With Manufacturing 4.0, trusted guidance matters just as much as technology
People often use weighty words when talking about digital transformation. They call it “massive” or “revolutionary” and even “daunting”. Having worked on digital transformations, with organizations across many different industries over the years, I prefer “exciting” — because I’ve seen the possibilities for efficiency, productivity, and security it can unleash.
Even so, given the scope and complexity of digital transformation, it’s wise to approach it with a healthy respect for what’s involved. That’s why many manufacturers count on trusted, expert partners such as systems integrators and strategic automation partners, to augment their in-house skills and guide them through the technological changes that will get them to Manufacturing 4.0. A recent survey of 600 manufacturing leaders by ABI Research and Nokia found that about 40% of manufacturers in the U.S., Canada, and Japan rely first and foremost on systems integrators when introducing new technologies into their facilities. In India, it’s 50%. Systems integrators are also the first choice for manufacturers in Germany and China.
Where trusted partners come into play
Why do these trusted relationships matter? Let’s say you’re a manufacturer looking to transform your communications and control network, which is something many are planning to do within the next one to two years. That means replacing your legacy cabled infrastructure with agile wireless technologies that can support a broader a range of devices, applications and requirements: industrial Internet of Things sensors, protocols such as LoRA and BLE, low-latency applications such as automated mobile robots with simultaneous location and mapping technology and fleet management, high-bandwidth applications like augmented reality or digital twins, and a lot more.
In the survey, it was interesting to see that most manufacturers say they intend to use wireless mobile broadband, not Wi-Fi, to support these kinds of untethered and business-critical applications — whether that’s 4G/LTE, 5G or a combination of the two. Most plant managers would also prefer to own and operate a private wireless network that is custom-built for their facility. But more than half of those surveyed said they don’t have the in-house expertise to deploy such a network themselves. They also have concerns about proving the business case to executives, designing the right security models, and acquiring wireless spectrum. It’s in those areas where a trusted, experienced partner can make all the difference.
The expertise in private wireless networks can be provided by a well-supported systems integrator. One who has the experience, and most importantly, trusted relationships with the actual provider of the technologies involved. At Nokia, we have seen first-hand that working with experienced systems integrators, knowledgeable about the unique needs of their customer's operations, is critical to designing and architecting effective solutions to meet the operational and performance objectives of the plant manager.
Real-world know-how is a must
Technology providers bring to Manufacturing 4.0 initiatives, and the system integrators tasked with delivering on transformation promises, real-world, sector-specific deployment experience. The best technology provider partners possess a solid understanding of legacy cabled environments and know how to seamlessly integrate wireless technologies without disrupting existing operations. It also includes the development of future-facing technology roadmaps that help systems integrators prioritize the steps they’ll need to take — while giving plant managers the flexibility to adapt as new technical, and business requirements emerge.
At Nokia, we take the responsibility of being a trusted partner seriously. The systems integrators we work with depend on our deep understanding of mobile networking requirements, including how to obtain the spectrum needed to build an industrial-grade private wireless network. Through our Bell Labs End-to-End 5G Certification Program, we train ICT professionals across various industries on 5G network planning and design. We hold membership and leadership positions in technology standardization bodies like the Citizen Broadband Radio Service Alliance (which first lobbied for private spectrum to be made available in the U.S.) and we’re a co-founder of the 5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation.
We also offer technology solutions that are flexible and easy to deploy, such as the plug-and-play Nokia Digital Automation Cloud private wireless networking platform.
Nokia also is a manufacturer. We fly our own technology jets, testing new manufacturing 4.0 solutions in our own factories. We too must meet the same operational objectives and KPIs that our manufacturing customers are facing each day. And we know that planned equipment downtime to test new technologies is not the way to go. We have real-world experience in keeping production lines on track, while leveraging tools like digital twins and more to test new solutions and optimize the processes within our factories.
And most importantly, we know the value of trust.
With support for more than 1,500 mission-critical networks worldwide and some 150+ industrial-grade private wireless networks for our global industrial customer, Nokia can provide the strategic guidance and solutions plant managers and systems integrators need to make the jump to Manufacturing 4.0 in an economical, efficient way. We’re proud to be a partner you can trust — and I look forward to seeing many successful transformations in the years to come.
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