The pace of business transformation today is faster than ever before, with technology enabling industries to connect silos and generate increasing flows of data to inform decision-making.
Across industries, operations are digitalising – and nowhere is this more evident than in manufacturing.
This acceleration and its impact was the focus of TWI’s Digital Manufacturing Conference – a summit committed to exploring the fourth industrial revolution – and this year I was happy to share our experiences in a keynote slot.
At Vodafone Business, we believe an integral part of any Industry 4.0 conversation must be on the opportunities that lie in smart factories and the technology that enables them.
Real-time monitoring, asset tracking, connected cameras, autonomous guided vehicles, smart wearables and many more will become regular features of a connected manufacturing facility.
Once disparate devices will become part of a ‘digital thread’ that runs through each premise, generating data that can be autonomously processed to improve operations on an ongoing basis.
With this information, and the insight it yields, factories will develop new levels of connectivity, transparency and optimisation. This will enable them to streamline operations and proactively act on issues before they become bottlenecks.
For many, the smart factory is already here
Some manufacturers are beginning to realise the benefits of these new ecosystems.
Research from Cranfield University identified that smart factories have been found to increase productivity by as much as 100%, reduce lead time and waste, as well as halve time-to-market through automation and ‘digital twin’ processes .
Digital twinning allows businesses to create a virtual model of a physical process in order to monitor, analyse and improve its performance in real-time.
The research also discovered that that 91% of manufacturers said Industry 4.0 will enable their staff to work smarter – and 89% say it will enable them to increase productivity.
Yet while smart factories are already a reality for some, there is a new technology set to open the floodgates of innovation: 5G.
Already live in 38 cities, the consumer benefits of 5G are widely recognisable - but the business benefits will prove to be more compelling.
5G will stimulate Internet of Things (IoT) adoption at an unprecedented scale, connecting together billions of devices and allow for the reliable, low-latency network operation of specialised applications.
Like the synapses that connect cells in the human brain, 5G is the tissue that will enable factories to be truly intelligent.
Dedicated connectivity with the customer in control
However, not all 5G networks are created equal.
Manufacturers must ensure they have the dedicated connectivity controls in place to realise their business objectives. The most reliable way to do that with 5G is through a Mobile Private Network (MPN).
As the name implies, an MPN is a private network that unlocks the full benefits of 5G. In this network coverage is reserved for specific business locations, guaranteeing capacity and allowing the enterprise to prioritise traffic on for mission critical operations.
Both local and cloud compute are supported, data is kept secure onsite and the solution is completely scalable – allowing for the connection of thousands of devices.
Some customers are already realising its benefits. We recently launched the first 5G-ready factory and have led in coverage tests across our markets, paying special attention to the benefits for business.
MPN connectivity offers manufacturers security, reliability and scalability; enabling them to safely embrace the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution.