September 22, 2020
Building the 5G Economy: Ericsson’s USA Smart Factory in Lewisville, TX .
Wireless companies are investing billions to deploy 5G in communities across the country. Ericsson’s first United States-based smart factory in Lewisville, Texas is showcasing what is possible with 5G connectivity. CTIA spoke with Erik Simonsson, head of the USA 5G Smart Factory for Ericsson, to learn how 5G is transforming traditional manufacturing in the North Texas suburb and how industrial operations across the U.S. will benefit from 5G innovations.
Inside Ericsson’s Smart Factory
5G is the backbone of connectivity at Ericsson’s smart factory, Simonsson explained. “The lower latency, higher throughput, security and reliability of 5G connectivity are key features for introducing new innovation into manufacturing, like zero-touch automation.”
With Ericsson’s 5G network providing connectivity throughout the factory, Simonsson says they are “walking the talk” in terms of bringing 5G to life in a working production setting. Here are a couple of the 5G-enabled technologies that you will find at Ericsson’s smart factory:
- Autonomous Robots: One of the primary 5G applications is autonomous moving operations, including a fleet of mobile robots. The flexibility and speed at which the mobile robots can move improves production efficiency, sustainability and safety. Ericsson relies on the fast and reliable connectivity of 5G to keep operations moving around the factory.
- Augmented Reality: The higher throughput and low latency of 5G allows Ericsson to use augmented reality as a way to relay real-time information or overlay technical guidelines on a machine or product that is being worked on. This allows factory workers to collaborate with colleagues in other manufacturing locations and tap into offsite expertise to more easily solve problems, save time and cut costs.
Bringing 5G Manufacturing to Life
The Lewisville factory is as much a smart production facility as it is a living lab for 5G-enabled innovation. Simonsson likes to think of the working 5G factory as one giant use case itself. “We know [5G] technology. We want to bring in the experts who know manufacturing or other industries to show them how they need 5G — to show them what 5G is capable of,” he said.
The company is working with partners, vendors and customers across various industries to show how businesses can use 5G technology and identify ways to solve current problems and mitigate future challenges with next-generation connectivity. By the end of this year, approximately 30 new use cases will be developed through the smart factory with an “infinite number [of use cases] going forward.”
“When people think ‘what can 5G do?’, they tend to jump ahead to connected cars and remote surgery, but there are a lot of important [applications] already in use today because of 5G,” Simonsson emphasized in terms of the work being done at the smart factory.
How Will 5G Revolutionize Manufacturing?
5G will usher in a new wave of opportunities that will strengthen manufacturing and enterprise solutions. “There are so many possibilities with 5G, and we’ve only begun to see what is possible,” Simonsson said.
According to Simonsson, there is a visible difference between 5G-connected manufacturing and anything we’ve seen previously. For example:
- 5G’s lower latency and higher throughput will drive greater flexibility in manufacturing, allowing for high mix, low volume production and seamless, data-driven changeover of production lines.
- Over a 5G network, a factory will be able to connect every machine, device and moving part and relay that data in real time to make more informed decisions, and through the use of AI and machine learning, be able to become more predictable.
“When we democratize all of this data and apply machine learning, the faster we become and the more time we have to focus on production and not the data-intensive things, like production planning,” Simonsson explained. “The productivity gains we see in human-machine collaboration is one of the most exciting opportunities for 5G.”
The increased efficiency, flexibility and sustainability powered by Ericsson’s 5G-connected industrial solutions can help cut down the capital-intensive costs of manufacturing and better position production to adapt to future enterprise and customer needs.
5G will enable a new era of manufacturing in the U.S., and we can see that starting today in a North Texas-based smart factory.