Nigel Thomas, Head of Aerospace and Defence, shared his thoughts on the impact of 5G within the manufacturing sector.
How do you think 5G will be able to support manufacturers, and which processes will it impact at the beginning of the rollout?
“5G will have a slow burning impact on manufacturing, and its rollout will share an analogy with 4G adoption. There was a slow uptake of 5G’s predecessor as the investment was phased in by the operators, and even now we struggle to get 4G everywhere. Similarly, with the next generation of networks, organisations will each typically wait for others to be early adopters. Particularly within aerospace and defence, manufacturers will observe the actions of those in, for instance, the high tech/high volume manufacturing sectors before they invest themselves. The impact of 5G will experience hockey stick growth – once the industry is confident in the benefits of its deployment, and the business cases stand up, we will begin to see accelerated developments.
5G adoption within the manufacturing space will have a huge impact on the mobility of workforce. If an individual is on a large site, they will be better connected to their mobile computing devices and will be given reliable access to important assets, such as technical drawings and job instructions, which should enable different ways of working and new business models, e.g. a field service engineer communicating with an expert back at base. 5G will undoubtedly improve the connection between remote employees and field service applications.”
One advantage of IoT is that it provides organisations with new, innovative ways of engaging with end customers. How do you think 5G will impact Industry 4.0?
“In many ways, 5G will enable a new age of Industry 4.0. By enabling hotspots of vastly increased bandwidth, and with the capacity to support up to 1 million 5G devices in 1 sq. kilometer, the technology will relay coverage to smaller clusters across the country, essentially removing current black spots. Within manufacturing, this will allow businesses to connect sensors to more of their equipment, which will provide them with data around how the equipment is performing when the next service is needed, and any issues it may be experiencing. However, the reality is that Industry 4.0 will struggle to deliver that full connectivity. Many manufacturers still use legacy machines, and as such, are unlikely to put sensors on them as they may be unsure of what benefits they can get. Ultimately, 5G will deliver a new age of Industry 4.0 for companies who can present a clear business case, but for those where the business case is questionable or not appropriate, the impact is less certain.”
Although manufacturing organisations will benefit from the 5G rollout, what challenges do you think they should prepare for?
“To a large degree, the challenges that manufacturers face relate to the efficacy of the business case. For example, if a factory is making the same aerospace parts that they have been manufacturing for the past 50 years, they might not choose to invest in putting sensors on their machinery. However, if they can build a business case that demonstrates how the ability to capture manufacturing data will improve quality, output and productivity, then they will invest.
The difficulty occurs when the entire supply chain is considered. Manufacturers will not be able to mandate down their supply chain that everyone in the network should invest in the technology. It might be down to manufacturers to invest and then drive a programme of adoption and use down the supply chain. This is likely to be reflected by a hockey stick start, as many investment cases will take time to prove.”
To find out what global manufacturing executives think about 5G, read our “5G in Industrial Operations” report and to learn more about what Capgemini are doing in the manufacturing and industrial product space, click here.