Ericsson’s USA 5G factory: staffed by professionals – trained by VR

Ericsson's USA 5G Smart Factory in Texas is one of the most advanced manufacturing complexes in the world. When it launched earlier this year its engineering professionals were trained with almost no face-to-face interaction. By utilizing the power of virtual reality (VR) in the months prior to opening, new Ericsson employees were able to learn directly from peers in the company’s Tallinn smart factory, 8,000 km away.

Ericsson employee uses virtual reality glasses

Ericsson’s new USA 5G Smart Factory in Lewisville, Texas, began operations in early March this year, producing 5G base stations for the North American market. But almost a year earlier, when the future factory site was still an empty lot, Ericsson had already initiated a project to train staff using advanced technology.

The approach enabled Ericsson to staff and open the complex to the target timeline and be operational from day one – without the need for new US factory employees to travel to other Ericsson locations for face-to-face onboarding.

Erik Simonsson, Head of Ericsson’s USA 5G Smart Factory, says: “We don’t just talk the talk at Ericsson, we walk the walk and we practice what we preach. That’s why we took this approach.”

Anna Cau, Head of People, Group Supply, Ericsson, says: “The challenge lay in how to onboard new colleagues to a factory that had yet to open. We have a 5G-enabled smart factory in Tallinn, Estonia, which has been operational for quite some time. We realized that the most efficient and productive onboarding of our colleagues in the new US facility could be done through virtual collaboration and knowledge sharing with our peers in Tallinn. It was time to put VR-enabled onboarding into action.”

From a classroom in Dallas, Texas, the future USA 5G Smart Factory professionals joined their colleagues 8,000km away in Estonia.

Jüri Josepson, an Improvement Manager at the Tallinn factory participated live as an avatar on top of pre-recorded content for a 360o guided tour of the Tallinn production site, taking questions. Kuldar Agu, Head of Operations at the Tallinn factory and Katri Jürine, Head of People at the facility, oversaw the guided tour.

The initial success of the approach saw virtual onboarding sessions for new employees at the USA 5G Smart Factory being held monthly – enabling Ericsson to meet current customer 5G needs in North America. To date, more than 60 professionals have been onboarded. Plans are in place to develop the collaboration and knowledge sharing through 5G connectivity. VR is also being used for collaboration and knowledge sharing among other Ericsson smart factories.

“Immersive learning and knowledge sharing just ticks so many different boxes – efficiency, safety, sustainability,” Cau says. “We are proud of having staffed our 5G USA Factory with highly skilled professionals who were able to facilitate 5G product manufacturing from day one thanks to the innovative VR approach we took during their onboarding. Those professionals are now helping to meet the 5G needs of our customers in North America.”

Cau adds: “We were able to provide our new employees with training for a physical environment that at the time didn’t even exist without having to get them on a plane and fly them long distances, all because of the power of connectivity and virtual reality.”

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