Ericsson: driving smarter manufacturing with connectivity
With manufacturers racing to adopt industry 4.0 technology in an effort to gain a competitive advantage, we take a look at the benefits of a connected factory.
As the world continues to technologically advance in the wake of the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0), manufacturers are realising that "connectivity is the thread holding their operations together" amidst their digital transformation.
Ericsson notes that “connectivity has often been a second thought to manufacturers. When the network served fewer devices, manufacturers were satisfied as long as the available communications technology worked—or as long as they could work around the weaknesses. That’s no longer true.”
As the adoption of smarter connected factories continues to rise, so do the new and complex requirements. “As the number of remote-control and autonomous robots and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) on the factory floor increase, they will depend more and more on low latency and high device synchronicity,” says Ericsson.
With customers expecting a great variety of products in a short period of time, the industry requires ever-short market windows for products that have a level of personalisation like never before.
As a result manufacturing is evolving to deliver efficient line changes and optimised workflows for production operations, as installing or moving cables is expensive and time-consuming and a barrier to creating an agile factory.”
Ericsson also highlights that device density is an important consideration. “The number of devices per square foot or meter in the connected factory environment is multiplying exponentially,” comments Ericsson. The industry is transitioning from the proof of concept stay into real world application with dozens of workers using connected devices all at once. Therefore the network needs to be able to handle this surge of demand without hesitation, latency or bottlenecks.
The key to smart manufacturing
Wireless connectivity - this network capability enables mobility for connected devices, agility in operations and an increasing level of device density. Wireless allows manufacturers to connect widespread assets and processes in real time, allowing integration with contributing workflows. “Compared to a fixed network, the scope and ease of wireless contributes to new connections and services that can increase value, limit waste and address more pain points,” says Ericsson.
The foundations for a smarter factory
“To appreciate the role of connectivity in the smart factory, it helps to understand the evolving nature of IoT in the industrial setting,” explains Ericsson, the form different types of connectivity include: Massive IoT, Broadband IoT, Critical IoT and Industrial Automation IoT.
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First Solar to Invest US$684mn in Indian Energy Sector
First Solar is about to set up a new photovoltaic (PV) thin-film solar manufacturing facility in Tamil Nadu, India. The 3.3GW factory will create 1,000 skilled jobs and is expected to launch its operations in Q3 of 2023. According to the company, India needs 25+ gigawatts of solar energy to be deployed each year for the next nine years. This means that many of First Solar’s Indian clients will jump at the chance to have access to the company’s advanced PV.
Said Mark Widmar, First Solar’s CEO: ‘India is an attractive market for First Solar not simply because our module technology is advantageous in its hot, humid climate. It’s an inherently sustainable market, underpinned by a growing economy and appetite for energy’.
A Bit of Background
First Solar is a leading global provider of photovoltaic systems. It uses advanced technology to generate clear, reliable energy around the world. And even though it’s headquartered in the US, the company has invested in storage facilities around the world. It displaced energy requirements for a desalination plant in Australia, launched a source of reliable energy in the Middle East (Dubai, UAE), and deployed over 4.5GW of energy across Europe with its First Solar modules.
The company is also known for its solar innovation, reporting that it sees gains in efficiency three times faster than multi-crystalline silicon technology. First Solar holds world records in thin-film cell conversion efficiency (22.1%) and module conversion efficiency (18.2%). Finally, it helps its partners develop, finance, design, construct, and operate PV power plants—which is exactly what we’re talking about.
How Will The Tamil Nadu Plant Work?
Tamil Nadu will use the same manufacturing template as First Solar’s new Ohio factory. According to the Times of India, the factory will combine skilled workers, artificial intelligence, machine-to-machine communication, and IoT connectivity. In addition, its operations will adhere to First Solar’s Responsible Sourcing Solar Principles, produce modules with a 2.5x lower carbon footprint, and help India become energy-independent. Said Widmar: ‘Our advanced PV module will be made in India, for India’.
After all, we must mention that part of First Solar’s motivation in Tamil Nadu is to ensure that India doesn’t rely on Chinese solar. ‘India stands apart in the decisiveness of its response to China’s strategy of state-subsidised global dominance of the crystalline silicon supply chain’, Widmar explained. ‘That’s precisely the kind of level playing field needed for non-Chinese solar manufacturers to compete on their own merits’.
According to First Solar, India’s model should be a template for like-minded nations. Widmar added: ‘We’re pleased to support the sustainable energy ambitions of a major US ally in the Asia-Pacific region—with American-designed solar technology’. To sum up: Indian solar power is yet the next development in the China-US trade war. Let the PV manufacturing begin.