MANUFACTURING: MAINTENANCE & SUPPORT

5G in Maintenance & Support

With businesses facing increasing customer demands and pressure on margins, maximising uptime is crucial for profitability: downtime costs manufacturers in the UK three days of production per year on average. 

Traditionally, maintenance of machines works one of two ways, whether that be “fix it when it’s broken” or “regular maintenance every six months”. These options are no longer viable amid today’s fast-paced environment. They are also deeply inefficient, impacting profit margins and even sustainable ways of working: interval-based maintenance can mean replacing parts unnecessarily, running the risk of wastage. 

5G supports condition-based maintenance, marking a shift towards repairing products at the point of requirement instead of on a fixed interval basis. It is also capable of enabling predictive maintenance, which can identify defects between 60 to 90 days earlier. Hexagon found that manufacturers can reduce the number of spare parts required by 10% through a shift to asset condition monitoring. According to a report by The Manufacturer, 88% of manufacturers believe 5G will also enable engineers to troubleshoot remotely. This will lead to more efficient production lines, in addition to better customer service, providing people with effective support and maximising experience by identifying maintenance needs ahead of customer detection.

How Could 5G Benefit Maintenance & Support in Manufacturing?

VR / AR to Facilitate Maintenance

5G networks enable more effective and efficient maintenance. Technologies such as VR and AR provide workers with faster-to-access reference guides (for example, CAD drawings), previous maintenance information, and even allow workers to upload the updated status of the product in real-time. Not only does this reduce human error but it can be used to guide less qualified workers, either independently or with remote support. According to a report by The Manufacturer, 88% of manufacturers believe 5G will enable engineers to troubleshoot remotely.  Such technologies will decentralise expert resources and plug the skills gap, in addition to reducing travel costs and footprints. 

Where has this been done?
VR / AR to Provide Remote Support to Customers

It is not only internal support that can be revolutionised by 5G. With its ultra-low-latency, 5G offers real-time remote support that can be delivered via mixed reality.  According to a report by The Manufacturer, 88% of manufacturers believe 5G will enable engineers to troubleshoot remotely.  This results in fewer engineer call outs, ensuring a better experience for customers, and more efficient and sustainable ways of working for manufacturers. 

Where has this been done?
Condition-Based Monitoring

A robust and secure 5G network can connect sensors to detect wear and breakage to tools and machines in real-time. 5G and UHD cameras, whether fixed or on a robot, are also useful here for enabling monitoring of unmanned machinery, particularly in hazardous settings. 

Where has this been done?
Predictive Maintenance

5G enables dense sensor networks and AI models that are able to detect leading rather than lagging indicators of defects such as pump seal failures, lubrication and bearing defects or cavitation.  Multiple industry studies agree that lubrication is the root cause of failure on 50-80 percent of rotating assets and past technologies of overall vibration were simply too late or difficult to establish meaningful alerts.  5G facilitates the capture and processing of more data, in real-time, allowing a shift to a predictive maintenance model,  which impressively, results in detections up to 90 days in advance.  This allows for scheduling and controlling of maintenance and repairs, minimising downtime, extending the lifespan of machinery and avoiding wastage from time-based maintenance approaches.  Hexagon found that manufacturers can reduce the number of spare parts required by 10% through a shift to asset condition monitoring and subsequent predictive maintenance.

Where has this been done?
Connecting Goods After Delivery To The Customer

5G enables manufacturers to connect and monitor the performance of goods even when they’ve been delivered to the customer.  This helps to identify when product maintenance is required before the customer identifies a fault; leading to a better business reputation and ultimately, higher profits. 

Have you spotted this being deployed? Let us know!

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