Messages like, “This item is unavailable due to quality recalls and supply chain disruptions,” are becoming a common occurrence for customers of many businesses in the United States. To help solve this problem, 5G technology is poised to offer manufacturers the ability to make rapid, real-time decisions — bridging existing gaps in the nation’s industrial base.
5G is a new global, wireless network that is designed to virtually connect all people and all devices. For manufacturers, the increased bandwidth allows high-capacity information flow, resulting in faster conversations between machines and fewer communication delays.
“Incorporating 5G will provide much more timely, actionable information. Decisions in the manufacturing enterprises can be made in real-time with little delays,” said Dr. Satish Bukkapatnam, professor in the Wm Michael Barnes ’64 Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the Texas A&M University and director of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station Institute for Manufacturing Systems. “The timely information greatly reduces the lag between inception of data and decisions.”
Additionally, 5G will aid in what Bukkapatnam calls the “uber-zation” of manufacturing. Much like a customer would order an Uber to take them to their destination, 5G tech will enable companies or industry segments to treat manufacturing like a custom service to receive needed products.
“This is one area in which smart manufacturing will be heavily involved in the years to come,” Bukkapatnam said.
5G could be highly valuable in the production of semiconductors (devices included in various kinds of electronics like diodes, transistors and integrated circuits), where complex components are manufactured across multiple machines.
“In these high-quality and high-end manufacturing environments, there will be hundreds of sensors helping monitor the process from beginning to end,” Bukkapatnam said. “These sensors generate massive amounts of data each day — more data than what current enterprise data handling solutions can actually handle.
“Much of this data is analyzed long after problems have already surfaced,” Bukkapatnam continued. “With 5G, faster decisions are communicated back to sources, opening up new possibilities for more efficient decision making. This level of automation is going to be a key facilitator for applying artificial intelligence methods in industrial environments as data can be processed locally, or in the cloud, and with different kinds of computers and controllers in different geographic locations.”
5G will be an important asset for manufacturing conglomerates who are interested in leading the transformation of the industry. With a large industry shift toward internet of things (physical objects with sensors, processing ability, software and other technologies that connect and exchange data), digitization and digitalized operations, harnessing data and effective decision making will become increasingly significant.
“Clearly articulating the return on investment of a 5G system in a manufacturing environment is currently a major challenge, as the industry has yet to fully embrace this technology,” Bukkapatnam said. “It’s our job to establish clear context for implementing 5G and determining what types of data should be fused, what decisions should be made and what kind of timeliness or delays are tolerable.”