REPORT: 2015 will be the year of the connected manufacturer
This year has been a turning point for the UK manufacturing sector with the EEF forecasting that by the end of 2014 the sector will have grown by 3.3 percent. We also saw UK manufacturers increase production in October to meet rising demand. Against this positive growth backdrop, UK manufacturing is grappling with increasing customer complexity, emerging technologies such as 3D printing, supply chain disruption and the challenges that a multi-generational workforce creates.
The recent Manufacturing Success report suggests that the key to fulfilling growth ambitions, and overcoming these challenges, is through interconnectedness. Manufacturers need to think about their connections between people, businesses and things.
However, while it’s clear UK manufacturers need to capitalise on the opportunities this greater level of interconnectedness can bring, the research suggests that less than half of companies are able to exploit the opportunities that connections between people (48%), business (47%) and things (37%) can bring. In my mind, this is something that needs to be quickly addressed, particularly with the onset of new technologies such as 3D printing and smart products.
More so, we are seeing that in a climate characterised by change and disruption, long term planning is proving difficult. Focus is now shifting to marrying long-term planning with the ability to react quickly to changes in the market. We are seeing that the traditional production-led manufacturer is recognising that, ultimately, customers dictate how they operate and as such, there is a shift towards becoming more customer-centric in how it operates. The traditional ‘produce then consume’ model is now being replaced with a scalable, flexible and reactive model which responds to the individual needs of the consumer. Manufacturers must respond quickly to changes in the market and capitalise on new technologies in order to succeed.
This objective, however, is made more challenging by the increasing complexity within manufacturing supply chains. Disruption is a common problem, whether through security breaches, IT outages or the weather. As a result, supply chain resilience is an area that manufacturers also need to focus on, ensuring disruptions don’t cause too much damage to business. Nearly half of all manufacturers have experienced significant disruption to their supply chain over the past year. Improving connections across the supply chain is the key to pre-empting and minimising potential disruption.
Add to that the rapidly changing digital economy, the manufacturing industry is being inundated with new technologies that transform and disrupt the way businesses operate. These disruptive technologies include smart components in products, predictive analytics, mobile applications and additive manufacturing such as 3D printing. Whilst the thought of 3D printing may be concerning for some manufacturers there are benefits including it being quicker to get goods to market, it is more cost effective and there is greater flexibility to build a wider range of products. In fact 94% of manufacturers see 3D printing as an opportunity rather than a threat.
As new technologies continue to infiltrate the industry, there will be an increased demand for skilled workers. The UK has a shortage of skilled workers and the skills gap in Britain has been described as crippling by Vince Cable, this is something that desperately needs to be addressed. Young people, as digital natives, are the key to future success for the industry.
As the current skilled workforce retires it is necessary that the next generation are trained up and ready to fill their roles. The biggest challenge for employers is enticing young people into these roles, apprenticeships help to some extent but the industry needs to improve its image to gain new recruits. Manufacturers should capitalise on digital opportunities in order to close existing skills gaps and future-proof their organisations.
As new competition enters the market thanks to new technologies, and the demand for new skills continues to increase, manufacturers that succeed will be the ones that embrace interconnectedness and continue to grow. Manufacturers need to take notice of technological developments that will impact the industry and use them to expand and improve their businesses. Manufacturers will experience more aligned culture, processes, skills and technology that ultimately enable them to deliver greater customer centricity, supply chain resilience and a high-performing workforce that spans the generations.
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.