5G can help boost manufacturing safety and efficiency with robotics and automated vehicles.

By: Chris Ashraf

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We’ve talked about 5G ushering in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. To actually do that, 5G will need to enable solutions that fundamentally change how we live, work and play. For consumers, that means mobile, low-latency gaming, for industries like manufacturing that means smart factories that use autonomous vehicles and intelligent robots to maximize productivity and profit.

5G’s low latency and greater bandwidth will enable manufacturers to do things like remote quality inspection and identifying and tracking goods in real-time to ensure they are sent when and where they are needed. It can also support a large network of sensors for predictive maintenance of machines on the factory floor. The ultra-low latency and high reliability of 5G can be used to stop machinery from operating when an alarm is triggered.

This could reduce injury and minimize production downtime. The manufacturing industry has one of the highest injury rates among private industry sectors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 410,000 injury cases in the manufacturing industry in 2016. Compare that to 28,000 in finance and insurance. According to research by Lockton Companies, focusing on production without building a strong safety culture can have a significant impact to your bottom line. For example, a business that has a 3 percent profit margin and experiences 10 strain injuries may need to increase its sales by more than $20 million to cover the total cost of those injuries.

Recently at Mobile World Congress Americas, Verizon and Nokia demonstrated how 5G can help improve manufacturing safety, and supply chain efficiency and reliability with automated guided vehicles and industrialized robotics.

One example highlighted the use of automated guided vehicles (AGV) transporting pallets, cartons and products throughout a manufacturing facility. One AGV was being guided over Wi-Fi and the other over the 5G network. If the vehicles encountered obstructions on the manufacturing floor, the 5G-connected vehicle was able to react and move quickly thanks to 5G’s speed and low-latency. The other vehicle stalled when its path was blocked causing manufacturing slowdowns.

The second use case illustrated how industrial robotics could be used to test hazardous materials. A robotic arm connected to Verizon’s 5G network allowed users wearing a tactile glove in a remote location to feel different textures and temperatures of items on the factory floor. The goal here is improved safety. Workers can interact with a spill or accident without putting people in danger.

“5G is really closing a gap and making distances shorter from people to people and industry to industry,” said Nokia’s Tiah Louis. “You can’t do this with Wi-Fi right now.”

“With 5G technology you get all the advantages of wireless technology and can use them in a more efficient manner in cases where people traditionally used Wi-Fi in an unsecured way,” said Verizon’s Sonal Agrawal. “Verizon is building the next generation of 5G technology that will transform supply chain management and create smarter, more efficient manufacturing.”

Stay tuned next week for a look at another cool 5G use case and demonstration from Mobile World Congress Americas.

About the author:

Chris Ashraf is an external communications manager at Verizon writing about 5G and network solutions.

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