How manufacturers can benefit from implementing 5G
In the past, enterprises have often taken time to embrace new technologies but there is one that seems to have captured their attention at an early stage: 5G. Many enterprises, particularly those within manufacturing, expect 5G to have a transformational impact on the way they do business. With some estimates that up to 55% of existing manufacturing processes could be fully automated, many believe that it can unlock major productivity gains whilst improving customer personalisation and experience alongside improving base products.
Indeed, in partnership with Omdia, predicts that manufacturing should benefit more than any other vertical from 5G. Globally, manufacturers stand to gain $4.6tn from 5G adoption over the term of Omdia’s forecast, in 2035, which is 5.4% of total sector output. As well as being the biggest sector opportunity in absolute terms, it is the fourth biggest as a percentage of sector total output. It’s no wonder manufacturers are the furthest ahead in launching enterprise 5G. Omdia’s Enterprise 5G Innovation Tracker finds that 43% of projects that have reached the deployment stage are in manufacturing – and if we include the broader “industrial” sectors such as transportation, utilities, energy, and mining, then we’re closer to 80%.
But how are manufacturing companies currently approaching 5G? And how are they planning to deliver advanced applications such as robotics, including automated vehicles?
The current state of play
Rapid expansion in advanced technologies that enable Industry 4.0 – robotics, VR, AI, IoT and Ripple to name a few – have huge potential to improve outcomes for manufacturing. For example, increasing automation and in tandem, reducing rework, inventory and downtime but also making mass customization, adding digital services to physical products (such as an app) and innovation easier to deliver.
For instance, one of the applications used for quality control inspection is machine vision – AI-powered defect detection. Due to its high bandwidth requirements, there’s a clear need for quality connectivity and Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) such as delivered by 5G. Robotics and augmented/virtual reality are other key applications enabled by 5G. According to our research, 63% of manufacturing 5G rollouts for which there is an application include at least one robot. This includes flying robots – drones used to inspect industrial structures or inform disaster response.
To realise transformation outcomes, the telecoms network with MEC will be increasingly running these real-time industrial control processes. This is at a time when it is becoming much easier to run complete 4G/5G core networks and on relatively basic hardware too, which means that it’s both easier for enterprises to run their own campus networks and for industrial control protocols to run over 5G.
Regulatory change is also making this transformation possible. By designing spectrum policy to better suit enterprise users, regulators are giving enterprises and alternative providers the ability to run their own networks. Today, Europe is in the lead – there are more manufacturing-related 5G projects in Western Europe than anywhere else in the world, notably thanks to Germany’s pioneering spectrum policy.
Creating a partner ecosystem
However, each project requires a different set of skills, including those that manufacturers do not have. So how are they thinking of filling these gaps? The majority of manufacturers strongly believe that Communication Service Providers (CSPs) can deliver on the promise of 5G. However, CSPs can’t be expected to have the required knowledge in drones, machine vision, or robotics. To deliver these advanced applications and help manufacturers reap the benefits of 5G, CSPs will need a diverse ecosystem of partners.
By creating a partner ecosystem that comprises CSPs, vendors, solution providers, and channel partners – all bringing complimentary capabilities to the table – manufacturers will be able to realize the possibilities of 5G. Manufacturers are looking for easy to try, easy to buy and easy to consume solutions that are fully packaged with minimal set up and paid for as you go (PAYG) to minimize upfront cost and risks. The challenge for CSPs is stepping into the ecosystem-enabled solution provider lead role. This starts with a detailed understanding of the problems their manufacturing customers are looking to solve, bringing together the right partners and leading co-creation of the right solutions that their customers most want to buy,
Within this ecosystem, identifying the right specialist solutions providers is the biggest challenge, including providers of machine tools, automation technologies, and other vertical-specific systems. Working in close co-operation with their manufacturing customers as part of the co-creation process will often be pivotal to forming the right 5G manufacturing ecosystems.
The way forward
A successful example of a manufacturer tapping into an ecosystem of solutions providers, where a CSP plays an orchestrating role, is . The start-up electric car manufacturer installed a private 5G network in its factory, managed by Vodafone as part of its Mobile Private Networks product line. This enabled an entirely cable-free plant and for production processes to be reconfigured quickly. By taking advantage of Vodafone’s broad portfolio of spectrum and ecosystem of solution providers, including IoT.Nxt and Grandcentrix for IoT and automation solutions and IBM for augmented reality systems, e.GO can access more applications and services. It’s able to reduce change-over times, optimize and innovate faster, and deliver a highly customized product at scale.
It’s clear that the manufacturing sector has the most to gain from 5G. Enterprises in this space are more engaged and positive about the potential benefits and so projects are springing up rapidly. And the pandemic we are experiencing will only act as the great accelerator of these trends – intensifying the need for increased automation, flexible and reconfigurable production processes, and international diversification of supply chains. To make sure manufacturers provide the products and services their customers want and reap the full benefits of 5G, building a strong partner network made of CSPs, solution providers, channel partners and vendors, will be crucial.
Siemens: Providing the First Industrial 5G Router
Across a number of industry sectors, there’s a growing need for both local wireless connectivity and remote access to machines and plants. In both of these cases, communication is, more often than not, over a long distance. Public wireless data networks can be used to enable this connectivity, both nationally and internationally, which makes the new 5G network mainframe an absolutely vital element of remote access and remote servicing solutions as we move into the interconnected age.
Siemens Enables 5G IIoT
The eagerly awaited Scalance MUM856-1, Siemens’ very first industrial 5G router, is officially available to organisations. The device has the ability to connect all local industrial applications to the public 5G, 4G (LTE), and 3G (UMTS) mobile wireless networks ─ allowing companies to embrace the long-awaited Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The router can be used to remotely monitor and service plants, machines, as well as control elements and other industrial devices via a public 5G network ─ flexibly and with high data rates. Something that has been in incredibly high demand after being teased by the leading network providers for years.
Scalance MUM856-1 at a Glance
- Scalance MUM856-1 connects local industrial applications to public 5G, 4G, and 3G mobile wireless networks
- The router supports future-oriented applications such as remote access via public 5G networks or the connection of mobile devices such as automated guided vehicles in industry
- A robust version in IP65 housing for use outside the control cabinet
- Prototypes of Siemens 5G infrastructure for private networks already in use at several sites
“To ensure the powerful connection of Ethernet-based subnetworks and automation devices, the Scalance MUM856-1 supports Release 15 of the 5G standard. The device offers high bandwidths of up to 1000 Mbps for the downlink and up to 500 Mbps for the uplink – providing high data rates for data-intensive applications such as the remote implementation of firmware updates. Thanks to IPv6 support, the devices can also be implemented in modern communication networks.
Various security functions are included to monitor data traffic and protect against unauthorised access: for example, an integrated firewall and authentication of communication devices and encryption of data transmission via VPN. If there is no available 5G network, the device switches automatically to 4G or 3G networks. The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and autoconfiguration of the devices,” Siemens said.
Preparing for a 5G-oriented Future
Siemens has announced that the new router can also be integrated into private 5G networks. This means that the Scalance MUM856-1 is, essentially, future-proofed when it comes to 5G adaptability; it supports future-oriented applications, including ‘mobile robots in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles in logistics or augmented reality applications for service technicians.’
And, for use on sites where conditions are a little harsher, Siemens has given the router robust IP65 housing ─ it’s “dust tight”, waterproof, and immersion-proofed.
The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. “With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and auto-configuration of the devices,” Siemens added.