Ericsson on 2021: The year Industry 4.0 takes off – rocket-fuelled by private 5G
In 2021, increasing availability of 5G will provide the launching pad for manufacturing to truly evolve to Industry 4.0, the new industrial revolution that will push industries forward. Connected factories will move from isolated pilot programs and early test cases to truly integrated ecosystems, from the factory floor to the entire supply chain.
Some of this has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. A need to do more remotely, to keep workers socially distant, and an overall need to make things more efficient has demonstrated the value of connectivity for industry. Even as the pandemic begins to fade, the lessons learned will inform how we move forward.
2021 will be a major year for industrial 5G as the latest generation of mobile broadband becomes widespread, enabling advanced information systems that will bring together business needs and operational processes across industry. There are a few specific trends to look out for, as 2021 begins; here are four of them, with an explanation of their impact on the industrial sector, and on manufacturing in particular.
1 | Year of the digital twin
A digital twin is a virtual model used in smart manufacturing to optimize a particular aspect of operations. When a manager has a digital representation of the entire operation, it’s particularly valuable in assessing how to increase efficiency because it allows manufacturers to see the effects of various changes without physically changing any processes.
If you have a digital twin of an individual piece of machinery, you have insight into how it’s performing so it’s offline less, leading to lower costs. It can help maintenance tasks be more precise, and better predict equipment failure.
2 | AR-assisted inspections
AR, supported by 5G, can make an enormous difference in quality inspections, providing human inspectors with visualizations that significantly decrease the potential for human error and reduce the amount of time spent in uncomfortable positions, moving back and forth between the equipment and a manual or screen.
Especially in a post-Covid environment, where factories are minimizing the number of people on the floor, AR applications will allow technicians to make inspections without even being in the building, as well as giving them access to a wide flow of information.
There is an additional climate-related benefit. With AR, supervisors can remotely support local inspectors on the factory floor, thereby reducing travel-related CO2 impact by as much as 50 percent.
3 | Supply chain digitization
2021 will also be the year digitization, backed by 5G, fans-out from individual facilities across the entire supply chain.
This coordination and connectivity will have a major impact. Up to 80 percent of supply chain costs are determined by the location of facilities and the flow of materials and products between those facilities.
The ability to track, trace connected assets and exchange real-time insights can give companies a real competitive advantage, increasing efficiency, productivity and profitability.
4 | 5G private networks
The increased availability of private networks will enable the growth of smart manufacturing. While such networks today operate mostly on 4G LTE, the private networks based on newer 5G technology are expected to become widely available by 2021 and will play a critical role in bringing about smart manufacturing.
The increased capabilities of 5G, such as low latency, high speeds and a greater capacity to handle large amounts of data will power the innovations outlined above, which will also require a high density of connected devices collecting and transmitting data.
For example, a digital twin requires a massive amount of data. 3D mapping sensors, video streams, lidar, and thermal streams, all generate large data volumes that need to be transferred in real-time. A private cellular network in smart manufacturing enables real-time transfer of large data volumes thanks to its high bandwidth, and the exceptional security of 5G keeps that data safe and secure.