What’s the full value of Smart Manufacturing?

Digital manufacturing increases productivity, performance, flexibility and efficiency which ultimately makes companies stronger economically and sustainable. Prospective gains in production volumes and performance, while reducing overhead, operating and capital costs, are important drivers for manufacturers to invest in a smart manufacturing approach. But there is additional value to uncover. What’s the benefit of smart manufacturing beyond productivity and efficiency?

Man wearing augmented reality glasses

Head of Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility for Market Area Europe and Latina America

Head of Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility for Market Area Europe and Latina America

In addition to these benefits of smart manufacturing, there are also sustainability benefits that effect workers and the environment, including increasing resources and energy efficiency, deploying sustainable infrastructure, securing health and safety for workers and a better quality of life. Smart manufacturing, being part of Industry 4.0, allows for responsible consumption and production aimed at doing more and better with less.

At Ericsson, we enable the full value of connectivity and always bridge our portfolio, our customers and our know-how to understand the full value from technological, business and sustainability perspectives. Efficient use of natural resources is important to us as a global company, and we use circular economy thinking and climate awareness to manage our environmental impacts. This includes those of our company, products and services, as well as the use of information and communications technology (ICT) to reduce the environmental impacts of other sectors.

To prove and measure the positive impacts of smart manufacturing, relevant use cases within the manufacturing process have been identified, analyzed and deployed in Ericsson’s own factories.

Ericsson’s Tallinn, Estonia factory gets a digital transformation

The Ericsson Tallinn manufacturing site has set out an ambitious digital transformation program to improve operational efficiency, workplace health and safety, and cooperation with the Product Design Unit to secure integration of design with the manufacturing process.

As a first step, Ericsson technical experts identified use cases within the manufacturing process to address challenges, needs and relevant ideas. The manufacturing use cases were assessed and clustered by enabling technologies and requirements including cellular wireless connectivity LTE/5G, Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning and augmented reality (AR). These technologies allowed new ideas to become real use cases to boost business, sustainability and the integration among manufacturers, suppliers and customers.

Sustainability in smart manufacturing

To uncover the sustainability value in smart manufacturing, the second step was to come up with a general approach to deal with the complexity of technology, manufacturing and sustainability impact analysis.

Ericsson used an interactive dashboard built to structure complex flows and interdependencies to assess all identified use cases against different sustainability categories within environment, safety for workers, economy growth and employment areas. We collaborated with manufacturing, technical and sustainability experts to run a qualitative analysis to estimate improvement percentages. Then these estimates were used to support additional decisions in the factory’s digital transformation.

Although initial forecasts are not always perfect, it does help provide an understanding of what you want to achieve since the beginning of innovation and can be used for decision making at each additional step. In my experience with research and innovation at Ericsson, we always forecast the expected value from technical, quality and other relevant perspectives.

This approach does not exclude sustainability, which is why we executed this at the Ericsson Tallinn factory. It allowed us to reach a deeper understanding of the qualitative and quantitative benefits of smart manufacturing.

In fact, we were able to estimate figures and develop argumentation to demonstrate that most of the use cases have the power to reduce energy consumption in production activities, enable improvements in the amount of yield and scrap, and reduce transportation due to fewer claims from customers. Additionally, most use cases can also enable improvements in worker well-being and safety, reaching relevant impacts with IoT, automated guided vehicles (AGVs), robotics and machine learning technologies. Suppliers' activities, which include component packaging and product transportation, also benefit from these use cases, with improvements such as reduced transportation costs, delivery time and mistakes.

The key technology

To address most pain points and gain value in plant operations, the connectivity foundation must be as robust, reliable and future-proof as possible. 5G shows great promise as a single infrastructure so powerful that it can serve massive, critical and industrial automation use cases. The next step in our analysis includes confirming or refining the estimations with actual figures, leveraging on pilot outcomes and obtaining full deployment measurements.

Interested in our experience and agile approach, to identify potential benefits for decision-making early in the process?

Read our new report, “What Industry 4.0 means for manufacturing.”

Meet me at Hannover Messe for my speaker session, Connectivity & 5G - Smart Manufacturing & Sustainability in the Swedish Energy Pavilion on April 4 at 16:00.

More information about Ericsson Sustainability is available here.


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