Ericsson is using its expertise in networking and equipment to help manufacturing enterprises leverage new use cases that are enabled by 5G technology and shift their business to Industry 4.0. Globally, there are 10 million industrial & manufacturing sites and 3 million warehouses that require connectivity where the latency, speeds, and reliability achieved with 5G technology is necessary.
Additionally, 94% of the industrial devices within these manufacturing facilities are wired and expensively retrofitted on equipment. In turn, these wired connections do not allow for the optimal use of data to improve manufacturing processes and automation. By combining manufacturing with 5G technology, Ericsson is enabling what is known as Industry 4.0, whereby traditional manufacturing and industrial processes are automated.
Manufacturing (Industry 4.0) – 5G Use Cases
Broadly, Ericsson identifies four distinct types of manufacturing use cases for which 5G can provide services. Specifically, these functions include:
(1) Indoor Coverage
Providing indoor connectivity to manufacturing facilities, with a high-degree of reliability and in an undisturbed way.
(2) Agile Networks
Utilizing existing manufacturing networks and building use case-driven extensions on the networks, in the most cost-efficient manner.
(3) Condition Monitoring
Monitors manufacturing conditions for the purpose of inventory management, predictive maintenance, outage management, quality assurance, and increased operational efficiency.
(4) Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs)
The mobility management, coverage, and quality of service assurance of 5G networks provides the reliable communication needed for Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs). Specifically, Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) applications include tractors, pallet movers, and forklifts. For example, 5G networks can facilitate automation by helping forklifts more efficiently move around the factory floor.
Manufacturing (Industry 4.0) and 5G – Ericsson Case Studies
Ericsson is applying the benefits of 5G technology to numerous different types of manufacturing use cases. Specifically, we highlight relevant manufacturing and 5G case studies that Ericsson is taking a leadership position in.
Networking Components Manufacturing – 5G-Enabled Smart Factory
In 2020, Ericsson began operations at its own 5G-enabled smart factory in Lewisville, Texas, where it produces 5G base stations. The factory is fully automated and one of the most advanced manufacturing facilities in the industry.
Using 5G connectivity, the smart factory enables Ericsson to implement agile operations and flexible production. Indeed, this includes utilizing industrial solutions such as automated warehouses, connected logistics, automated assembly, packing, product handling, and autonomous carts.
Automotive Manufacturing – 5G Connectivity Outside the Factory
Ericsson states that, over time, automotive manufacturers and service providers will use secure 5G connectivity for their vehicle manufacturing, on a ubiquitous standard globally. Specifically, automotive manufacturers will ensure each vehicle on the production line connects through the 5G network.
Therefore, automotive manufacturers will be able to track the vehicle, based on the day and time it leaves the factory. Indeed, this tracking will extend through the logistics and transportation path, to storage warehouses and then on to the dealership, which is the manufacturer’s end customer.
Once the vehicle is sold by the dealership to an end user, automotive manufacturers will ensure they maintain the end user experience. Indeed, over the 5G network, automotive manufacturers will be able to offer predictive maintenance, software upgrades, real-time infotainment, entertainment, and new services based on insights and data, gleaned from the vehicle.
Automotive manufacturers can ensure that the service they sell to the end user, functions properly at any point in time. Moreover, these services will function, regardless of where someone drives the vehicle, through a connection to the 5G network. Indeed, 5G makes this possible because it will offer global connectivity, on one standard, that is secure, reliable, and easy-to-use.
Automotive Manufacturing – Private 5G Networks for Inside the Factory
Automotive manufacturers have been early adopters of private 5G networks. This is because of the high-degree of automation used in the automotive manufacturing process. For example, Ericsson has worked alongside Mercedes Benz and BMW, in Germany, to build-out these private 5G network solutions.
Ericsson has partnered with Telefónica Germany to enable vehicle production via a private 5G network for Mercedes-Benz. Specifically, the private 5G network was set-up in Mercedes-Benz’s 215k sqft Sindelfingen factory, in southern Germany.
All production systems and machines in the factory are fully autonomous. Indeed, Mercedes-Benz accomplishes this because the factory systems and machines connect and operate through a secure 5G connection. Specifically, with 5G services that offer 1 gigabit per second data rates, and near real-time latency.
Therefore, the private 5G network enables Mercedes-Benz to boost flexibility, production precision, and efficiency. Specifically, these improvements result from the private 5G network facilitating data linking and product tracking on the assembly line.
In 2020, Ericsson partnered with Deutsche Telekom to deploy a combination of private and public 5G networks at a new BMW campus network site in Leipzig, Germany. Firstly, BMW’s campus consists of a private 5G mobile communications network for plant operations and staff.
Additionally, the public 5G network, which transmits the same signal strength, can be used by devices that are not allowed on BMW’s private network. For example, these devices could include the smartphones of customers or suppliers. Overall, BMW is able to have both the private and public 5G networks operate with appropriate connectivity for its campus.