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Top 5 5G manufacturing use cases

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There is no doubt that the emergence of 5G technology will have a great impact  in the way Industry 4.0 manufacturers, or “smart factories,” produce and distribute goods. The key elements of 5G, which are low latency, high reliability, and increased speed are necessary to support emerging technologies and their novel applications in the smart manufacturing space, such as process automation, remote monitoring, and maintenance and device life cycle management, among others. Here we briefly describe five 5G manufacturing use cases.

Maintenance and device life cycle management

At factories and industrial sites, it is essential to make sure that equipment is correctly functioning. To achieve this, IIoT sensors could be installed on various machines to monitor equipment status and send out alerts if a problem is detected or if the equipment is coming due for routine maintenance. With the implementation of 5G technology, onsite sensors that monitor essential equipment will keep plant managers informed with up-to-the-minute information about their status and productive output. The implementation of IoT and 5G enabling constant equipment monitoring could also yield cost savings. For example, instead of replacing a machine part every six months, the factory can monitor that part’s status and replace it only when needed.

5G manufacturing powers industrial automation

Industrial automation uses control systems to manage repetitive tasks, often with emerging technologies like IoT sensors, AI vision cameras and autonomous robots. The introduction of 5G technology will enable more and better adoption of industrial automation by powering its various elements’ networking capabilities. For instance. The low-latency wireless communications enabled by 5G will simplify real-time machine monitoring and controls, giving industry leaders more insights and better management of their facilities. For example, an industrial facility might adopt 5G to connect AI vision cameras along the assembly line. The high-speed, wireless connectivity would enable managers to track quality control and inspect products remotely with higher efficiency and increased productivity.

5G manufacturing enables remote monitoring of production assets

Another benefit of smart factories is the capability to monitor and control production assets via remote operations. Operators don’t need to be on the factory floor, but can instead keep track of operations in real-time through software systems. This means operators can easily locate and manage assets, gain actionable insights in real-time, and configure the machinery to optimize safety, efficiency, and quality. Siemens, for example, implemented its first live remote monitoring system for Factory Acceptance Tests (FAT) in its Transformers factory in Mexico. The FAT is proof that the equipment manufactured by Siemens follows the customer’s contract specifications and is ready to be installed on-site. Normally, customers must be physically present at the factory to conduct the FAT, but because of live monitoring, customers can conduct the FAT from their own locations. With the introduction of 5G, live streaming and remote monitoring will be more seamless, accurate, and secure, enabling operators to broaden its application and troubleshoot problems as they occur.

Augmented reality for repairs

The low latency and stable connectivity offered by 5G technology also enables augmented reality troubleshooting to repair electronic boards. Swedish vendor Ericsson has been experimenting with augmented reality (AR) overlays in the company’s factory in Tallinn, Estonia. The company noted that roughly 50% of the total time required for troubleshooting of circuit boards is spent on searching for information from documents, manuals and schematics. With AR troubleshooting, the average fault detection time could be reduced by 15%. Also, there are likely to be fewer component replacements, leading to energy consumption savings, as well as reduced chemical use, waste and scrap.

Additive manufacturing

According to Singapore operator Singtel, additive manufacturing or 3D printing is making significant impacts on the manufacturing industry. In particular, 3D printing is revolutionizing spare parts management. “Many warehouses maintain a huge inventory of spare parts for customers who are still operating older machines. Half of all orders shipped are one-time requests for spare parts. With predictive analytics, they can forecast the demand for spare parts and use a 3D printer to create the part on-demand. This will reduce waste and the cost to store spare parts,” Singtel said.

American multinational home appliance manufacturer Whirlpool adopted 3D printing through a partnership with Singapore service bureau Spare Parts 3D. They are using the technology to “combat obsolescence and fulfill part-shortage areas.” While this will result in cost-savings for the company, Whirlpool believes that the most significant outcome is the impact on customer care as customers can receive brand new spare-parts whenever they need it. The emergence of 5G can supercharge this process by enabling operators to connect with multiple standalone 3D printers, so they can monitor and control the 3D printing processes remotely, Singtel said.

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