Smart manufacturing – a wireless new normal?
During this on-going pandemic, manufacturers have had to deal with challenges never seen before as they’ve endeavored to meet dynamic shifts in consumer and business demand. Supply chain issues have interrupted component availability. Strict measures and precautions are being implemented to safeguard their workforces’ health, safety and well-being – think social distancing in assembly lines. And limited mobility of people is taking its toll on productivity. But oh, how manufacturers have flexed and adapted.
We’ve seen brewers and distillers turn to making hand sanitizer, automotive and aerospace companies manufacturing CPAP machines and ventilators. Even F1 racing car teams have applied their expertise to assisting the collective healthcare effort. Necessity truly is the mother of invention.
So, when this episode passes – as it eventually will – the manufacturing sector will have been through the wringer, but it has certainly set the stage for rapid adoption of innovative technologies at scale.
From old to new normal
Just before Covid-19 took grip, ABI Research undertook a survey of 600 manufacturing companies from across the globe to assess how they will invest to digitally transform. While it’s simply too soon to predict how the pandemic will impact findings, they’re still informative as to how manufacturing can become more flexible and resilient – and potentially better equipped to respond should such a challenge arise again.
In the survey, top buying priorities for manufacturing respondents were ‘automation upgrades’, ‘industrial IoT initiatives’, ‘cybersecurity’ and ‘cloud infrastructure’. But underpinning these topline points of view was a broad consensus about the role of private wireless in future digitization strategy.
With hyper fast, industrial-grade private wireless connectivity perceived as the glue to bind their digital transformation goals together, more than 90 percent of respondents said they were investigating use of private 4G/5G in their manufacturing operations.
And, recent research by Global Market Insights estimates that the worldwide private LTE network market size will surpass €17.5 billion by 2026 and typical deployments will include ports, industrial areas, mines, and hospital campuses.
Danfoss – first mover
So, when engineering giant Danfoss became one of the first manufacturers in Finland to deploy a private LTE network at its Vaasa factory early this year, it took a critically well-timed step forward to enable its smart factory of the future.
Under the direct control of Danfoss, and independent of public cellular services, the private LTE network is a reliable, secure, and high-performance platform that enables it to securely collect, process and host its proprietary data on site.
By selecting a private wireless network, based on Nokia Digital Automation Cloud platform, deployed by Etteplan in partnership with Edzcom, Danfoss is aiming to improve productivity and workplace safety, expand services it offers its customers, and innovate to meet the challenges posed by this “new normal”.
Danfoss’s logic behind the investment is clear – to use the private LTE network to run more efficiently and overcome existing problems with data transmission capacity. On a purely practical basis, it also gives Danfoss more flexibility within its physical factory space thanks to reduced cabling requirements.
A private LTE network will enable Danfoss to collect not only more data, but also new kinds of data that it will use as the basis for informed decision-making. During the pilot project, Danfoss will study the benefits of a private network not only at its factory, which produces frequency converters under the VACON® brand, but also in product and services development. Crucially it will also help Danfoss generate diagnostics that identify when a device may be close to malfunctioning and activate proactive maintenance accordingly.
Likewise, wireless connectivity will make an important contribution to operational safety and incident prevention. The network is already enabling high-quality video transmission and machine vision applications that detect potential hazards.
Danfoss’s selection of partners to deploy its private wireless network aligns closely with ABI Research findings. In the survey, 68 percent of manufacturing decision-makers plan to leverage SI channel partners for new technology introduction, preferring to engage with a trusted IT systems and services integrator. In this case the partnership involved Etteplan for the end-to-end systems integration, Nokia for network technology, and Edzcom for turn-key private wireless network with spectrum.*
As it continues deployment, testing and proof of concepts, Danfoss is actively living up to its mission of “Engineering Tomorrow”. Amid the uncertainty, they are providing a great example of the steps enterprises can take to help increase resilience and flexibility, improve operational agility and ensure employee safety.
*Each of the partnering companies brings dedicated expertise to provide Danfoss with a robust private wireless solution.
- As end-to-end systems integrator, Etteplan ensures functionality of all necessary component subsystems and develops relevant business critical applications.
- Nokia supplies an industrial-grade private wireless and edge compute platform to support enterprise applications and services.
- A leading private networks operator, Edzcom provides everything from designing, building and operating dedicated wireless networks for industrial settings.
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