NTT & Verizon on the future of manufacturing & 5G

Parm Sandhu, 5G Products & Services at NTT, and Verizon's Michael Weller, explain how 5G is driving manufacturing innovation, alongside a skilled workforce

5G is expanding across the world, used in mobile phones, computers and even cars. As 5G utilises technologies including automation, AI and IoT, it is popular with modern manufacturers. Parm Sandhu leads 5G Products and Services at NTT and Michael Weller is the Practice Leader for Manufacturing, Energy and Utilities at Verizon. Here, Sandu shares his thoughts on the increased demand across manufacturing for private 5G networks and Weller discusses embracing 5G for its edge network infrastructure.

Transforming manufacturing and utilities with Verizon's innovation hub

Weller is responsible for providing thought leadership to customer innovation challenges at Verizon. 

“My expertise covers multiple technology disciplines, including 5G/4G LTE, MEC and Internet of Things.”

Earlier in his career, Weller worked in a contact centre, unified communications and in security, giving him a wide range of experiences and skills that he uses to this day.

“I was fortunate to begin my career in a role that was devoted to the customer experience. In the early days of contact centres, I was involved in supporting the customer experience. That focused on a workload that was a bit unpredictable in terms of determining if customers were having a positive experience and achieving operational efficiency. I learned early that when you get the customer experience right, everything else falls into place.”

These roles prepared Weller for Verizon, where he’s worked for eight years and has been mostly focused on innovation and Industry 4.0. In this time, Weller has seen Verizon only become more innovative, flexible and agile. 

“Private Wireless Networking is a great example of this,” Weller said. “A large US based manufacturer of fibre-optic cable recently embraced 5G for its edge network infrastructure. Now the company is building on that investment and developing new edge applications to take advantage of its enhanced network capabilities.”

In addition, Verizon’s focus on improving the customer experience through leading technologies and innovations has become even more transformative for Weller. 

“We are much more engaged with businesses than we ever have been.”

The future of manufacturing at NTT with 5G, edge computing and Private 5G networks

NTT DATA is based in Tokyo, Japan, and was founded in 1952. The company is designed to spot vulnerabilities in a manufacturing organisation’s systems and helps to select the best solutions. Parm Sandhu is based in Vancouver, Canada, and is the Vice President of Enterprise 5G Products and Services. 

“Digital transformation is delivering both change and opportunity to organisations across every sector and manufacturing is no exception,” Sandhu says. “Driven by rapid advances in technology and the growing demand for more efficient, sustainable and data-driven operations, those in the industry are currently witnessing a new era, commonly referred to as Industry 4.0.”

This marks the beginning of a period which will be defined by digitalisation, data-driven decision-making, increasing interconnectivity and smart automaton. However, in order for modern technologies to be effective, they need the correct infrastructure behind them, especially in the era of hybrid-working. 

“Unreliable and insecure past wireless technologies cannot fully support mission-critical, real-time functionality such as edge computing,” said Sandhu. “This is why there has been increased demand across the industry for Private 5G (P5G) networks.”

NTT’s latest Global Network Report revealed that more than 80% of organisations are embracing the adoption of new enabling technologies, of which cloud-based network management, AIOps and Private 5G are the top three investment priorities for the next two years.  

“This is unsurprising, given that Private 5G can support enterprise-level applications, quality-of-service policies and security requirements whilst providing reliable performance in real time,” said Sandhu. “Its high bandwidth, low-latency connections provide stability for mission-critical applications and can make manufacturing processes more effective while boosting productivity.”

For those in the industry, Private 5G can be a game changer in terms of optimising assets and processes. Manufacturers need to trace assets throughout their lifecycle – from parts to product – as they move through their facilities.

“This is traditionally achieved through location and event data and other telemetry that flows from a range of sensors and factory systems,” said Sandhu. “But Private 5G is bringing new levels of speed and precision to asset tracking, system monitoring and real-time schedule and process optimisation.”

Similarly, Private 5G is solving old pain-points for those in the industry.

For example, using it in manufacturing facilities helps to avoid Wi-Fi access-point proliferation and blind spots when tracking assets.

“Manufacturers are even able to utilise Private 5G when changing or setting up new production lines – a process that traditionally has taken months, or even longer, due to connectivity profiles for all connected devices and systems needing to be reconfigured. 

“This is because Private 5G can support the auto discoverability of devices at scale and apply automatic or templated configurations to activate reconfigured networks and devices so that manufacturers can accommodate mass customisation or personalisation.”

Edge computing refers to the processing of data with applications at or near the edge of a network in a range of devices. A key advantage is its ability to work with 5G, by allowing applications to process data on the edge near the source, delivering dependable, real-time analytics and machine-learning capabilities and enabling mission critical applications to process data securely on-premise. It does all this, whilst providing observability and governance with cloud-centric infrastructure.  

Many organisations are starting to look into how the pairing of Private 5G and edge computing could benefit them. 

“Due to its complex nature, many manufacturers will choose to work with a partner to implement a combined Private 5G and edge approach,” said Sandhu. “The best in the market will provide a fully managed, enterprise-friendly turnkey package directly to organisations which connects on-site teams and devices seamlessly from the edge to the cloud, giving them the speed, control, security and the coverage that they need to transform their customer and employee experience. Manufacturers should have a single point of support to integrate Private 5G with existing enterprise networks, industrial IoT infrastructure and edge and cloud computing resources, whilst still having control of data sovereignty, ownership and location.” 

With IoT connections set to reach 1.5bn by 2025, Sandhu sees Private 5G as the key to the future of manufacturing. 

“Without it, those in the industry will not be able to automate production, streamline operations and increase productivity,” he said. “As we move forward, Private 5G will become the key to ensuring that the Industry 4.0 dream is realised.”

Over at Verizon, the company is using 5G to help transform all industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, transportation and agriculture. 

“That means Verizon is leveraging 5G to provide companies increased speed and capacity, better connectivity, and improved security and privacy,” Weller said. “Our customers will use this increased capability to innovate the next generation of smart factories, autonomous vehicles, remote patient monitoring and precision agriculture, to name just a few examples. We expect 5G to continue to revolutionise the way we connect, work and live.”

Over the next year at Verizon, Weller anticipates a tremendous amount of innovation. 

“In my area — manufacturing, energy and utilities — technologies like video analytics and computer vision, AR and VR, have not been applied extensively on plant floors.”

But that’s changing and these technologies are coming together, at the same time. Weller plans to see them as fully operational in the next one to three years at Verizon. But it’s not just the new tech that Weller is excited about. One key learning for Verizon over the past few years, is that the manufacturing industry is going to leverage employees’ intellectual skills in new and powerful ways. 

“According to a study carried out by The Manufacturing Institute’s Center for Manufacturing Research and the American Psychological Association, 69% of employees in the industry who are younger than 25, said they would stay at their current employer because of upskilling and development opportunities, because upskilling will make the workplace more engaging.”

Upskilling will aid retention, boost operational efficiency and attract a new generation of workers. Alongside the new opportunities of 5G, the manufacturing sector is combining a talented workforce with new technologies to take production to new heights. 

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