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SMART FACTORIES 5G - The awaited booster shot for manufacturing

Jan 28, 2022

As the manufacturing industry moves towards implementing smart factory, it needs to be connected with a tangible network connection which can ensure it runs smoothly. The 5G network, which is being already implemented in countries like the US and UK, need to be brought on to Indian factory floors too for efficient operations. The opinion piece talks about how 5G can help smart factories become agile and efficient and why it is the need of the time.

As the manufacturing industry goes talking about ‘hyperautomated factory’, ‘future/smart factory’, ‘smart supply chain’ with ‘faster time-to-market’ & more, it only makes sense that we talk about the critical enabler of all this – 5G. The modest 5G is manufacturing sector’s ticket to gain much-needed momentum in efficiency and profitability. It can let manufacturers take advantage of vital industry technologies, such as AI, AR/VR and more. An Ericsson study states that the manufacturing sector posits to be amongst the most significant sectors for new revenue potential for operators addressing industry digitalisation with 5G technologies. It further highlights the expected addressable market in 2026 will be $113 billion.

Now, one might wonder, how different can 5G be from the existing 4G? Well, for one, 5G is at least 100x faster than 4G. A recent PwC study suggests that 5G-enabled factories will aid the high-speed manufacturing environment with greater flexibility and maintain connections among far more sensors than wired or previously wireless facilities, connecting just about anything. It essentially means that 5G can enable nextgen, heavy-bandwidth technologies, for instance, automation, IoT and AI, on the shop floor and further improve productivity by using technologies such as AR/VR.

Although 5G sounds like a thread that can tie the manufacturing industry together, it’s easier said than done. PwC research shows that many industrial companies are yet to implement several technologies associated with Industry 4.0. In addition, companies that have a complete I4.0 set-up are concerned about going completely wireless, given the security and reliability concern. Despite 5G’s assurance of high-level of reliability, a factory floor is difficult and noisy for any wireless environment. Plus, no wireless system working on open connectivity to the cloud is 100% secure, and implementing 5G in a closed system would mean losing out on the speed and flexibility gained by maintaining the computing process on the cloud.

But it is important to understand that no technology is fully future proof, secure and reliable. As technology develops, it is imminent that the challenges possessed now will be offered solutions to. The concerns revolving around security, reliability and cost will take some time to be resolved, but this doesn’t mean that companies shy away from developing proofs of concept and starting pilot programmes.

As the news of international trade bodies pushing for global 5G standard in electronics manufacturing in India surface, it only makes sense that the Indian manufacturing sector, irrespective of its niche, considers building a game-plan to adopt 5G for when it arrives. It will help the early adopters have a competitive advantage with productivity gains.

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