Most of the technologies on which the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) depends are in place — at least in theory. Advanced robotics and 3D printing, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, sophisticated sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, virtual and augmented reality, advanced data analytics — most manufacturing companies understand the value of these technologies whether they
are in the supply chain, in production processes or incorporated into the products and services sold to customers. But few manufacturers have made the big bets necessary to implement these technologies throughout their operations.
According to a 2019 study by PwC and the Manufacturing Institute, more than half of manufacturers are either just beginning to experiment with emerging technologies or haven’t even started. Now comes 5G, the super-fast, super-flexible wireless communications technology that is already being implemented in neighbourhoods around the world. It promises highly reliable, near-instantaneous data connectivity — a critical part of the vision of smart factories, connected supply chains and IoT-enabled products.
5G may not be the missing piece that will generate the immediate gains in productivity inherent in the promise of 4IR. But no manufacturer can ignore its potential in realising many of the technologies and processes coming to the factory in the near future.