If manufacturing companies choose the right network option from the start, they are well positioned for future Industry 4.0 investments such as autonomous robots. let’s discuss private 5G network for Industry 4.0.
Private 5G network for Industry 4.0
Industry 4.0 stands for the use of the Internet of Things ( IoT ) in industrial production and its interlocking with the latest information and communication technology. In the context of Industry 4.0 , autonomous robots increasingly generate and receive proprietary information. This includes CAD files, production statistics and other important data that directly affects a company’s competitiveness, profits and customer satisfaction.
In order to keep data and production flowing while being protected from hackers and industrial espionage, companies need a secure, reliable and high-performance wireless network. Manufacturing companies looking to build an IoT network can consider investing in 4G LTE and 5G as part of their strategy for secure and high-performing private networks .
IDC estimates that manufacturers and other industries spent approximately $945 million on 4G LTE and 5G private network infrastructure in 2019. By 2025 they will invest 5.7 billion US dollars for it. This corresponds to an average annual growth rate of 43.4 percent. As a newer technology, 5G offers some capabilities that 4G does not have. This includes:
- Reliable, low-latency communications: As 5G technology offers latencies as low as 1 millisecond, which is ideal for delay-sensitive, mission-critical use cases such as time-sensitive networking .
- High capacity when communicating with machines: With this feature, 5G networks can support up to 1 million IoT devices per square kilometer. These include autonomous loading machines, industrial robots and sensors that detect when a conveyor belt motor is starting to overheat.
- More mobile bandwidth: 5G supports bandwidth-intensive applications such as HD and 4K video surveillance cameras in and around a facility. With the help of artificial intelligence , these videos can also be used to monitor operations on the factory floor and to analyze problems and opportunities, for example to optimize work processes and eliminate bottlenecks.
- Of course, 4G will be around for years to come. 5G also offers similar longevity for use in network infrastructure and IoT devices, which will be widely available for at least the next 20 years.
Although 5G is new, signs of lower costs are beginning to appear. Private 5G operators benefit from the construction and expansion of public networks, the sheer size of which constantly reduces infrastructure costs for the mass market. According to TeleGeography , 163 public 5G networks were commercially deployed around the world by the end of 2020, and by the end of 2021 there should be 277.
Organizations may choose different technologies for their private networks , but they all follow the same strategy to gain more control. For example, some utility companies have chosen to build private 2.5G, 3G , 4G and WiMax networks to gain more control over network access. Owning a private network gives manufacturing companies control of coverage and the ability to fine-tune performance to meet their unique needs.
Some companies are adopting 5G for autonomous use cases like robots for discrete manufacturing or more granular control over manufacturing. Autonomous mobile robots improve the efficiency, reliability, and accuracy of transportation and hauling of auto parts and materials. You can reduce labor costs, eliminate human error, and increase workplace safety. More flexible than automated guided vehicles that follow planned routes, these robots can be programmed to avoid obstacles and take detours.
Few manufacturers have experience in developing and installing a mobile network. There are also no turnkey robotic 5G private network solutions that are ready to go. Even if they existed, these solutions would need extensive customization to ensure everything worked smoothly. For example, manufacturers must ensure that radio signals are not attenuated by physical obstacles such as steel shelving or sources of interference such as electric motors.
The key is interoperability. Companies need to collaborate with all vendors of software systems, devices, autonomous robots and other components of an Industry 4.0 ecosystem to achieve full manufacturing plant coverage.
In addition, organizations must develop expertise in OT (operations technology) and IT alike to avoid the many potential errors that can arise during a network implementation. For example, the CIO might focus too much on technology choices instead of considering how those decisions impact use cases and business needs.
Mobile operators are increasingly offering Network as a Service ( NaaS ) to secure their share of the growing private network market. A downside is that NaaS offerings are often just extensions of the public network, rather than infrastructures designed and deployed specifically for each customer’s unique business needs. Even if a manufacturer chooses NaaS, they still need OT, network technology and IT integration, which are not among the specialties of mobile operators. These are all potential challenges to consider when developing a private network strategy.
Choose the right strategy
Many large manufacturing plants are being built in areas where land prices are low. However, these remote locations are often the last places where mobile operators install the latest network technology. At such locations, manufacturers can use 4G LTE for private networks. Alternatively, they can also use their own 5G technology for private networks.
With the right planning, resources, and awareness of potential pitfalls, manufacturers can align their private network strategy to take advantage of robotics. The bottom line: Getting it right the first time is easier said than done, but it will ensure that the private 5G network can support an Industry 4.0 transformation for years to come.