Field Intelligence guest column
For manufacturers, the pandemic turned the idea of digital automation from a want to a need. Today’s working standards demand technology that merges our physical and digital worlds into one streamlined existence, placing extra pressure on industries that use manual processes to upgrade equipment and adapt to today’s modern, remote world. Advanced technology that allows for real-time tracking of capacity and production is top of mind for manufacturing decision makers, with 82 percent very or somewhat likely to implement this technology within their company in the next two years.
In manufacturing, core processes and functions are changing to become more efficient and cost effective by integrating 5G and mobile edge computing (MEC.)
Cloud resources are typically located in data centers hundreds or thousands of miles away. MEC moves the data and application processing that manufacturers use closer to the edge of the network, enabling key business applications to run close to or on a customer site and support near real-time operational insights.
So, in the case of manufacturing, all data used to power the factory can be housed closer to its physical location, which decreases latency and improves performance. Together, this enhances quality control and security, increases efficiency and decreases labor costs.
This helps critical, performance-impacting and future-forward applications like autonomous forklifts or assembly line robotics to respond more quickly and efficiently. It simultaneously lowers costs and improves safety.
Ice Mobility is an example of an enterprise already implementing this technology to improve its end-to-end supply chain logistics from pick and pack to distribution, returns management and more.
The Lincolnshire, Illinois-based company is using 5G and MEC to enable computer-vision-assisted product picking and packing, as well as quality assurance (QA).
With high-definition cameras installed above pick lines as an extra set of eyes, Ice Mobility is better able to ensure that every product meant to ship in a given box is accounted for and correct Additionally, the company can better ensure that there are no missing or incorrect shipping items. While Ice Mobility is at the early stage of 5G and MEC implementation, the company sees the potential to improve on-site QA and save order-processing time.
Implementing MEC and 5G is not something that happens overnight. While significant benefits include lowering operating costs and increasing production line flexibility, in order to reap these benefits manufacturers must invest the time in data organization and infrastructure. This infrastructure is crucial for the AI and machine learning that’s powered by 5G and MEC.
In addition to the investment in data organization and infrastructure, companies will need to take a proactive stance to embrace these technologies and shift company culture. Leaders should emphasize that advanced technologies are not a replacement for workers but rather tools to increase productivity and efficiency that allow teams to do higher-order tasks and reach their full potential.
Radical change is on the horizon for companies like Ice Mobility. When fully integrated with 5G and MEC, manufacturers should be able to accurately track costs using computer vision, including how much time specific operators are spending on a unique order or task, and launch immersive collaboration and training with the help of AR.
With the help of 5G and MEC, the future of manufacturing is closer than ever