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5G manufacturing involves much more than 5G

5G is a powerful technology but the notion of 5G manufacturing—using 5G to drive digital transformation within a manufacturing enterprise—includes more than just the network. To drive efficiency gains in manufacturing and other important verticals, 5G needs to be coupled with mobile edge computing (MEC) infrastructure, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and internet of things (IoT) sensors.

“5G is not the end,” according to Intel’s Caroline Chan, speaking during a session at the 5G Manufacturing Forum. “It’s a means to an end.” Chan, vice president of the Network and Edge Group and general manager of the Network Business Incubator Division, called out the capacity and latency gains 5G brings to the table, but said high-impact use cases like machine vision or autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs), also require localized compute, AI and connected cameras used a sensors.

5G, she said, “provides a very convenient intersection of all this different technology especially for the industrial side.” Beyond bringing telecom systems into a manufacturing environment, meaningful enterprise adoption also requires a new degree of alignment between information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) functional groups. “That’s no small feat,” Chan said.

Whether the goal is 5G manufacturing process enablement, or bringing 5G into any vertical industry really, “We’ve noticed that even non-technology companies…have to become technology companies in order to advance,” Jillian Kaplan, Dell Technologies lead of Telecom and 5G Thought Leadership, said. “Manufacturing is no exception to this rule and investing in technology can enable applications potentially to reduce cost and time.”

Target applications, Kaplan said, include more refined workflow scheduling, digital twins, more flexible and efficient production lines, predictive machine maintenance, design customization, augment and virtual reality, production waste reduction, and worker safety.

Another important dynamic playing out in the market revolves around delineation of duties through the build and run bit of an enterprise network lifecycle. Specifically, who does what in an era when regulators are making spectrum available to businesses, hardware is being commoditized, and network functions are moving into the cloud. This new paradigm means enterprises could face a decision between buying a network and managed services from an operator, building and running their own network, or something in the middle.

Kaplan made the point that operators’ businesses revolve around running networks and that construct should extend into the enterprise space. “All of these applications need a network. That’s what [operators] do.” Dell’s role, she said, is “to help communications service providers monetize their investments in 5G with these enterprise [verticals] like manufacturing. And making sure these manufacturers can save money, save time, save lives…We can build these custom solutions to solve these enterprise challenges.”  Enterprise IoT Insights

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