5G in Manufacturing: Re-Inventing Shop Floor Operations | HCLTech

5G in manufacturing: Re-inventing shop floor operations

January 13, 2022
Shankar Gopalkrishnan


Shankar Gopalkrishnan
Senior Vice President, Manufacturing
January 13, 2022

The industry has evolved to a far more complex state of working owing to all the technological advancements in the market. The is evolving to address the fundamental shift of adopting industry 4.0, which lays the foundation for digitization and advanced manufacturing processes. Now, 5G-enabled technology adoption is necessary to create a more flexible, efficient, and sustainable manufacturing value chain. Almost all manufacturers consider 5G connectivity crucial for the future of their business. As a faster 5G technology is deployed to manufacturing, the more competitive manufacturers feel they will be able to take advantage of the rapid 5G deployment, which will positively impact their ability to compete in the fast-changing landscape.

5G-enabled technology adoption is necessary to create a more flexible, efficient, and sustainable manufacturing value chain.

The manufacturing industry is looking at 5G technology to address the following fundamental aspects:

  1. Transform the supply chain and the factory operations to address some important process areas to generate efficient inventory tracking, warehousing and logistics, asset tracking and monitoring, creating a platform to expand on 'lights of manufacturing' for remote asset management and also predictive and preventive maintenance.
  2. 5G is evaluated to bring down costs on complex plant networks, which interconnects some complex assets ranging from robotics, automated production machines, production line assets, AVM's, and visual analysis, to name a few, which rely on high speed and secure network connectivity.
  3. 5G is set to improve cobot working culture to increase the productivity of employee's and machines
  4. 5G is projected to adopt and enable better adoption of edge components and analytics to create a more comprehensive hyper-connected industrial value chain.

Other areas such as analytics, machine learning, and augmented reality, supervised production procedures, managing supplies, and orchestration of manufacturing factory's floor activities.

The latency in the current network technologies with limited abilities of the IoT-enabled devices has restricted the manufacturing plants from becoming more autonomous and efficient. Thus, inciting the need to minimize the use of cables is all the more prominent, now more than ever.

Industrial revolution 4.0 is designated mainly to optimize existing processes through smart technologies in the manufacturing dimension. As gathering and transmitting big and complex forms of data and information is a crucial component of this revolution, the next-generation, high-speed internet will allow a secure network of communication for massive amounts of data at high speeds with deficient latency levels.

How to adopt 5G Services

HCLTech has developed a next-generation framework called MVision to address the new industrial revolution and the change that is happening in digitization and connectivity. The new disruptions need a more focused and pragmatic approach to make manufacturing organizations future-ready. MVision framework, specifically "MVision for Business," helps customers identify and address business needs to transform. Through the "MVision for Business" framework, HCLTech provides business consulting services to understand the need for 5G in the manufacturing process and enhance operations and experience.

"MVision for Business" helps organizations define the need for 5G and its amplified need in recent times for the industrial revolution. The services are delivered along with innovative use cases, which are mainly categorized under three buckets: -

  • eMBB (enhanced mobile broadband) – Services that require stable connections with very-high peak data rates up to 20 Gbps at DL and 10 Gbps at UL and 100 Mbps at DL and 50 Mbps at UL in cell edge areas. For example, voice and video calls
  • URLLC (ultra-reliable low-latency communications) – Services that require low-latency transmissions less than 1 ms (<1ms) and very high reliability. For example, mission-critical applications like surveillance monitor and connected cars
  • mMTC (Massive Machine-type Communications) – Services that require a massive number of internet of things (IoT) devices. These have a very high connection density of up to 1,000,000 devices per km2. For example, smart factory.

The applicability of these design components can be categorized depending on feature and function enablement.

High margin

Source: 5G FOR SMART MANUFACTURING, 16 April 2020

© PA Knowledge Limited

How will 5G Transform your Manufacturing Operations and Beyond:

After the implementation of 5G technology, the industry transformation will mark the shift from an overdrawn legacy to the future of manufacturing. Authorizing IoT-enabled connected devices, sensors, edge computing, self-healing networks, robotics, and automation will support these factories in making informed, decentralized decisions and improving overall equipment and process efficiency. 5G will be the last straw in making this vision a reality by providing unparalleled connectivity meant for capturing and processing data in real-time. Some of the applications:

5G for Smart Infrastructure

As manufacturers adopt smart infrastructure that uses machine learning, prediction, analysis, and self-correction to operate, 5G will support smarter integration and analysis of the data generated by plant assets. With so many interconnected technologies and endpoints (including robotics, mobility, and field-related applications), you need highly reliable—and highly secure—compute power to process the large blocks of data.

5G technology will provide the highly secure foundation to efficiently move data out of corporate silos while also helping to ensure it stays safely within the walls of the facility.

5G technology will help in efficiently moving data out of corporate silos without moving the data out of the facility. This goes beyond implementing smarter integration and analysis of data generated. With a large number of interconnected technologies dependent upon these and other endpoints - including that generated through robotics, mobility, and field-related applications, an increased level of reliability for the large blocks of data transfer is required. 5G will ultimately provide the power and consistency needed for the intelligent infrastructure to breathe a new level of life, produce new products, services, and realize greater operational efficiencies.

5G for AR/VR

For the successful adoption and sustainability of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), which is also known as mixed reality or spatial computing when used together, both edge computing and a highly secure 5G network are critical. 5G will eventually enable manufacturers to achieve new levels of factory optimization through AR and VR. These technologies can display overlays to guide workers through production steps for intricate assembly processes. They can also help train new employees and potentially shorten their learning curve. In addition, manufacturers can direct operators located in the field and across the through repair procedures, potentially reducing the costs of dispatched or third-party labor.

Video Sensor/Analytics powered by 5G Technology

The data from various video sensors and visual analytics technology can reside at the edge of a network. This can also carry the demand for consistent measurements and big data analytics that are required in near-real-time. 5G is a reliable solution that can also help facilitate the integration of related applications and processes.

In addition, 5G-enabled video technology supports—

  • Predictive quality
  • Near-real-time situational awareness
  • People counters
  • Safety protocols
  • Point-of-entry security
  • Foreign object debris detection
  • Autonomous material handling
  • Temperature monitoring

5G-enabled Augmented Guided Vehicle

Autonomous-guided vehicles (AGVs) that move through a factory floor, yard, or warehouse calculate billions of bits of data to process instructions and make intelligent decisions to navigate safely. With such heavy demand on the network, Wi-Fi alone can't deliver the reliability, bandwidth, or support required for virtually seamless performance. 5G eventually will. The complex plant networks can provide the foundation for data to flow from the edge of the network, where it's more easily accessible for prioritized processes. Coupled with 5G to handle the volume of data from sensors, endpoints, and other sources, AGVs will ultimately be able to communicate with their interface to avoid collisions and mistakes and carry out their assignments.

Coupled with 5G to handle the volume of data from sensors, endpoints, and other sources, AGVs will ultimately be able to communicate with their interface to avoid collisions and mistakes and carry out their assignments.

5G in Digital Twins

Digital twin technology can give you a view into the most complex machines. In factory floor and operations planning, digital twins help engineers design layout and flow before making costly installations and changes. In the near future, 5G will help to integrate physical and virtual assets for cost-saving flexibilities, wherever digital twin technology will be used.

Realizing 5G Vision

Adapting to 5G comes with its own set of challenges. First, manufacturers who want to adopt this new change must take a strategic approach. Even though 5G networks will significantly reduce factory downtime, cybersecurity issues can force manufacturers to shut down operations and have devastating impacts and losses. To tackle these security-related issues, companies are now looking toward investing in private networks. This means that manufacturers will have to collaborate with companies that provide relevant IT and technology services to analyze the factories' situation and develop suitable 5G-enabled plans to redesign floor operations. This is where HCLTech and its class apart technology structures come into the picture. HCLTech, with its "MVision for Digital" framework, has created a transformation path for its customers to automate and optimize their manufacturing operations and create more value for their customers. Our 360-degree approach enables you to create a strategy to transform your business and manufacturing operations and builds a road map to support you in your adaptation to future 5G technologies. The deployment and maintenance of the 5G network is a complex process. There are layers of complexity, each intertwined with the next. Some of the key challenges with 5G which an operator might face while deploying are:

  • Multi-vendor integration - 5G networks comprise a multi-vendor ecosystem with programmable APIs. Integrating the same requires very niche experience to bring up any mix of hardware and software with proprietary interfaces, along with expertise in programming 5G service APIs.
  • Multi-vendor interoperability validation – Creating seamless interoperability in a multi-vendor open ecosystem between RAN and Core, within RAN components and overall 5G network with legacy 2G/3G/4G ecosystem, will require an investment in a comprehensive test suite with modules for lab validation and field deployment
  • Multiple cloud infrastructure management – Due to the massive network scale in 5G services, operators are following a multi-cloud strategy. They are supporting heterogeneous workloads – VNFs, CNFs running on multiple cloud infrastructure – bare metal and virtual machines, making the environment complex and difficult to manage
  • Multivendor SLAs convergence at level 1-3 – In an open 5G network, it is challenging to identify and isolate issues in the network. It becomes difficult to establish exactly where performance bottlenecks are located when experiencing delays, as guaranteed QOS with scale and capacity is the key in 5G
  • Inconclusive root cause analysis – Dispersion of vendors leads to confusion of root cause identification as no single vendor takes accountability, which in turn increases the time to resolve the issues
  • Unified dashboard for operation and maintenance – In a multi-vendor environment, each component comes with its own monitoring applications. Instead of having multiple monitoring applications, a single dashboard that gives a comprehensive view of the 5G network is the need. An application/tool that helps to identify and resolve issues in a timely manner across the entire ecosystem of the 5G network, and not just for one vendor, is crucial.

Having the right system integrator partner like HCLTech powered by "MVision for Digital" consulting practice brings innovative 5G solutions for integrating, deploying, and maintaining these networks. This is crucial in delivering high quality of service by an operator to its end customer.

Some of our solutions that can help in mitigating the above mentioned 5G deployment challenges are: -

  • Continuous testing through E2E Test Automation – HCLTech has an in-house E2E Test and Automation framework based on AI/ML. This can be integrated with the operator's test framework enabling seamless integration, verification, and deployment of workloads from multi-vendors.
  • Self-Organizing Networks (SON) – HCLTech has acquired the Cisco SON product, which helps automate O&M and thus does the work of self-configuration, self-optimization, and self-healing of the network.
  • Network softwarizaton toolchain – HCLTech has invested in an in-house solution accelerator called BluGenie that enables the management of architectural, functional, and operational cloud requirements in a unified way.
  • Service assurance - HCLTech NetBOT framework helps in incident detection, provides out-of-the-box integration and collaboration tools, provisioning tools, real-time topology mapping tools, network diagnostic tools, and many others, which ease the network management activity.
  • Multi-vendor ecosystem expertise and rich-engineering heritage – HCLTech works with 6 out of the top 7 OEMs and has 20+ years of experience working with leading networking OEM. Its rich engineering heritage that spans from silicon to systems, helps to reduce the time taken to narrow down root cause of the problem.
  • Investment in solutions and IPs – HCLTech has invested in in-house solution accelerators and has developed IPs along with its customers, like service acceleration, cloud-based home device management, 5G o½oad solution, and many others, which can accelerate the operator's journey.

HCLTech has been an early driver in 5G adoption and can play a crucial role in the entire value chain of the operator's 5G deployment journey mainly driven by automation, optimization, cloudification and containerization. Our domain expertise, in-depth understanding of the multi-vendor ecosystem, innovative solutions, and investment-led business models make us stand apart.

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