What Are the Benefits of 5G in Manufacturing?
5G is designed to increase transmission speed, increase network capacity, deliver deterministic reliability, and dramatically reduce latency. These advanced capabilities have huge potential for industries and factories that can not afford downtime.
What Is 5G, and How Is It So Different?
5G (the fifth generation of cellular technology) dramatically reduces signal latency, while increasing reliability, network capacity, area coverage, and data rates. These improvements are so significant that new applications, services, and even ~businesses will be formed around the performance characteristics of 5G.
We saw a similar transition in the early 2000s when 4G-enabled smartphones loaded web pages almost instantly, shared large files, and live streaming video for the first time. These capabilities weren’t possible through 3G services.
Today, 5G enables manufacturers and other organizations to tap into new technologies that give them a competitive edge, produce better products, and reduce downtime. Autonomous vehicles, ubiquitous IoT (Internet of Things), and augmented reality (AR) are just a few examples of what 5G can enable.
What many don’t realize is that 5G networks can now be privately owned and managed, similar to Wi-Fi networks. Recent advancements in radio technology and the new CBRS (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) unlicensed spectrum band allow manufacturers to untether themselves from commercial carriers and design predictable networks they fully control with the cost of licensed spectrum. This is called private 5G, and it’s changing the way manufacturers scale, improve performance, and provide better products.
Challenges with 5G in Manufacturing
For years, businesses would rely on managed service providers (MSPs) or commercial carriers to access cellular service. For industries such as manufacturing, this relationship was essentially a non-starter. Manufacturers wanted control over their own networks that mobile network operators just wouldn’t or couldn’t provide. What’s more, commercial carriers often take a “one-size-fits-all” approach when providing coverage, rate rates, and network visibility.
This lack of control and customization makes it difficult to plan and scale new coverage areas or predict a new facility’s cost and service levels. Many commercial networks also charge service fees, implement overage charges, or slow down the network when monthly limits exceed their plan. This can prove to be devastating for manufacturers that demand 100% uptime and reliability.
Lastly, manufacturers want complete control over their network resources. This enables them to design custom service-level agreements (SLAs), monitor industrial IoT (IIoT) sensors, and ensure intellectual property stays private. In a commercial carrier setup, much of this control is sacrificed for convenience and ease of use.
Thanks to recent cellular advancements, this is no longer the only option for manufacturers or enterprises that want a highly reliable and customizable network. Like home Wi-Fi, private 5G is now a plug-and-play experience that gives control back to the network owner.
Why Private 5G Changes Everything for Manufacturers
Before 5G, many manufacturers still relied on wired networks to communicate with their machines. Wired networks require thousands of feet of cable, numerous switches, and signal repeaters to get the job done at scale.
Even with technology such as Wi-Fi and LTE available, interference and complex environments made those options a risky choice for companies who needed ultra-reliable service. Manufacturers using LTE already have much of the infrastructure in place to upgrade to 5G if they wish to do so. This puts many early adopters of cellular technology in a good position to start using 5G across their network.
Advancements in 5G performance combined with the private 5G architecture enable manufacturers to reliably communicate with machines, sensors, and staff over thousands of square feet. 5G uses multiple bands to provide the best possible coverage given the environment.
For instance, high-band 5G can provide ultra-reliable service indoors, while low-band service allows for long-distance communication with other facilities. These multiple bands are also used to penetrate different materials such as sheet metal, steel, glass, and concrete, providing service to even the most challenging factory floors.
Private 5G gives manufacturers complete control over their network resources, creating SLAs with millisecond precision. For example, manufacturers can ensure that assembly line robotics are guaranteed a certain level of resources since they are critical for production. Once these rules are in place, artificial intelligence and machine learning continuously monitor the network and make dynamic changes to always adhere to the rules in place.
While 5G chipsets are slightly more expensive than their 4G counterparts, 5G provides significant coverage and capacity improvements that reduce the overall amount of hardware needed to build a network. Not only are fewer access points required to provide the same level of coverage, but there is also no need to run thousands of feet of fiber, install repeaters, or purchase more switches to support 5G. Overall, manufacturers end up spending less on hardware when covering large complex areas that require 5G.
Privately owned 5G networks save money in the long term by owning their own infrastructure and avoiding carrier service fees. Since private 5G is designed to integrate within your existing IT infrastructure, there’s no need to hire expensive consultants or new team members to support the network.
Lastly, removing MSPs and other wildcards from the equation gives you more control over your security and uptime. An MSP outage or targeted ransomware attack could cause significant downtime. At an enterprise level, even an hour of downtime could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
5G Manufacturing Use Cases
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
5G IoT makes it possible to pull insights from almost anything across a manufacturing plant. One of the most popular uses of IIoT is preventative maintenance. Small IoT sensors can monitor changes in temperature, electric current, fluid levels, air pressure, and numerous other environmental changes. The sensor can send an automatic maintenance request to staff to service that machine before it causes downtime.
These same sensors also breathe new life into old machines by sharing metrics on infrastructure that isn’t capable of an internet connection. For many manufacturers, antiquated machines are too costly to replace. IIoT sensors bring old machines online through the use of 5G.
Insights such as production levels, efficiency, downtime, machine health, and tool calibrations can all be viewed and controlled wirelessly through 5G networks.
Augmented reality overlays virtual graphics in the real world when looking through a pair of goggles. While this may seem like something reserved for video games, it’s proven to be incredibly useful in manufacturing.
AR can aid technicians in complex troubleshooting and provide a visual form of root cause analysis. Rather than holding a tablet, AR-enabled technicians can simply look at the machine in question and see which component is faulty. These insights are generated through IIoT sensors and displayed in AR rather than an email notification or text alert. Since AR reflects changes in the physical world, technicians can see exactly where they need to start troubleshooting. AR-assisted troubleshooting can help reduce time to repair and even prove to be a powerful training tool for new technicians.
Autonomous machines require ultra-low latency connectivity to transmit and receive data in real time. Weather, traffic patterns, and environmental conditions can all influence how autonomous machines make decisions. Whether it’s AI-powered robots on an assembly line or autonomous trams transporting goods across a factory, 5G provides the reliability and coverage to operate these machines safely.
The Celona Solution
Celona enables manufacturers to cost effectively take advantage of private 5G for their critical connectivity needs as a seamless turnkey 5G LAN solution.
Celona 5G LAN solution allows for manufacturing devices to be deployed further while allowing for control of throughput and latency on a per-device and per-application basis. In these example screenshots, the Celona administrator has configured throughput guarantees for a RTSP video for a set of IoT devices in a manufacturing environment.
Plug-and-play devices can be quickly deployed throughout the facility, while proactive monitoring ensures network SLAs, such as throughput and latency requirements, are consistently being met. Celona uses edgeless enterprise architecture and cloud-based artificial intelligence to make implementing private mobile networks an out-of-box experience. Onboarding can be done alongside existing wireless and IT infrastructure, without interrupting business operations.
If you’re looking to build cellular wireless connectivity for your new digital initiatives, we can help. Check out our network planner to see what your Celona network would look like, and test-drive the Celona solution via product demonstrations and a free trial.