A connected factory leads to smarter manufacturing
Manufacturers are racing toward Industry 4.0 in an effort to gain competitive advantage. Industry 4.0 envisions a connected factory where all devices and elements, including the very product as its output, are able to communicate. As manufacturers transform, they realize that the thread holding together all the moving parts is connectivity.
Improve the way your connected factory’s devices communicate
Connectivity has often been a second thought to manufacturers. When the network served fewer devices, manufacturers were satisfied as long as the available communications technology worked—or as long as they could work around the weaknesses. That’s no longer true.
Smarter, connected factories bring a new and complex set of requirements. As the number of remote-control and autonomous robots and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) on the factory floor increase, they will depend more and more on low latency and high device synchronicity.
Customers today expect a greater variety of products in a shorter period of time. Moreover, satisfying today’s fad-obsessed consumers calls for ever-shorter market windows for products, and the ability to personalize products like never before.
Therefore, manufacturing is also evolving to adaptive production for efficient line changes and optimized workflows. Installing or moving cables is expensive and time-consuming and a barrier to creating an agile factory.
Another consideration is device density. The number of devices per square foot or meter in the connected factory environment is multiplying exponentially. We’re moving from proof-of-concept to the reality of dozens of workers using connected devices all at once in bustling factory areas. The network must be able to handle this surge of demand without hesitation, latency or bottlenecks.
Cut the cables to capture new value
The key to smart manufacturing is wireless connectivity that enables mobility for connected devices, agility in operations, and an ever-increasing level of device density. Wireless connects widespread assets and processes in real time, allowing plants to integrate with contributing workflows—by being able to locate moving assets and portable tools, for instance.
Compared to a fixed network, the scope and ease of wireless contributes to new connections and services that can increase value, limit waste and address more pain points.
A connected factory creates the foundation of the smarter factory
To appreciate the role of connectivity in the smart factory, it helps to understand the evolving nature of IoT in the industrial setting.
Massive IoT connectivity targets huge volumes of low-complexity devices that infrequently send or receive messages. The traffic is often tolerant of delay and typical use cases include low-cost sensors, meters, wearables and trackers. Utilizing functionalities that are specific to Machine Type Communications (MTC) for coverage extension and extended device battery life referred to Narrow Band IoT or LTE-M.
Broadband IoT provides much higher data rates and lower latencies than Massive IoT. This is when LTE/4G data connectivity moves onto the factory floor, connecting workers’ tablets, smart phones and creating a wider range of use cases such as drones, Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR)and wearables.
Critical IoT pushes the boundaries of Cellular IoT on the path toward 5G even further by enabling extremely low latencies and ultra-high reliability at a variety of data rates. Critical IoT is expected to enable many new use cases within the IoT arena, including automated operations, computer vision and moving intelligence from robots to the edge.
Finally, the Industrial Automation IoT segment provides advanced Cellular IoT functionalities tailored for advanced industrial automation in conjunction with the other cellular IoT segments to the factory floor. It will enable many advanced industrial automation applications with extremely demanding connectivity requirements including full wireless automation of collaborative robots, machines and logistics flow.
Watch this space for more information on how better connectivity can make your smart factory smarter. And join our community to receive regular updates and to discuss these topics with your peers.