March 20, 2019
By Srinivas Garigipati, Unit CTO, Manufacturing Business Group at Tata Consultancy Services
There has been a ton of buzz around the development of 5G and its advantages—and understandably so. Industries across the board are beginning to contemplate how the connectivity capabilities of 5G technology have the potential to make foundational shifts in how products are made, marketed, delivered, serviced, and more. While it is true that all industries have the potential to benefit from this technology, there’s one industry that is primed to find the most value in 5G adoption—manufacturing.
But what exact benefits will come as a result? The opportunities are seemingly limitless; 5G connectivity will bring manufacturers to the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution—also known as Business 4.0.
Benefits Exist on the Shop Floor
5G will bring manufacturers previously unimaginable uptime capabilities—by providing them with the ability to utilize data in new ways. When paired with predictive an prescriptive analytical capabilities, 5G will enable manufacturers to monitor, predict, plan, and execute on maintenance needs of shop-floor machinery well in advance on a proactive basis – better preparing for the inevitable maintenance needs and part replacement of machinery on the shop floor. Additionally, 5G connectivity will increase communication between machinery across a shop floor. These machines will now be able to collaborate in a real-time manner to maximize efficiencies — only operating when absolutely necessary and conserving energy when not – and therefore reduce the shop floor costs, enhance the shop floor productivity and quality of the product by optimizing the resource consumption and eliminating the process gaps.
Additionally, 5G brings a plethora of new and emerging technologies to the forefront of the shop floor—from AI, VR, AR, robotics and more. 5G will allow for increased mobility and precision of robotics, allowing for more automated and less-dangerous shop-floor conditions.
VR and AR technology will become fully mobile—allowing shop-floor management to train new employees on heavy machinery operation, assist in creative design and data visualization capabilities, virtual prototyping, enhance safety, and more. These capabilities will be accessible anywhere, at any-time, and seamlessly integrate into any existing manufacturing infrastructure.
Optimizing Throughout of the Supply Chain
5G’s potential doesn’t only exist within the walls of the manufacturing floor. The implications for the technology are far-reaching and will spread across the entire supply chain.
For instance, AI and machine learning technologies will become smarter and more valuable to the supply chain as a whole. AI-driven shop-floor tech will be able to learn from mistakes, adapt in real-time, and even find new, more productive ways to optimize operations—not only in one machine (or even in one shop floor), but across the entire supply chain. Through 5G connectivity, AI tech will think of the supply chain as a single entity—understanding the impact that one part of the process has on the whole, and finding ways to best optimize time and resources along the entire chain.
Additionally, when paired with edge computing and hybrid cloud capabilities, 5G has the potential to further bring seamless optimization on both the near and far edges. Manufacturers will have access to more end-user device data than ever before—but they will also have the ability to act on this data in real-time. They will be able to provide exceptional after-market services, by understanding the product lifecycle of each individual consumer. They can then ensure proactive maintenance scheduling ahead of when it is needed, as well as ensure that replacement parts are shipped or installed in real-time. The manufacturer also benefits from this, as they will be able to optimize their spare parts inventory to include only the after-market parts that will be needed—and minimize excess surplus of inventory.
5G also brings innovative customer experiences to life through hyper-personalization. By embracing the connection between the end-user and the manufacturer, customers will have access to customizable products and after-market services that can revolutionize how manufacturers operate and communicate with the end-user. Instead of a cut-and-paste assembly line, 5G connectivity—when integrated with next-gen manufacturing processes, such as industrial 3D printing—will provide the end-user with freedom of design and function.
These are just a few of the seemingly limitless possibilities that 5G connectivity has for manufacturing adoption. Manufacturers will be able to optimize not only their internal shop-floor processes, but also the ways in which they communicate, interact with, and service the end-user. Part of this is due to the current applications that are available to manufacturers—from edge computing, cloud tech, 3D printing, automation, and more. 5G is simply going to help manufacturers find ways to further advance these pre-existing technologies, and create a seamless integration between them all. Connectivity is going to help these different technologies interact in truly unique ways, and the benefits for manufacturers that come as a result will be plentiful. Overall, 5G’s high-bandwidth and speed enabling real time communication and seamless data exchanges for actionable insights will not only drive productivity improvements, cost reduction and enhanced quality, but also lay a foundation to venture out with new business models by manufacturers.
Srinivas Garigipati, CTO, Manufacturing Business Group, Tata Consultancy Services:
Over 24+ years of IT industry experience including 21+ years in TCS. Currently heading the Research and Innovation function of TCS manufacturing business group. In this role responsible to lead strategic innovation and thought leading partnerships with the manufacturing clientele in championing the emerging technology driven transformation journeys, especially in the areas of – Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, Shared Mobility, Electrification, Connected Products and Systems, IIOT, Digital Twins, 3D Print, AI/ML and COBOTICS.