What is Wireless Manufacturing?
A wireless manufacturing network refers to all manner of wireless communications on the manufacturing floor. New private 5G networks offer manufacturers the possibility to build connected factories with much greater wireless coverage and more deterministic connectivity and performance to take advantage of all the advanced capabilities of Industry 4.0.
Why Does Wireless Manufacturing Matter?
Manufacturers face unique networking challenges that have hindered their ability to expand wirelessly for years. From massive warehouses to logistical challenges, manufacturers have largely stayed with their older wired connections. While this has worked in the past, as new network-dependent applications emerge and use cases that rely on unhindered mobility emerge, it has limited growth and operational productivity, dramatically increasing the cost to scale essential network services across a facility or plant.
Now thanks to recent advancements in cellular and IoT technologies, manufacturers can reliably untether their network to take advantage of a variety of performance and business benefits. Factories no longer need to pay for costly network infrastructure while scaling or eliminating dead zones on the factory floor.
How Does Wireless Manufacturing Fit Into Industry 4.0?
Industry 4.0 is the process of horizontally integrating all activities to achieve a transparent value chain. The objective of Industry 4.0 is to improve product quality, user productivity, reduce waste, and optimize logistics. In addition, wireless manufacturing offers the potential to improve the visibility of company assets around the world. Standard tasks, such as asset management and inventory control, can be streamlined, and managed centrally in real-time.
Benefits of Wireless Manufacturing
Wireless manufacturing opens open a variety of opportunities for manufacturers to speed production and time to market while improving performance, reliability, scale, and take advantage of data their business is already generating.
One of the biggest benefits of wireless manufacturing is the ability to scale operations more efficiently. Whether manufacturers are looking to spin up a second facility, automate production, or simply expand their current site, wireless infrastructure is more cost and time effective.
Rather than run new ethernet or fiber cabling, wireless manufacturers can simply and quickly install additional access points to gain additional network capacity in areas where coverage is needed. Operating at higher power levels, cellular access points are a popular choice due to their superior coverage when compared to other wireless mediums such as Wi-Fi.
Manufacturing plants generate massive amounts of data that can help drive business decisions. In many cases, this data is left uncollected due to limiting infrastructure or the inability to process that data into information.
Across industries and applications, Manufacturers use programmable logic controllers (PLCs) to monitor and automate their production processes. PLCs are ruggedly designed industrial computers that can withstand the conditions of an industrial environment. With more companies looking to automate their production processes, the rise of data-driven decision making, and evolving IIoT and machine learning applications, the role of PLCs in Manufacturing is becoming increasingly more prominent.
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sensors can now collect and transmit valuable data points that help show the growth and performance and help streamline manufacturing operations. Armed with this data, executives can now explore the performance of each plant, and easily identify processes or locations that can use improvement. These insights can help forecast revenue, expenses, and future growth with real-time data generated through hundreds of inexpensive IoT sensors.
The same IIoT sensors and systems that generate insights can improve performance and worker safety through orchestration and automation. Manufacturers that leverage wireless technology can use real-time data to trigger automations. For example, a sensor monitoring oil levels can create a maintenance request automatically when fluid levels reach a certain point.
That same sensor can also proactively shut down the machine if oil levels drop rapidly to prevent overheating and permanent damage. With each sensor monitoring and collecting environmental data, the possibilities for automation are practically endless. At the same time, manufacturers are using automated robots and systems that are dependent on robust network connectivity to improve processes, cut costs and speed time to market. If network connectivity to these systems is lost or disrupted, millions of dollars of material and labor can be lost, crippling the business and halting operations.
Examples of Wireless Manufacturing
A digital twin is a virtual representation of a real physical object or system. Manufacturers can use digital twins to make changes and improvements quickly in a virtual environment to aid research and development.
To support the digital twin of manufacturing, manufacturers need enhanced connectivity to move beyond the boundaries of their physical plants. This connectivity will determine the number of simultaneous processes and whether these processes can be scaled beyond the boundaries of one site.
Businesses can use IIoT sensors paired with private LTE/5G networks to collect and sync each twin in real-time. Through an ultra-low latency 5G connection, data can be shared between the virtual and physical twin almost instantaneously.
With blanket network connectivity across the manufacturing environment, businesses can track assets with an end to end view into their production line and value chain process. This enables companies to accurately estimate the time to completion, as well as understand exactly where slowdowns occur in the manufacturing process.
Company assets like forklifts, autonomous vehicles, and even tools can also be monitored. Metrics such as location, usage, calibration, and quality can be wirelessly communicated to allow for a better understanding of product lifecycle and maintenance needs.
One of the earliest use cases of IIoT technology was in the maintenance department. IIoT sensors are eliminating the need for tedious maintenance checks and routine calibrations of machines. By monitoring the precise current condition of a system, tool, or machine, IoT sensors paired with artificial intelligence can strategically route maintenance resources to the assets that require them the most.
Types of Technology Used in Wireless Manufacturing
While it’s clear wireless technology has greatly improved the manufacturing process, not all wireless mediums are created equal. Many manufacturers use a variety of different wireless networks in their business to achieve specific objectives.
Enterprise Wi-Fi is often used in small wireless manufacturing operations. Due to its widespread popularity and pervasiveness, Wi-Fi technology is relatively inexpensive, easy to implement and familiar to any IT department. IIoT sensors using Wi-Fi can share data over short to medium ranges, but often have reliability issues in more complex environments and areas where a wider range of coverage is required or interference and obstacles are prevalent.
Bluetooth is a low-power short-range wireless option in manufacturing typically used to track assets as they move along the manufacturing process. For example, businesses can tag and track a product through Bluetooth to see exactly where it is in the assembly process. The short range and minimal coverage Bluetooth provides gives it a niche place in the manufacturing process.
Of the previously mentioned networks, cellular offers the best option with respect to wireless reliability and deterministic performance and blanket coverage across manufacturing plants. The higher power levels at which 5G/LTE radios operate enable manufacturers to cover thousands of square feet both indoors and outdoors. At a fraction of the cost of alternative wireless technologies. And since cellular networks operate at a different frequency, existing Wi-Fi networks can operate unaffected at the same time.
While restrictive commercial cellular plans and complex implementations have kept manufacturers away, Celona has made implementing private 5G into your manufacturing operation as simple as firing up a Wi-Fi network. Through plug-and-play hardware and intuitive network design tools, Celona makes it easy to start your wireless manufacturing journey the right way. The company’s 5G LAN systems has received critical acclaim from manufacturers across the steel, electric factory and automotive sectors.
Wireless Manufacturing Made Simple With Celona
Celona partners with manufacturers, like those referenced above, to provide private cellular 4G LTE and 5G wireless networks as part of their IoT architecture and as a seamless turnkey solution.
As part of a Celona 5G LAN network, cellular access points can be quickly deployed throughout a manufacturing facility, enforcing service level traffic management requirements to key IoT applications and enabling proactive monitoring of throughput and latency requirements.
By adopting cloud networking principles, a Celona 5G LAN makes implementing private cellular wireless for IoT architecture and systems effortless. With its ability to directly integrate with existing enterprise IP domain structures, QoS framework and network security policies, its onboarding can be performed alongside Wi-Fi and IT infrastructure already in place without interrupting business operations.
If you’re building your wireless manufacturing plant for the future, Celona can help. Check out our private cellular wireless network planner to estimate the size of your Celona network indoors and outdoors, or test-drive a Celona 5G LAN solution.