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‘Seismic shift’ happening in manufacturing sector, says new report

There is a seismic shift happening in the manufacturing industry as it advances towards Industry 4.0, according to a new report by Ericsson.

The telecommunications technology company recently launched its Connected Manufacturing report, which explores challenges the industry is up against and how smart solutions will be “key in helping manufacturers gearing up for Industry 4.0”.

Specifically, the report offers a deep-dive analysis of five high-value use cases and technologies that address the most imminent points in the industry.

Individually these use cases all create a healthy return on investment and streamline operations for factory owners. However, when all five are deployed and working together, their combined ROI will reach 116 percent by year five.

It will also create a system that is more agile, reliable and efficient.

Key use cases detailed in the report include:

  • Autonomous mobile robots (AMR) for real-time production chain automation: 46 percent of the value of AMRs comes from forklift operators being freed up to do other tasks in the factory;
  • Collaborative robots (cobots) for more efficient operations: customers today expect zero defects. To accomplish this goal, manufacturers must inspect 100 percent of the products they make and cobots offer a new set of eyes;
  • Augmented Reality (AR): AR can make an enormous difference in quality inspections. In fact, with AR, service experts can support local inspectors remotely, reducing their travel-related CO2 impact by 50 percent. The ROI on AR in year five is 68 percent;
  • Asset condition monitoring for increased uptime: Asset condition monitoring keeps equipment in good shape while preventing over-maintenance and the premature replacement of parts. As a result, manufacturers can reduce the number of spare parts required by 10 percent and employees can cut down on the amount of repetitive work they would normally have to do; and
  • Digital twins for optimized operations: Digital twins can produce useable insights for both process and factory, giving manufacturers full control to implement change. Thirty percent of executives believe a digital twin would reduce costs.

When analyzing these use cases, a baseline factory was applied: a mid-sized automotive supplier in Western Europe with $100 million in revenue, approximately 500 employees, and a gross profit of 10 percent.

The report estimates the yearly steady-state net value would reach $6 million for the baseline factory in year five. All five use cases would pay for themselves in three to five years, and if deployed together, complete payback would be achieved in just two years.

The report also describes the main challenges manufacturers must overcome to remain competitive. Falling productivity and growth, supply chain disruption, recruiting the right talent, and the burden of legacy machinery and assets are some of the obstacles.

Maintaining and reconfiguring wired fixed assets is also costly. As manufacturers upgrade their infrastructure, the need for data security and protection against cyber-attacks becomes a priority.

Meeting customer expectations of rapid customization require that factories must be extremely flexible so that production can be adapted quickly.

Manufacturers are increasingly seeing the value of a private cellular network to make their business more agile and competitive. Ericsson’s Dedicated Networks can help – by providing a fit for purpose, high-performance, and agile private network, guaranteeing manufacturers the connectivity and security it needs.

Sachin Mathur, head of partnerships, Hexagon’s manufacturing intelligence division, says: “Developed in partnership with Ericsson, this report reveals how connecting equipment and personnel within a modern factory environment can deliver increases in productivity and agility.

“These insights demonstrate the value of deploying a private cellular network and how low latency connectivity can help manufacturers overcome their challenges and support their transition to Industry 4.0 by connecting data from operations and quality.”

Thomas Norén, head of dedicated networks, Ericsson, says: “This guide and use cases present a leap forward for smart manufacturing and the many opportunities and efficiencies to be gained. Ericsson is a solution partner that manufacturers can rely on for the fast, reliable, secure connectivity that only a 5G-ready private cellular network can provide.”

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