Where has 5G been deployed to enable a connected factory?

Manufacturing businesses need certainty that the networks and connectivity they deploy will maintain a stable and secure connection at all times. If data is compromised or packets lost then people can very quickly get injured or the quality of the final product can be jeopardised. FitFactory is therefore using a 5G private network deployed within AE Aerospace, to streamline the planning and production process for the manufacturer as part of the West Midlands 5G programme. An automated system (known as the Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP) uses 5G to capture data from the factory floor, machines, devices and people. Once a job comes into the factory, it is planned into the ERP. The production process is automatically scheduled, utilising each available machine and component required in the process. The ERP collects and analyses all available data in real-time, sending alerts as it progresses through production. AE Aerospace is also using its network to analyse machine capacity and highlight delays to help the manufacturer identify pinch points. Ultimately, improving the efficiency of operations. 

The 5G Factory of the Future project is using the data from 5G-connected sensors to capture, monitor and gain insights into the changing conditions impacting the factory environment. This includes data from within the factory such as temperature, humidity, air pressure, but also external inputs such as tides and lunar cycles. The team is also tracking data from building management systems, machine movement and radio frequency identification scans to get a full and complete view of the variables that can impact operations, and be able to take the necessary interventions to compensate for variations. Not only will this offer greater insight but also greater agility, along with the ability to monitor the health of machines in real-time. The project expects to achieve an estimated 5-10% improved machine utilisation, 10-15% reduction in energy usage and 20% reduction in maintenance rime, arising from performance optimisation and enhanced resource utilisation. 

As part of the Worcestershire 5G project, Worcester Bosch, known for manufacturing domestic boilers, launched the UK’s first 5G factory using a 5G private network and mobile edge computing infrastructure provided by Ericsson and managed by BT.

Worcester Bosch quote

Through a combination of 5G technology, the factory has been able to optimise machine performance and increase output by as much as 2%. The manufacturer used 5G to run real-time machine sensors, allowing them to address problems on the production line before they happen. An additional benefit has been the installation of a network of collision detection sensors, making the factory and its products much safer for on-the-ground employees.

Outside of the UK5G Testbed and Trials Programme, 5G is empowering Ericsson's production capabilities and fostering the introduction of new smart manufacturing technologies at their factories in Sweden and Estonia. Through cellular 5G connectivity, almost every asset in the factories is connected and managed to solve operational challenges and optimise working conditions. At their Tallinn factory in Estonia, they expect this monitoring to lead to a 10-20% reduction in heating costs and lower CO2 emissions through better coordination of cooling with gas heating.  

Watch the video below to see these processes in action.

Explore Ericsson’s five selected manufacturing use cases

There are several use-cases in Germany, too. The 5G-SMART Testbed is operating in Bosch’ Semiconductor Factory and exploring how 5G can be used to connect and control production equipment. Similarly, DHL has successfully piloted a 5G-enabled system to monitor operational activities within their warehouses in real-time. Working with Cisco and Conduce, IoT technologies help them to visualise the operations within a warehouse through the use of heat maps and other visualisations. Once implemented, the system revealed valuable insights on activity peaks, warehouse layouts and processes by displaying concentrations of pickers and Manual Handling Equipment against a backdrop of warehouse orders in real-time.

At IKD, a leading supplier of automotive aluminium die castings used in 70% of all cars, 5G replaced over 10 kilometres of cables connecting 600 machines, reducing cable maintenance costs to near zero and increasing the product yield rate by 10%.

British Sugar and Virgin Media O2 Business have switched on a private mobile network, spanning four UK factory sites in Wissington, Cantley, Bury St Edmunds and Newark. The new private network will provide dedicated, secure 4G connectivity for all of British Sugar’s manufacturing facilities, as part of a major ‘Factories of the Future’ upgrade.

The custom-built private O2 4G network will connect multiple IoT (Internet of Things) devices, enabling British Sugar to introduce innovations such as artificial intelligence (AI), automated production lines, robotics and drones. AI will be used to monitor operations in real-time and predict maintenance and potential downtime in advance, to reduce disruption, cuts down on wastage and can deliver cost and energy savings – helping avoid unnecessary emissions.