It’s time to put humans at the center of factories again.
Industry 4.0 has created a multitude of gains for enterprises in efficiency, mass production and the ability to customize any part of the production line. These advances are only going to increase in the future, which raises the question: what does this mean for society?
Imagine you are working on a production line, assembling a product that requires many heavy parts. Rather than injuring your back trying to carry a big piece of metal, you could have a robotic helping hand or exoskeleton that does all the heavy lifting for you.
Or maybe you could have a robot co-worker by your side, mimicking your movements with additional thinking, to save you from entering an unsafe environment.
In the future, machines are not going to replace humans. Instead, they will collaborate and evolve together.
What is Industry 5.0?
Industry 5.0 is the next phase in the evolution of manufacturing, complementary to Industry 4.0, with an all-inclusive approach. It will go beyond jobs and growth to become a resilient provider of prosperity, making production respect the boundaries of the planet while placing the wellbeing of industry employees at the center.
Why will employees and manufacturing benefit from Industry 5.0?
Ericsson IndustryLab research states that manufacturing employees say that 71 percent of their work tasks are either dull, dirty or dangerous, and 80 percent say they have been injured on the job. Better connectivity allows machines to handle many of the dull, dirty or dangerous tasks while humans upskill. We need to collectively take full advantage of the capabilities of human employees.
How will connectivity make Industry 5.0 manufacturing a reality?
In future factories, effective communication between humans and machines, as well as between machines themselves, will be crucial for learning, teaching and comprehension to evolve over time. A diverse range of communication channels, relying on advanced connectivity on the factory floor, will be necessary to capture voice, gestures, user input and machine and sensory data.
“Humans should never be subservient to machines and automation, but machines and automation should be subservient to humans.”
Professor Rosenbrock, H. H. (1990). Machines with a Purpose.
Industry 5.0 and the democratization of technology
Over the past decade, we have seen enormous technological advancements in manufacturing. The beginnings of Industry 4.0 saw an integration of machine-to-machine robotics alongside human employees, as well as developments towards full digitalization with various wireless network integrations, cloud-based functions and the Internet of Things.
This trend is set to continue. Almost two-thirds of manufacturers in a recent Ericsson IndustryLab report called ‘The rise of the smarter, swifter, safer production employee’ said they expect 80 percent of their business to be fully automated within 10 years.
But it is also clear that not everything can be automated and that many tasks in the future will still require human control or involvement. Employees will need to shift their focus towards higher-value tasks such as monitoring, design, engineering, programming, and maintenance of processes.
Humans still have a role in factories, with many tasks still deemed as hard to automate.
With the help of augmented and automation technologies, humans will be able to make timely decisions with more efficiency and accuracy. They will also be able to work more collaboratively and remotely with the help of high-performance connectivity, AI tools, and virtual reality (VR) devices to interact with machines and colleagues.
The potential consequence of this is that many blue-collar jobs will become white-collar ones. The Ericsson IndustryLab researchers found that half of all manufacturers predicted that they will not have any low-skilled positions 10 years from now.
When it comes to humans and automation technologies becoming integrated, the “Outlook on human-centric manufacturing towards Industry 5.0” report saw researchers in New Zealand, Sweden and China explore the human-machine relationship following a ‘five C’ journey:
Co-existence – Machines are simple tools for humans or they work independently (The First and Second Industrial Revolution)
Co-operation – Machines and humans share a partially overlapping workspace. They sometimes temporarily share tasks but do not work simultaneously on the same task (The Third Industrial Revolution)
Collaboration – Machines and humans accomplish tasks via synchronized interactive joint activities (The Fourth Industrial Revolution)
Compassion – Machines sense human emotions, needs and preferences. Humans care about the health of empathic machines (Industry 5.0)
Co-evolution – Machines and humans grow in capabilities through human-machine interactions (Industry 5.0)
Employees will need new devices and skills
With these technological developments, manufacturers are exploring ways that current technologies can benefit employees, such as the inclusion of AI, smart devices and data-driven robotics.
Connected devices can already enhance capabilities and provide instant notifications, alerts and actionable information. While there is an emphasis on headsets and glasses, which enable a hands-free mode, wearing them for long periods of time continues to be an ergonomic challenge.
Employees can learn on the job, but there will be a strong need for upskilling. According to the research from Ericsson IndustryLab, 7 out of 10 decision makers expect that production employees will need higher skills in creative problem solving, data analysis and computer programming. Furthermore, almost 8 out of 10 manufacturers say that continuous learning will be necessary to keep up with a fast-changing environment.
Human employees in manufacturing are also going through a demographic shift as experienced employees are retiring and being replaced by younger, less experienced employees. Today’s shortage of competence calls for manufacturers to search for talent across education and other sectors, countries, and age borders. Augmenting technologies play a crucial role in onboarding, up-and re-skilling employees.
What is a cobot?
As machines advance and humans become more skilled, we will see the rise of the cobot or “collaborative robots”. These cobots are intended for human-robot interaction within a shared space, such as mechanical arms that copy human movement and protect humans from sustaining injuries.
Ericsson and Hitachi America’s Research and Development team collaborated in 2019 to facilitate a co-existence between humans and robots, which would allow industrial software to control what the workers needed from a private 5G network, in real time.
This meant the platform could separate tasks and delegate them to the appropriate employee – human or robot – all with low latency, high speed, and reliable and secure connectivity. In 2021, these developments went further than robotics into visual-based use cases such as product fault detection, virtual inspection and employee ergonomics.
Discover the eight types of advanced human operators:
The super-strength operator – physically enhanced by an exoskeleton, which can eliminate ability inequalities
Human digital twins and ensuring employee privacy and security
To achieve the highest level of human-machine interaction required to make cobots a reality, we need a human digital twin.
Digital twins of machines and processes are typically used to monitor and optimize industrial processes, but they can also be optimized to work for the benefit of human employees. To create a full digital twin of a factory including human employees would require a virtual representation of the entire industrial system, from people to robots to other systems. To create the human element of the digital twin, we must understand how humans work, move and act as well as taking into account their cognitive capabilities, preferences and aspirations.
One potential use of digital twins in relation to human employees is to develop virtual training environments that simulate real-world scenarios. However, it is important to note that the full digital twin including human employees will raise both ethical and privacy concerns, especially as the landscape regarding data protection and privacy shifts to a more European approach, looking to afford a higher level of protection to data subjects.
It is crucial to ensure that the use of digital twins in this context is transparent and respects both the legal and ethical rights employees have to privacy and autonomy.
Privacy-preserving digital twin solutions need to combine regulatory and technology-based privacy protections in scenarios where sensitive industrial and personal data are collected and processed together. This platform will allow the optimum information to be extracted for the digital twin’s [application] utility without infringing on established privacy rights, especially in a shifting landscape.
Connectivity is at the heart of Industry 5.0
For Chris Halton, Vice President and Head of Global Product Strategy & Innovation at Verizon, the networking capabilities of 5G Advanced will be central to enabling Industry 5.0. Putting the human at the center of a manufacturing process will require ubiquitous, real-time and reliable connectivity.
Verizon is well positioned in Industry 4.0 to innovate and evolve its portfolio to meet the changing industrial market. Halton is confident the company has the ability to scale and deliver the secure industrial networks today that will enable the future of industrial automation.
But Halton also highlights that companies seeking to take advantage of this industrial evolution must not only consider technology adoption but the cultural and organizational alignment along with upskilling workers that will need to adapt to working with machines in new ways.
”There is no question that having wireless capabilities within an industrial setting will unlock a whole lot of value for the industry.”
Chris Halton, Vice President and Head of Global Product Strategy & Innovation at Verizon
Halton continues ”It allows for greater collaboration between robots and humans providing assistance with tasks that are repetitive or physically demanding and giving humans more time to focus on value added work and decision making.”
Another important project was launched by multinational steel company ArcelorMittal at the ArcelorMittal site in Dunkerque, France in November 2021. Known as 5G Steel, the project utilizes wireless devices to monitor production data that employees need for maintenance and scheduling. With 5G Steel, all connected employees can work everywhere, regardless of mobility, thanks to high-speed connectivity and low latency.
ArcelorMittal uses an Ericsson private network that provides low latency and high-speed connectivity, which is a must in this highly constrained industrial environment and is comparable with Wi-Fi, but also includes additional levels of security and resilience. Digitalization of the steel industry in general also enables ambitious decarbonization targets.
Ericsson's 5G smart factory, Lewisville, Texas
Ericsson’s own 5G smart factories across the world, including in the US, Estonia, and China, no longer require physical paper, meaning employees can create insights and analytics themselves with the help of modern data exploration and analytic tools including AI supported solutions. For example, advanced analytics of fault patterns on thousands of products are now reduced to automated reports with analytics included on smart devices.
More examples include AR devices that are enabled for remote support to central and vendor teams, which allow the teams to receive step-by-step generated, knowledge-based information in real-time. Additionally, unpacking processes are now fully automated, with robots identifying various materials from ‘bins’, which are then placed on a conveyor belt and sent to production lines for assembly.
What will the future of manufacturing look like?
Within the next 10 years, the expectation for production tools such as AR, VR, digital twins and exoskeletons will bring significant value to the industry.
Sachin Mathur from Rockwell Automation explains “The current generation of manufacturing is changing, mindsets are changing. The expectation will be that the data and information should be in the palm of the hands, easily accessible, and that the employee needs to make the decisions.”
“The future of manufacturing will be driven by the needs of humans.”
Sachin Mathur, EMEA Region Director, Software & Control Business Segment, Rockwell Automation
From the perspective of manufacturers, Industry 5.0 will allow them to optimize industrial processes in an easy and almost fully automated way, embracing greater diversity in the workforce and placing or developing human competence where it’s best suited.
In turn, the human employee will feel more appreciated, empowered, capable and can contribute with machines towards sustainable production.
The main difference between factories in 2030 and factories today will not only be physical but behavioral. Human and machine capabilities will grow together, and there will be a synergy of digital reporting and a fully-automated production process. This kind of technology can expand into other industries that have a production-line setup like mining, airports and shipping ports.
Industry 5.0 will make it possible for humans to further develop the unique qualities of creativity, lateral thinking, and problem solving.
A foundation for this is the access to a communication platform that enables innovation and merges the world of industrial communication with the world of human communication. With a life-long history of connecting people and things, Ericsson is a driver of Industry 5.0. With trustworthiness, interoperability, and sustainability considered from the start, we can together democratize the factory floor again.
How do you think a world where humans and robots will collaborate will influence industry and beyond?
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