The Impact of Integrating 5G into Industry 4.0

Feb. 26, 2024
Achieving a successful Industry 4.0 vision necessitates a digital transformation that starts with the underlying network infrastructure.

The advent of Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing has been marked by advancements in automation across a range of industries. Its full-scale adoption, however, is yet to be realized.

Michael Weller, practice lead for manufacturing, energy and utilities at Verizon Business, spoke with Power & Motion on the topic and emphasizes the significant impact of 5G on the integration of advanced technologies within Industry 4.0.

“A lot of those areas of technology—advanced automation and control systems, robotics and such—they’ve traditionally been the domain of wired connections, almost exclusively, for a variety of reasons,” he said. “So, while 5G won’t necessarily completely solve for integrating all of those technologies, it’s going to enable significant advances in a lot of the pillars of Industry 4.0: reliability, security, performance, agility, flexibility.”

READ MORE: Hydraulics Fit for Industry 4.0

Worker-Technology Interface

One aspect that is sometimes overlooked is the transformation of the worker-technology interface in industrial environments. The shift from legacy-based graphical user interfaces to visual technologies — including computer vision, digital twins, video analytics, AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) — will reshape how workers engage with automation. And this will put a strain on the networks to support these environments. “We’re going to be pushing a lot of video content and still images up into the network, and we’re going to be getting a lot of video content pushed down into the shop floor,” Weller said. “And right now, the networks aren’t designed to do that.”

Unlike previous industrial revolutions, which primarily replaced physical skills, Industry 4.0 aims to harness intellectual skills, creativity, problem solving and collaboration of the workforce. This shift bears substantial implications for processes and skills development, Weller said, which demands a cohesive approach to leveraging human intellectual capabilities effectively.

In this first of a three-part video series, Weller addresses aligning tehnological advancements with human capabilities, presenting opportunities for smart manufacturing to thrive in the 5G era.

Watch additional parts of this interview series with Michael Weller of Verizon Business:

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