Building back better: Accelerating Industry 4.0 digital transformation
There’s always a point with technological trends where the conversation switches from “what could be” to “what is”. That’s happening with Industry 4.0 right now, driven by real-world deployments of the industrial internet of things, automation, artificial intelligence, edge cloud, and 5G that are rapidly revealing the value Industry 4.0 technologies can deliver organizations in a wide range of sectors.
The underlying value proposition for industrial transformation hasn’t changed much. It’s still about making dramatic gains in efficiency and productivity with streamlined processes and automation, situational awareness and predictive technologies. But deployment experience and the COVID-19 pandemic have prompted a reevaluation of what matters most when it comes to building the mission-, business- and society-critical networks that will take us into the Industry 4.0 future.
Building back digitally resilient
The global pandemic accelerated the digitalization goals of industries and governments alike. It left no business or society untouched — highlighting the need for more resilient operating models and demanding new “virtual” ways to maintain productivity despite lockdowns and new health protocols.
For some companies, the business impacts of the pandemic were devastating. Others found ways to adapt and overcome with the help of Industry 4.0 technology, adjusting their business and operating processes to “build back better” with agility and strength.
Whether because of planned progress or pandemic-driven imperatives, many organizations have seen what digitalization can do for them — and they want more of it. They see that the value goes beyond simply connecting things to each other: digitalization can shed light on the relationships between connected things and generate predictive insights.
Communications, banking and insurance have embraced their digital potential and are reaping the benefits. Companies in these sectors have increased their capacity, resilience and flexibility — with tremendous impact on the bottom line.
Industries such as manufacturing, agriculture, mining, and logistics that rely more heavily on physical equipment, vehicles, infrastructure and other assets aren’t as far along, but are increasingly aware of just how much they stand to gain. Incorporating digitalization into their operations promises exponential increases in safety, productivity and efficiency — up to 11 times current performance levels in these areas according to Bell Labs Consulting. The proof is being seen in more and more pilot projects and active deployments around the world every day.
No wonder, then, that a recent survey found 68% of CEOs are planning for major investments in data and technology in the next year, and 63% believe accelerating technology and digital innovation is having the greatest impact on their companies.
Sustainability is key to building back better.
Sustainability is not just an environmental imperative, it’s a financial imperative and an opportunity. Aggressive zero-emission targets and environmental regulations must be met for a sustainable future. Failing to meet these targets can not only result in financial penalties from regulators but also can cause lost deals for companies that can’t meet their customers’ sustainable supply chain targets.
Organizations in industries that depend on finite resources have to protect and conserve resources while finding new ways to do business or shift their business models toward more sustainable resourcing - models which could bring more profitable outcomes for their future.
Other elements bubble up into the sustainability equation as well, such as universal access to broadband, healthcare and education, economic growth, innovation and resilient infrastructure. Digitalization holds the key to helping industries and governments meet sustainability goals while strengthening their overall performance.
Putting Industry 4.0 into practice
At Nokia, we’re seeing customers in a wide range of industries make major strides on the Industry 4.0 front.
In the United States, the Port of Seattle is improving efficiency, worker safety and terminal handling with a digitalized automation cloud.
Digitalization is allowing Peru’s Minera Las Bambas, one of the world’s largest copper mines, to expand autonomous and remote operations so it can ultimately reduce the number of workers exposed to dangerous conditions while increasing productivity.
In Russia’s Skalysty mine, the deepest in all Eurasia, we’re helping push the boundaries of underground digitalization and connectivity with a private LTE/5G-ready wireless network. That deployment is proving there are few limits to where the benefits of Industry 4.0 applications can be realized.
We also partnered with Bosch and Rohde & Schwarz to test multiple interacting 5G use cases in a realistic simulated factory in Germany. With strong 5G signal power, low interference, an average round-trip latency of 13 milliseconds, and 900 MBps download speeds, we showed that automated guided vehicles could safely have freer run of a factory floor — and be far more effective and productive than those confined to a defined path.
We’re seeing companies use digital technology and advanced connectivity in new ways to shift their operating models and become more adaptable. Lufthansa Technik initiated 5G private wireless in its operations just before the pandemic. When faced with travel restrictions, it found those capabilities key to business continuity, allowing it to offer high-definition virtual table inspections of aircraft engines.
The New York Power Authority, the largest state public power utility in the United States is using private wireless as part of their communications backbone digitalization initiatives to improve situational awareness and other applications that enhance the operation of the grid. And digitalization is allowing Equinor to improve connectivity and support its renewables business using private wireless to connect offshore wind facilities — improving safety and maintenance operations.
Municipalities and governments in Cyprus, Finland, and Belgium are also deploying broadband network technologies to build smarter, more sustainable, and more inclusive cities.
It’s not just about rebuilding, it’s about reinvention
Maybe there was a time when a company had a single challenge and needed one solution to address it. That’s not the case anymore. Today’s need for resilience and adaptability comes as companies and governments are under pressure to meet increasingly stringent sustainability standards and productivity targets, while delivering consistently high-quality service.
Part of what makes digitalization such a powerful tool is its versatility to handle all of those transformation needs at once. Smarter, faster, more resilient Industry 4.0 networks already in full swing are proving more than capable of meeting the unique requirements of a wide range of industries — including those that rely heavily on physical assets. Beyond rebuilding, these networks and the high-performance, purpose-designed solutions they deliver offer the ability to accelerate future visions and, in some cases, even reinvent industries for a profitable post-pandemic future.