as more and more complementary players partner to shape new innovation ecosystems,” added Manuel Lorenzo, Head of Technology and Innovation, Ericsson Spain.
“The 5G-INDUCE project is a great example of this momentum – gathering world-class innovation in Industry 4.0, robotics, 5G, edge computing, virtual reality and artificial intelligence, and counting on the support of the EU 5G-PPP program. Ericsson is glad to contribute with our technology and expertise in 5G solutions to the success of this initiative,” concluded Lorenzo.
Gartner: Leaders Lack Skilled Smart Manufacturing Workers
With organisations rapidly adopting industry 4.0 capabilities to increase productivity, efficiency, transparency, and quality as well as reduce cost, manufacturers “are under pressure to bring their workforce into the 21st century,” says Gartner.
While more connected factory workers are leveraging digital tools and data management techniques to improve decision accuracy, increase knowledge and lessen variability, 57% of manufacturing leaders feel that their organisations lack the skilled workers needed to support their smart manufacturing digitalisation plans.
“Our survey revealed that manufacturers are currently going through a difficult phase in their digitisation journey toward smart manufacturing,” said Simon Jacobson, Vice President analyst, Gartner Supply Chain practice.
“They accept that changing from a break-fix mentality and culture to a data-driven workforce is a must. However, intuition, efficiency and engagement cannot be sacrificed. New workers might be tech-savvy but lack access to best practices and know-how — and tenured workers might have the knowledge, but not the digital skills. A truly connected factory worker in a smart manufacturing environment needs both.”
Surveying 439 respondents from North America, Western Europe and APAC, Gartner found that “organisational complexity, integration and process reengineering are the most prevalent challenges for executing smart manufacturing initiatives.” Combined they represent “the largest change management obstacle [for manufacturers],” adds Gartner.
“It’s interesting to see that leadership commitment is frequently cited as not being a challenge. Across all respondents, 83% agree that their leadership understands and accepts the need to invest in smart manufacturing. However, it does not reflect whether or not the majority of leaders understand the magnitude of change in front of them – regarding technology, as well as talent,” added Jacobson.
Technology and People
While the value and opportunities smart manufacturing can provide an organisation is being recognised, introducing technology alone isn’t enough. Gartner emphasises the importance of evolving factory workers alongside the technology, ensuring that they are on board in order for the change to be successful.
“The most immediate action is for organisations to realize that this is more than digitisation. It requires synchronising activities for capability building, capability enablement and empowering people. Taking a ‘how to improve a day in the life’ approach will increase engagement, continuous learning and ultimately foster a pull-based approach that will attract tenured workers. They are the best points of contact to identify the best starting points for automation and the required data and digital tools for better decision-making,” said Jacobson.
Long term, “it is important to establish a data-driven culture in manufacturing operations that is rooted in governance and training - without stifling employee creativity and ingenuity,” concluded Gartner.