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Customization a reality for manufacturers in 2020

Jan. 10, 2020

But we must overcome our cabling problem. 

As we look ahead into 2020, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will gain momentum through the continued proliferation of 5G connectivity, which will enable innovative cellular IoT solutions that can drive significant growth across industries. In fact, ABI Research predicts that the global warehouse-management system (WMS) market will be worth US$5 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 13.9%.

The deployment of 5G and IoT will have a major impact in manufacturing across numerous verticals such as automotive, electronics, textiles and more as

Ericsson's Kiva Allgood

the manufacturing floor (and with it the traditional assembly line) becomes modular.

While manufacturers have evolved over the years to adaptive production to optimize workflows and increase production line efficiencies, cabling has become a massive barrier to fulfilling the promise of a truly flexible and agile process. The need to remove cables is essential, however, there is also a need to ensure stable and reliable connectivity throughout the fabrication cycle to decrease disruption and increase production. 

As an industrial environment shifts to automated manufacturing, a dedicated 4G (and, in the near future, 5G network) is essential. In extremely demanding industrial environments that require high device density and extremely low latency, private networks will be needed. Private cellular networks can deliver the capacity to support both high- and low-data requirements up to the range of 300 Mbps for downlink and 150 Mbps for uplink, and when paired with LTE they can provided predictable latency in the range of 30 milliseconds.

Powered by innovative cellular IoT solutions, breakthroughs in digitalization and automation will enable fully digital manufacturing, allowing production to change mid-stream without any disruption. This shift to an ultra-connected, flexible manufacturing process will power hyper-customization, allowing the end-customer’s product to be uniquely tailored for specific requirements all while meeting demands. Today, when consumers visit big-box stores to purchase a piece of furniture, they can only select from the options the manufacturer has pre-selected. In the future, customers will be able to customize every aspect of that piece of furniture from color to material to fixtures. Only a smart connected manufacturing floor without cables will be suited for this task.

In support of hyper-customization and an agile manufacturing process, 5G and cellular IoT will enable other innovative solutions that rely on smarter and more reliable connectivity requirements. This includes the use of robotics and digital twins.

The deployment of private cellular networks will enable autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) to have true, always-on connectivity throughout the entire manufacturing floor and adjacent outdoor areas. Because of this, AMRs can move goods around the warehouse navigating around obstacles without following a fixed path. Data generated can be easily integrated with a firm’s existing warehouse control system (WCS), warehouse execution system (WES), and warehouse management system (WMS) software ecosystems.

Consider this...the number of warehouses using robots worldwide is expected to increase from just 4,000 in 2018 (3.2%) to more than 50,000 by 2025 (27.6%).

Kiva Allgood is head of IoT and automotive with Ericsson.