5G’s Role in Advancing Manufacturing
5G, the next generation of cellular communications, has been heralded as the next big thing. It will be the key to driverless cars. It will enable holographic phone calls. It will transform cities. And its ultra-reliable low latency connections will enable the proliferation of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and sensors too numerous to count. It has the potential to become the core communication platform for many manufacturing companies.
Is it all hype? Or is it real? In short, the answer is yes. It’s both, depending on one’s timeframe. And manufacturers need to be paying attention and planning now. But perhaps, in many cases, not investing in 5G just yet.
“5G disrupts every industry you can think of, from health care to energy distribution, retail to the factory floor.”
— Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf
5G will (eventually) bring a great many benefits that can be used broadly, more effectively, and on a greater scale than ever before. But solutions will take time to mature and roll out. Unlike narrow specifications of previous versions of cellular technologies, the 5G specifications are expansive, accounting for a wide variety of wireless communications needs. As a result, the ways that 5G is used will likely vary greatly from company to company.
For many manufacturers, the path to 5G isn’t very clear at the moment.
When manufacturing information and technology executives were asked in a Manufacturers Alliance Next Generation Connectivity survey to identify the smart manufacturing processes with the greatest potential for improved performance from 5G solutions, there was no single standout answer. Instead, organizations selected a mix of possible uses for 5G, from smart connected products to autonomous vehicles to quality sensing, with relatively equal weights. This suggests two realities of 5G today: a breadth of possible opportunities, as well as relative immaturity of the business case.
Over time, 5G will reshape how most manufacturing companies connect equipment, sensors, processes, and products, as well as communicate with employees. Up to 100x faster than 4G (depending on the version), 5G brings lower latency, greater reliability, increased security, edge computing capabilities, greater agility, and more.
It will drive these outcomes by enabling a range of new possibilities for manufacturers. 5G can enable innovative technologies like artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and cobots, digital twins, and massive Internet of Things (IoT) deployments. It will power smart factory initiatives and accelerate more agile digital transformation.
With a technology as broad as 5G, manufacturers are likely to use it for very different reasons and applications. The key findings in this study start our recommendations for the next steps in your 5G journey.
The MAPI Foundation again extends its gratitude to our underwriters for their generous support of this initiative. We are deeply appreciative of MAPI member executives for sharing their time and insight in the research process, and thank you to David A. Kelly of Upside Research, Inc. for coauthoring this report.