How British manufacturing will be ‘Made in 5G’

Posted on 3 Jul 2019 by Maddy White

5G’s promise of fast data speeds and the ability to simultaneously connect a million devices in close proximity has got British manufacturers excited. So, could ‘Made in 5G’ become a mantra for the UK’s industrial sector?

Industrial digitalisation has set the stage for industrial digitalisation - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
Industrial digitalisation has set the stage for 5G – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

The size of the 5G prize for UK manufacturers is huge, with revenues possibly seeing a £2bn boost by 2025. And now, industrial digitalisation – so crucial for the future of British manufacturing, with it driving down costs, improving margins, and reducing time to market – has set the stage for 5G to sit at the heart of UK manufacturing.

‘Made in 5G’ – a new report by the Digital Catapult – outlines the main challenges to 5G adoption for UK industry, and sets out key usage and adoption recommendations for British manufacturing.

“Made in 5G sets the wheels in motion for the journey towards Industrial 5G. It’s a long road, and as with all leading-edge technologies, it’s essential for manufacturers to engage early so as not to be left behind,” said Jeremy Silver, CEO, Digital Catapult.

Get into the game early

“There’s a real business case for getting skin in the 5G game right now, helping to shape the use cases for a technology which promises to be revolutionary for output and productivity across the UK’s manufacturing industries,” he adds.

Steps taken now by manufacturers will dictate the direction of UK industry within the increasingly competitive global landscape, 5G will prove vital to the future success of the industrial industry.

Juergen Maier CBE, CEO Siemens UK, Chairman Digital Catapult & Made Smarter, speaking in the report, said: “We need to empower ourselves with the knowledge of what 5G can deliver for us in real terms – and we need to take active steps to explore what this will mean for our businesses so that we don’t fall behind.”

5G in action, but collaboration needed

The report found three key areas within industry that 5G will help to accelerate: on-site and in-factory production optimization; monitoring and management of goods across the supply chain; and product lifecycle management.

5G connectivity - depositphotos.
5G promises ultra-low latency and high data speeds – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

However, adoption of 5G will only become a reality if collaboration happens between all players in the manufacturing and connectivity value chains.

The Digital Catapult has designed, deployed and now operates 5G testbeds in the UK. The testbeds are open to the innovator community and industrial users looking to understand, experiment, and develop using 5G technology.

Communication chasm

Only one third of respondent say they have good knowledge of 5G, according to the research, while just 7% view themselves as experts. A 5G language gap is hampering discussions about the opportunities of the high-speed network.

The report says, engineers speak in terms of production, IT teams speak about servers and cloud, while telecoms providers consider throughput and MHz.

Additionally, manufacturers often incorrectly believe their existing connectivity capability performs around 80% of what 5G is expected to deliver, driving a reluctance to test or consider 5G, particularly if there is no solid business case. This lack of understanding is creating a barrier to adopting or even planning for a 5G rollout.

Proving an ROI

The report explains that many emerging technologies are held back because it’s hard to prove the value they can bring. Hence, a clear business case is essential for a widespread and effective 5G rollout in manufacturing.

Manufacturers need to make connectivity a priority and part of R&D planning and business cases. This will make plans to deploy 5G at scale more realistic and it will help clarify the ROI of 5G against other options, including the cost of retaining current networks.

Case study: Worcestershire 5G Testbed

Powering up productivity

The Worcestershire 5G (W5G) consortium was chosen in March last year as one of six Phase 1 5G Trial and Testbed projects backed by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports.

Yamazaki Mazak Worcester production line 5
A production line at Yamazaki Mazak in Worcester.

Worcester Bosch and Mazak, with security company QinetiQ, are working with a consortium including council and academic partners, network operators O2/Telefonica and BT as well as vendor Huawei and system integrator AWTG.

By early February 2019, a 5G network had been set up alongside a private 4G network across five locations in Worcestershire, including the Bosch and Mazak factories in Worcester.

The consortium has used the W5G testbed to test four Industry 4.0 use cases for Bosch and Mazak, covering condition monitoring, visual monitoring and augmented reality.

Mazak’s use of augmented reality technologies in the trial indicates a potential productivity return of 2%, reducing the cost to serve customers and creating additional capacity to help deliver improvements in customer experience. Bosch is expecting a 1% improvement in plant efficiency.

The Midlands is home to 20% of UK manufacturing. New business requirements have been identified for future deployments, such as security ‘finger-printing’ of factories.