Economic forecasts across the globe make for grim reading. The coronavirus pandemic when it first hit brought countries to a standstill. In June, the World Bank projected that the global economy was on course to shrink 5.2% over the course of 2020.
Across Europe unemployment has risen to around 8% and industrial production is down around 6% compare with this time last year. One cause for optimism amongst all this gloom however, says Emmanuel Routier, VP, Industry 4.0 at Orange Business Services, has been the way in which many organisations across all industries were able to adapt to new, more remote and more digital ways of working.
Technology was the safety net providing many with business continuity in the face of the worst global crisis in decades. It is also in technology that we will find the keys to revitalising our economy.
Companies have been forced to digitise rapidly and this is true of all industries. From the back office to the production line, businesses are looking at ways to accelerate their digital transformation and cash in on the huge improvements that emerging technologies such as 5G will bring to industrial efficiency and production.
Because of this, 5G is very much at the forefront of these digital-first strategies and according to a recent study, IoT decision-makers see 5G as able to ‘transform the industry’ in the medium to long term with the top two benefits from 5G deployment expected to be the ability to manage many IoT devices at once and the ability to achieve ultra-low latency & strong reliability, allowing businesses to be even more agile as they work through a period of unprecedented uncertainty.
As a tool for business recovery and transformation, 5G will enable manufacturers to develop the concept of a modular factory and improve the technical management of buildings, to create the ‘factory of the future’. For example, the reliability of wireless 5G allows for better production quality control in the electronics industry.
In fact, the ‘factory of the future’ is not that far away and there are examples of organisations already implementing 5G to reap the benefits that it brings to industry. One particular example is the LACROIX Electronics plant in Montrevault-sur-Evre, France.
The French company is running full-scale tests to analyse the benefits of 5G in this factory , a window into the future, part of the “Symbiose” project leading to a brand new electronics factory of the future in France operational by late 2021. By taking high-resolution photos of electronic processes, for example, real-time verification of the quality of welds and the presence of components can be performed.
Taking and sending images in real time can be combined with Machine Learning in order to improve detection algorithms and also ensure that there are no errors in the batches produced or if a readjustment of a machine is necessary. In taking the lead with these new technologies, LACROIX is providing us a glimpse into the future of Industry 4.0.
Another French company Schneider Electric who have recently trialled 5G in their factory have shown that through the digital transformation of an operational use case they can save up to 40% of time in maintenance activities, by reducing the effort of the repair root cause identification process by 80%. The exponential increases in efficiency and productivity that 5G has the potential to offer will be key to reversing the downward trend in industrial output.
Innovate and collaborate
In order to recover from the looming economic crisis that is on the horizon, we need to think and act innovatively and collaboratively. It is undoubtably the case that 5G and other emerging technologies will pave the way for a new industrial revolution and as new technologies continue to infiltrate even the most traditional of industries the need to innovate only increases. Innovation however is difficult and many innovation strategies fail. It is imperative that if Industry 4.0 is to become a reality, companies must approach innovation carefully and with their business goals front of mind.
One progressive approach to innovation is to work in tandem with other organisations to achieve innovative business solutions. This approach, known as co-innovation allows organisations to leverage the assets and ecosystems of all parties involved, accelerating the process and ensuring that it results in tangible business outcomes.
And so, as we move towards an ever more complex and technological era, companies across many different verticals must start to work together and collaborate more in order to enjoy the benefits of these transformative emerging technologies. It is innovation and collaboration across all areas of our lives that will ultimately bring us back from the brink.
The author is Emmanuel Routier, VP, Industry 4.0 at Orange Business Services.