Infosys Consulting: 5G driving smart connected factories
Rafi Billurcu, Partner, Manufacturing at Infosys Consulting, discusses the evolution of smart connected factories with the use of 5G.
The manufacturing industry is at the forefront of digital transformation, driving and inventing various new business models from Industry 4.0, smart manufacturing, and AI, to AR and VR, 3D printing, and connected and autonomous cars.
However, the industry is still far from reaping the full benefits of disruptive technologies and digital. That’s because there’s one vital part of the jigsaw missing: connectivity. The capabilities that new technologies will confer on tomorrow’s factories depend on ultra-reliable, low latency communications between machines, sensors, databases and workers’ mobile devices.
While the 4G revolution mostly benefited consumers, it was not enough of a leap forward in connectivity to enable the services on which tomorrow’s factories will rely. That’s about to change with the advent of 5G. Forget about downloading high definition movies in seconds – instead, manufacturers should know how the next generation of mobile communications will transform their operations, leading to greater efficiencies, enhanced quality, and more innovative products.
There are few more complex environments on earth than a modern factory. From complicated production lines with thousands of moving parts to the supply chains that bring in raw materials and components and send out the finished products, factories generate masses of data every second of every day.
This information is absolutely key to successful operations: it ensures that manufacturers have comprehensive and up-to-the-minute insights on everything from machinery performance to safety-critical systems to manufacturing quality. But consider how much data a modern manufacturer generates from all the sensors embedded in its machines and you’ll realise how 4G is completely inadequate for the needs of a smart, fully-connected factory.
Machine-to-machine (M2M) and machine-to-human communications are especially crucial as we approach an era where mass customisation replaces mass production. This new model of production depends on combining huge volumes of data from multiple sources so that manufacturers can undertake predictive maintenance, manage their supply chains most efficiently, and respond quickly to outside influences such as changing order patterns.
What unites all these disparate functions is that they will need to minimise, as far as possible, the time between insight and action. In the case of automation – a fundamental building block of smart manufacturing – these communications often need to happen within a fraction of a second. This isn’t just a case of sending instructions to machines: automated systems should be providing a constant stream of intelligence on operations that can improve performance.
Tellingly, though, many of the 1.7 million industrial robots are not connected to the Internet at all, making it impossible for them to share the insight that they could be gathering. The same principle applies to every other connected device within the factory environment, where it is sensors within the production line, safety-critical systems or even workers’ tablet devices. Given the huge amounts of data involved and the imperative of instantaneous data transfer, only 5G can provide the speed and bandwidth necessary.
Laying the foundations
Within a factory, 5G will support better connectivity between machines and help make real-time decisions within a fraction of a second. During the quality inspection process, for example, machines will be more reliable and accurate in checking the quality of the manufactured product, and predictive maintenance can be triggered automatically before a machine failure happens, to reduce unplanned downtime.
What’s more, 5G will play a pivotal role in what’s been termed the “Internet of Skills” – the ability for any human to teach, learn or execute actions remotely. The ability to share knowledge and skills is an overlooked aspect of Industry 4.0, yet it’s one that’s just as important as automation or connected devices. When workers can access the sum total of all information within the business, from real-time insight into machinery performance to educational and training resources.
By making mobile communications instantaneous, 5G will enable factories to become more efficient, safer, and will make it easier for humans to collaboratively work with machines. It will deliver benefits ranging from real-time analysis of traffic data to improve transportation routes in the supply chain, to real-time visibility of inventory and shelf life to suggest which items to order and when – and even automatically trigger orders. It will also be key as manufacturers move from merely making items to delivering a range of value-added services (or “servitisation”), which heavily relies on data analytics and other high-performance systems.
From big data analytics to connected devices, 5G will be the key building block to next-generation factories, providing the ultra-reliable low latency connectivity on which Industry 4.0 depends. Thanks to the speed and reliability of network provided by 5G, manufacturers will be able to move closer to their vision of smart factory, realising the full potential of disruptive technologies and digital.
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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.