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Is cellular the cure for the connected industrial enterprise?

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Like the human body, the health of an enterprise depends on both internal and external factors and the positive dynamics and interactions between the two. Similar to an obstruction in the veins potentially leading to an embolism, a disconnected value chain can lead to disruptions in service, product flaws and loss of company credibility.
Industry robots automation automotive manufacturing


Cellular connectivity for Industry 4.0 may be the cure. 

From heart to extremities // from product to production

The future industrial enterprise is digital, operating in multiple domains globally, implementing customers’ insights seamlessly without delay, and providing better feedback loops throughout its entire operations from services to engineering. In the same way that the nervous system senses and gathers information on all human processes, the performance of the enterprise will depend on its network’s ability to transmit data, as well as the execution of mission and business critical applications.  

The extent and ambition of digitalization is expanding as companies seek to find new competitive advantages. With concepts like digital twins – creating virtual copies of physical assets like products or tools – companies gain transparency into various stages of the asset’s lifecycle that make it easier to run remote or predictive maintenance applications.  

In theory, an entire factory environment can have a digital twin. Shell recently announced the launch of the largest deployment in the world: a floating production, storage and offloading vessel located off the coast of Nigeria. For their chemical manufacturing site in Singapore, their virtual replica is set to better performance by 25%. 

Cranking up the ambition level - just like personalized medicine uses virtual simulations to find the best cure to “body doubles,” the frontier  for an enterprise is to be able to track and improve the entire lifecycle of its operations and products. This is accomplished with a digital thread, enabling access to all stages of the digital twin.  

This cradle-to-grave mindset poses connectivity challenges previously unaddressed by the industry. Especially when disposal and recycling is not the final stop in the new heaven of the circular economy.

Smart connectivity 

As industrial enterprises seek to optimize operations by connecting them – machines and processes use many different communication standards. To truly deliver on smart manufacturing, there is a need for a more holistic approach, a connected product lifecycle, to support the entire value chain, from supply to production, delivery, and to monitor products in use.  

Cellular can enable enterprises to create digital threads globally, as well as connecting, protecting, and orchestrating assets and data on a unified connectivity platform by: 

  1. Connecting product and lifecycle, covering manufacturing, tracking and shipping, and monitoring in the field using global IoT connectivity. 
  2. Connecting operations on dedicated sites, inside a factory or plant with private, local networks. 

The value of a Common Cellular Thread 

Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) like motor and drives specialist ABB Motion are looking at the entire value chain in the context of cellular, from connected products to connected production at their customers’ sites globally. 

Juha Mirsch, cellular lead at ABB Drives and Motors, explains gaining a lifecycle ability on natively connected devices will not only grow smart services but make workplaces safer and more energy-efficient through remote monitoring. By offering higher predictability, unplanned downtime can be reduced by up to 70%. 

“Naturally, this means ABB must be compliant, requiring flexibility between public, global IoT and dedicated private networks,” said Mirsch. “ABB Drives and Motor must be connected during manufacturing and testing at ABB’s premises requiring a private network, then during logistics over a public network and, ultimately, installed and connected at customer premises, either in-field with Global IoT or in a factory running on a private network. This is why OTA provisioning of SIM and localization capabilities are so important.” 

From an industrial age with little communication between engineering and service, cellular can create better integrated value chains, improve product and customer journeys, and help deliver the promise of a fully digital enterprise, regardless of location and global dispersal. The merger of physical and digital worlds can only truly materialize by connecting and managing billions of devices and applications easily, seamlessly and globally. 

A dynamic enterprise connected by cellular 

Our latest paper addresses the need to support smart connected “things”; assets and applications in the different dimensions enterprises operate.  

Just like doctors may prescribe different treatments for the same ailments in people, there are multiple connectivity standards available for various enterprises’ pain points. And while one connectivity solution may be suitable for one challenge in one domain, it may be lacking in another.  

Enterprises might be medicating a symptom rather than the underlying cause, improving output, but only up to a point. To future proof operations, processes must be interlinked to be enhanced, and risk must be removed from dependencies - in both operational flows and divisions.  

By bridging local and global needs through private and public networks, cellular connectivity for Industry 4.0 enables transparency that can sustain the continued, good health of the enterprise. Agility is the new competitive benchmark, and it follows that this is the new criteria for connectivity. 

Concepts like digital twins and preventive maintenance are buzzwords because they can prevent costly errors and revitalize (service) sales. In the same way, preventative medicine is the best course of action for humans. There is no magic pill for a value chain - not even 5G - but cellular has the advantage to unlock more potential, covering the enterprise end-to-end and a connected product lifecycle. 

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