WEBINAR "How 5G Can Support Transformation in the manufacturing sector" - 11 July

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WEBINAR "How 5G Can Support Transformation in the manufacturing sector" - 11 July

This report summarises the key discussion points of the webinar "How 5G Can Support Transformation in the Manufacturing sector" organized by IDC in collaboration with Trust-IT Services, as one of the activities included in the European project Global5G.org. The goal is to highlight the opportunities and the challenges for the European manufacturing sector on the cusp of the 5G era.   

The webinar took place on 11 of July 2019, with the following agenda:

  • Welcome & Introduction, Daniela Rao, Senior Director Research & Consulting, IDC
  • How 5G Can Support Transformation in Manufacturing Sector, Lorenzo Veronesi, Research Manager, IDC Manufacturing Insights
  • 5G for Manufacturing, Giacomo Tavola, Professor of Design and Management of Production Systems, Politecnico di Milano
  • How 5G Can Support Transformation in the Manufacturing Sector? Marcela Alzin, Program Manager, 5G-ACIA Member, HMS Labs
  • Questions & Answers
  • Conclusions

The webinar attracted 65 participants, including manufacturing SMEs, large telecom supply side companies, EIT Digital and Digital Catapult, among others- 

The recording of the webinar is available on the Global5G project website 

Key messages

The manufacturing industry is going through a digital renaissance geared around the interconnection of resources and assets in the industrial system (e.g. equipment, people, information) both within the factory and along the entire value chain.

This fourth industrial revolution, commonly known as "Industry 4.0” is founded on the production, analysis and consumption of operational data. Devices, systems and people engaged in these activities need to be connected to each other constantly, with high reliability. This is why networks are at the core of Industry 4.0 implementations.

In this framework, 5G technologies that enable faster data rates, shorter response times, higher connection density, and network slicing are a key enabler for the factory of the future and will impact factory processes, logistics, and company ICT systems.

In 2019, 5G mobile services entered the market as a commercial proposition. In the next year or two, 5G services will increasingly bring enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB; e.g. operations control), with ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC, e.g. robot motion control) and massive machine-type communications (mMTC, e.g. sensors) functionaliies of 5G coming in the early 2020s.

In addition to local-area and wide-area site connectivity, 5G has the potential to provide the enabling connectivity fabric for several applications that would be challenging to support with traditional enterprise networking technologies or with today's public mobile network services. Industry 4.0 objectives that can be supported by these 5G applications include making workers more effective and productive, introducing automation into new areas of the production process, and extending process information more pervasively throughout the supply chain.

The main 5G application groups that we define in the manufacturing sector are:

  • Mission-critical site connectivity: 5G can provide local-area and wide-area connectivity for personnel, vehicles, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. It leverages ultra-low latency and massive connection density where required and enables network performance by network slicing.
  • Product connectivity: using 5G mobile connectivity on the site, product tracking can achieve a larger scale because of the larger number of connected endpoints a cell site can support compared with a WiFi access point.
  • Process optimization: 5G can support activity information about the whole factory, not only its workers, but also its plant, inventory, and products, connecting a feedback loop that continuously gathers large quantities of data about process activity.
  • Remote/centralized operation: the ultra-low latency in 5G makes it a highly responsive network, so much so that an action at one end of a connection point can produce an instantaneous action at the other end.
  • Worker augmentation: a characteristic feature of Industry 4.0 implementations is "worker augmentation" 5G will help workers become more productive and effective by augmenting their senses and physical abilities.

5G will first occur in industrial applications experiencing shortcomings of Wi-Fi, before leading to new industrial applications and co-existence with other network technologies and greenfield installations.

In Manufacturing, most of the application deployments will be related to the adoption of MEC (Multi-access Edge Computing) architecture, where the 5G network virtualized structure allows relocation of critical application components closer to the user domain (inside the 5G network), reducing latency and increasing reliability.

Combining multi-access edge computing (MEC) and 5G will become a powerful force in the world of Manufacturing. MEC uses the network edge to bring computing closer to the data center, which reduces latency and increases connection speeds while 5G mobile networks with speeds of 10 Gb/s will increase the number of connected devices on a network, which spurs the need for edge computing to help distribute networking demands.

In Manufacturing, applications that rely heavily on a consistent network connection, rapid deployment, and low latency include technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and virtual reality (VR). MEC and 5G networking together will allow the simultaneous usage of a massive number of connected technologies without incurring network outages due to traffic bottlenecks.

But 5G adoption in Manufacturing industry will be challenging and strictly related to the digitization of automation processes. For Manufacturers, key open questions are related to reliability in industrial environments and "brownfield" transformation, and related to tangible benefits of a gradual transition from existing networks to 5G adoption.


In the Industry 4.0 paradigm, physical, cybernetic, and human resources interwork closely with each other, within "smart factories" and across other parts of the supply chain, monitored and controlled by the continuous flow and analysis of operational data. Automation, a key theme in the implementation of Industry 4.0, is the means by which manufacturers aim to achieve simultaneous improvements in cost, quality, and productivity.

A reliable communication layer capable of coping with an increase of several orders of magnitude in the number of assets, a variety of information and reaction times in future manufacturing systems is fundamental for Industry 4.0.

5G promises to be a key enabler for Factories of the Future, but its "real" implementation in the Manufacturing environment will start with the integration in existing networks to complement the capabilities of today's technologies and, then gradually replacing them in some cases. 

The unique characteristics of 5G make it a promising communication technology for numerous vertical industries, including Manufacturing. To discover our joint requirements tracking and mapping of common requirements with a variety of industry associations and companies, please visit this page with the presentations from the 2nd Vertical User Workshop (July 2019). 



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