Ericsson deploys private 5G with Telefónica and Vodafone for German car industry
Ericsson is to be carrything-through with its promise to fall in line with operators for rollout of private networks, as new 5G slicing projects in the automotive manufacturing space have emerged with Vodafone and Telefónica.
The Swedish vendor is working with Telefónica Germany to enable 5G car production via a private 5G network for Mercedes-Benz at the company’s Sindelfingen plant in southern Germany. It is also working with Vodafone in Germany to upgrade a private LTE network, already working as a blueprint for Industry 4.0, to 5G for German electric vehicle maker e.GO.
Ericsson said all production systems and machines in Mercedes-Benz’s new-build Factory 56 in Sindelfingen will be connected and operated via 5G, with gigabit data rates and near ‘real-time’ latencies for data handling. The 5G network will boost flexibility, precision, and efficiency, said Ericsson.
Mercedes-Benz’s Factory 56 comprises a production complex of 20,000 square metres. The 5G network will connect the entire facility, linking data and tracking assets across the site. Production automation and flexibility will be a major focus.
Ericsson will handle the initial build, it said, before handing over to Mercedes-Benz. Mercedes-Benz expects Factory 56 to inform its plans for 5G in other plants. Markus Haas, chief executive at Telefónica Germany, said: “We are starting the 5G era for Germany as an industrial location and are building the most modern mobile network for one of the most modern automobile factories in the world.”
The e.Go site in Aachen has been layered-in with advanced LTE – 36 antennas span a 16,000 square-metre facility – but is making use of network slicing and mobile edge computing to automate factory functions. It will upgrade to 5G, as it comes available; Ericsson said it will install its Radio Dot 5G micro-cells by the end of August.
Vodafone, writing in a blog, described the e.Go facility as “a model that many other European companies might look to in future”. David Rose, senior manager for digital solutions at Vodafone Germany, commented: “The e.GO factory in Aachen is one of the first in the world to connect machines using a private ‘5G ready’ network rather than Wi-Fi.”
The entire factory is rigged up for monitoring operations, and recording data in a digital twin of the site. Each vehicle component is RFID-tagged as they arrive, including with specifications for their assembly and idassembly. Connected tools used by human and robot workers automatically adjust to the exact level of torque needed for a task.
The LTE setup is boosted by multi-access edge computing (MEC), for automated guided vehicles (AGVs), carrying car chassis from station to station, to adapt their routines in time (less than 10 milliseconds) to unexpected obstacles in their paths. When 5G comes in, autonomous forklift trucks and small trains will also be used to transport material between warehouses and the production hall.
Vodafone said it took e.GO to three months to install new machinery and adjust processes when moving from a steel to an aluminum frame in its vehicle, compared with 18 months with a standard factory arrangement. The new e.GO electric car has taken two years and €70 million to develop, compared with closer four years and €280 million as an industry average.
Arun Bansal, president and head of Europe and Latin America for Ericsson, said: “5G is about to change manufacturing as we know it through secure and almost real-time connectivity that will result in transformative productivity, speed and efficiency improvements. The car industry will be among the first to benefit.”
Jörg Burzer, member of the divisional board at Mercedes-Benz, said: “As the inventor of the car, we are taking digitalization in production to a whole new level. With the installation of a local 5G network, the networking of all production systems and machines in the Mercedes-Benz factories will become even smarter and more efficient in the future. This opens up completely new production opportunities.”
Günther Schuh, chief executive at e.GO Mobile, said: “The assembly plant for e.GO Life is a true Industry 4.0 factory. In other words, it is fully networked in terms of information technology. Connectivity links the physical and the digital world.”