McKinsey: Five ways 5G can revolutionise manufacturing

By Sean Galea-Pace
Manufacturing Global examines McKinsey’s article to explore five ways that 5G is set to revolutionise manufacturing in the industry...

Cloud control of machines - For years, factory automation has required programmable logic controllers (PLCs) that were physically installed on the machines they controlled and hard-wired into computer networks to ensure precise, reliable control under extreme conditions. If 5G consistently meets its performance promises, the PLC could be virtualised in the cloud, enabling machines to be controlled wirelessly and in real time at a fraction of the current cost.

Augmented reality - Factory workers are used to performing complex maintenance and control tasks that are often guided by standard operating procedures in paper manuals, videos or even augmented reality. But instructions streamed over 4G networks can be unreliable due to bandwidth constraints and fail to deliver the required level of quality without stuttering. 5G promises to not only stream high-quality instructions on the shop floor, but also stutter-free augmented reality that can help guide people, step by step, through each individual motion they need to make. 

Perceptive AI eyes on the factory floor - Cameras are already common in modern factories to monitor processes and security. However, their issue is limited to focused applications and regularly requires workers to monitor video feeds. 5G will allow the streaming of data in real time to the cloud and the use of live video analytics. For example, if a security camera observes a disturbance, it can identify if there is immediate threat or danger and dispatch a drone or alter a worker to investigate.

High speed decisioning - The best-run factories rely on vast data pools to make decisions, with inevitable delays as data is collected, cleaned and analysed. 5G accelerates the decision-cycle time and allows large amounts of data to be ingested, processed and actioned in near real time. In several heavy industries, manufacturers have been able to sell excess energy back to the grid when machines aren’t running and prices are favourable.

Shop floor IoT - The introduction of sensors to multiple machines means factories are creating more data than ever before. Transmission through wired networks is expensive to scale and WiFi networks can quickly get congested. 5G has the ability to support high connection density with tens of thousands of endpoints, thereby truly enabling the use of industrial data at scale.

Interested in reading more? Check out the transformation of 5G in manufacturing in September’s magazine here!


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