Skip to main content

Everybody’s talking about digital manufacturing. But what does it really mean?


Most people in manufacturing today tend to have a rough idea of what concepts like Industry 4.0 and digital manufacturing mean. But rough ideas can be hard to implement. At Nokia, we’ve simplified the concept of digital transformation in manufacturing down to a set of key capabilities that paves the way to practical deployment.

We see digital manufacturing as the combination of four essential layers: business intelligence, automation and analytics, and cloud computing— all delivered over a secure and reliable high-performance network.

Some companies today may already have one or two of these in place — automation or data analytics, for example — but it’s the combination of the four that delivers the full benefits of digital manufacturing and Industry 4.0. It’s not about any one application, model or technology: it’s about bringing together complementary capabilities to become more flexible, enable new ways of working, and generate new revenues.

More than the sum of their parts

Each capability adds an essential component in the digital transformation journey:

  • Business Intelligence enables predictive decision making, helps maintain quality and improves situational awareness for devices and processes — from an individual machine to a production line to the whole factory and beyond. It allows manufacturers to quickly adapt to changing customer demands, improve productivity and safety and drive higher revenues.
  • Automation and analytics go hand-in-hand with intelligence — through industrial IoT and using deep analytics from the data collected from sensors, devices and machines to provide “intelligent agility.” This streamlines operations with “zero touch” capabilities, optimizes and increases the efficiency and safety of complex systems and processes.
  • Cloud computing and new edge cloud platforms makes data processing and innovation more affordable and achievable. For example, in the processing and analysis of real-time operational data to create digital twins to quickly design, test and validate changes to production equipment and line configurations. Cloud computing enables rapid, lightweight creation of prototypes and agile adjustments to manufacturing operations before going into online production. The result is time savings and faster implementation of innovations for maximum competitive advantage.
  • A secure, reliable, high-performance network provides the sheer capacity needed in today’s digital manufacturing environments. Reliable wireless is a key component, enabling fast, flexible adaptations of factory operations to meet new business demands and delivering dedicated, universal broadband connectivity. Beyond supporting every kind of communication and information exchange, the fact that the network is dedicated means it can provide data privacy and security for business-critical operations.

All together, these digitalization essentials — plus leading cybersecurity protections — define the platform for better-controlled, efficient, optimized operations that can bring the increased productivity, maximized margins and unprecedented agility promised by Industry 4.0.

Putting private wireless networks to work

Wireless networks, public and private, each play a critical role in providing the connectivity required through the entire lifecycle. The innovation and collaboration that’s happening today between Nokia and Nippon Steel Solutions is a great example of how industries can take advantage of the private spectrum now available in Japan - to use 4G/5G private wireless technologies to accelerate IIoT adoption and improve workplace safety.

Similarly in the automotive manufacturing sector, Nokia and FAW in China are trialing a 5G network, based on Nokia’s commercial 5G solution, to benefit from enhanced automation and coverage for self-driving applications around their facilities, enhanced security, big data, cloud, and 5G slicing capabilities.

In both of these cases, manufacturers can extend their use of IIoT and smart manufacturing technologies to bring greater benefits to their businesses.   

Enabling digital manufacturing with the Future X industries

Our Nokia Bell Labs Future X industries for provides all the necessary capabilities for true digitalization. Leveraging key Nokia technology enablers including Industrial IoT, edge and cloud computing, artificial and augmented intelligence, machine learning, robotics, 4G/LTE, 5G and more, Future X brings the intelligence, automation, cloud virtualization and secure, high-performance networking manufacturers need to realize the promise of Industry 4.0.

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokiaindustries using #manufacuturing #Industry40 #NokiaforIndustries #GoAllwhere #IIoT #digitaltransformation

Manish Gulyani

About Manish Gulyani

Manish is VP and General Manager of Nokia Deepfield. He was raised in India, educated in Ireland, and now lives in Canada’s capital city, Ottawa. Manish happily devotes himself to family, hiking and biking, and the never-ending business of getting people, places and things connected.

Article tags