5G Enabled Manufacturing

How can 5G be of help in making industries more efficient and flexible? This is what I together with a team at Ericsson, SKF and Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, worked on in a project called 5GEM, 5G Enabled Manufacturing. Now the follow-up project 5GEM II has just started, with Volvo Trucks and Siemens joining as new partners.

5GEM was about exploring and learning how 5G and IoT can contribute to the production system life cycle for manufacturing companies in the Design, Deployment, Operation and Maintenance phases by improving efficiency, flexibility and traceability in the production process.

The first 5GEM project closed in March 2018.

We set up three different test arenas here in Gothenburg: The highly automated SKF production line for spherical roller bearings, the SKF lab in a nearby building, and finally an Industry lab at Chalmers. The Chalmers lab is called the Smart Industry lab and is used for more explorative research. In these arenas, we all worked together to identify the challenges and solutions in an industrial Internet-of-Things context. Collaborating with partners is the only way to cover all the competences needed for research like this. In 5GEM, SKF brought in the manufacturing domain knowledge, Chalmers academic knowledge in production and automation, while we from Ericsson contributed competence in connectivity, IoT, cloud and machine learning.

We built four demonstrators in 5GEM, covering the four phases of a production system mentioned above. Ericsson’s state-of-the-art LTE end-to-end network with 5G components, including both central and distributed core and cloud, was the foundation for all demonstrators and specifically addressed in the first demonstrator: Network and Cloud.

The second demonstrator targeted robust and flexible monitoring as well as predictive maintenance of machines in the factory, while the third addressed information to connected machine operators (and unmanned vehicles). Most of our efforts regarding IoT, cloud and Machine learning went into these two demonstrators.

Finally, a fourth demonstrator explored point cloud scanning for radio planning, involving radio propagation competence from Ericsson.

Let’s start with connectivity – my personal area of expertise. The radio environment in a factory hall is very challenging, with lots of large machines and other production equipment. From a radio wave point of view, these machines are simply large metal obstacles that reflect and or diffract the radio waves – quite different from an indoor open office environment! My team at Ericsson built the 4G LTE network with 5G components over licensed spectrum to enable a robust and reliable wireless communication, in an indoor setting with Radio Dots. Here we used the very latest 4G LTE technology which will be an inherent part of 5G.

Imagine for a second all the various types of sensors and machines that we know are to be connected and monitored in a production plant like SKF. Doing this in a simple and robust manner is one of the key challenges when addressing IoT. Another one is extracting manufacturing operations data to the cloud and analytics infrastructure in a simple and effective manner.

Here we applied cutting edge cloud research to real-world industrial production with a web-based service called Calvin to demonstrate robustness and simplicity of set up, operation and monitoring of a mobile network in a real industrial IoT context. Calvin is an open source framework developed in Ericsson Research and can also be seen as a distributed IoT platform. I am thrilled to see that Calvin seems to meet these demands in a robust, flexible and modular manner. Calvin also brings IoT and the industrial cloud together in an efficient manner.

It’s really inspiring to put the pieces together and see how the cutting-edge Machine Learning technologies can help SKF run the most efficient roller bearing operations ever!

From a digitalization perspective we also note that when it comes to spectrum, a flexible licensing scheme is required in order to support industry needs.

The 5GEM projects are partly financed by Vinnova.

More about our SKF collaboration is available on Ericsson’s web.

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