MWC2023: 5G deployment in smart factories ‘still too complicated’, Beko manufacturer claims
Telecoms and industry need to begin to “speak the same language” before 5G and IoT adoption can really take off, according to an industry panel at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.
The “Accelerating the 5G smart factory & warehouse digital transformation” panel – part of MWC’s Industrial City showcase – discussed how far along adoption of 5G technologies is in the industrial and manufacturing spaces, with experts saying uptake had been slower than expected.
Pinar Köse Kulacz, innovation director at Turkish manufacturer Arçelik Global (owners of both the Grundig and Beko brands) said that the household appliance maker had already delayed parts of its digital transformation journey and adoption of connected factories due to complications over deployment.
“Speaking on behalf of an industrial customer, I can tell you that we are delaying it,” she explained.
“Because these two worlds – telecom worlds and the industrial verticals – they need to start speaking the same language.
“I think this is where the whole conversation happens,” she added. “You really need to understand our KPIs. What will you start with? And then of course, our “Why” is another justification for the investment, which comes after that.”
“In my opinion, one of the things especially in discrete manufacturing, is they’re paranoid about security and privacy. And I think we really need to understand that this infrastructure is secure enough for our industrial data to stay with us.”
Security was a key topic covered by the panel. Palo Alto Networks VP go-to-market – network security, IoT, 5G – Robert E. Williams acknowledged the concerns of enterprise customers but said that telcos are already adding security layers to their networks.
“From a security perspective, customers want to know how you have consistent visibility across the US, how do you assess the risk?” he said. “And then how do you implement policies so that you can block new types of attacks in line?”
Williams added that with new frameworks coming from cyber security certification body (ISC) ² and legislation from the EU, more scrutiny will be required by manufacturers.
“From our perspective, we’ve associated regulatory impacts very differently at a country level. We see that in the EU and (ISC) ² is coming, which is going to require a lot more scrutiny from the company’s perspective, as well as on what we need to report back out to their member states,” Williams added.
“These are all things that we [enterprises] have to think about from the security perspective.”
This view was backed by automation and energy management company Schneider Electric which also stressed that it didn’t want to acquire new technology for technology’s sake.
The French firm’s vice president AI new value stream Juergen Weichenberger said: “We have our own smart factories, which we need to connect, enable and get the data to flow to make better decisions
“The implementation is clearly based on the use case. So we’re not just going there and throwing tonnes of equipment in just for the sake of fun.”
He added that energy efficiency is a huge part of his firm’s strategy, but it was also a big challenge for any enterprise going through a digital transformation journey.
“You need to connect a lot of different systems across widespread facilities,” he added. “The challenge is to get that control while also continuing to find the right value.”
Dev Singh, business development and head of building, enterprise & industrial automation at chip manufacturer Qualcomm, argued that the technology to empower manufacturers was already there, but the main issue was education around factors such as security and deployment.
“The problem is showing the ROI; going after the right use cases, and more importantly, educating the industry collectively that this technology is ready, and also is resilient in terms of reliability in all the industries that are looking to adopt these,” he said.
“They are very, very conservative industries that have set processes – they have things that work today. So to be able to make a change is going to be bullish and not a revolution. It has to go step by step.”
MWC for 5G
Industry use cases for mobile technologies were high on the agenda in Barcelona this week. One key component highlighted during the talk was 5G Private Networks, which telcos are offering to businesses to facilitate their digital transformation network.
A private 5G network allows enterprise customers to run their own connectivity using network capacity sliced from a telco’s radio network. This means that companies can run services or devices without competing with other users on a public network.
According to NTT, which sponsored the session, implementing the correct technology is one of the most important steps for factories going on their digital transformation journey.
NTT VP enterprise 5G products and services Parm Sandhu explained: “I cannot overstate the importance of the technology. We have seen it in practice. We took a chance when we implemented our private equity infrastructure as we really didn’t have numbers at hand. But it paid off.”
“It is extremely important because we are digitalising more and more every day. So coming from the manufacturing side, digital processes and manufacturing will need more bandwidth, better quality, less delay, and more and more devices are getting connected,” Sandhu added.
Schneider Electric’s Weichenberger meanwhile, emphasised the importance of generating data to producing true value and outcomes.
“We need to get the data to flow on the first instance. That means, how do we enable legacy systems to send the data where we can analyse it, or to get an easy plugin to technology that is already pretty good?”
But for Arçelik Global it’s the ability to scale platforms that leverage 5G or use the technology on additional projects, that really offers tangible incentives for investing in digital transformation.
“When we implemented everything, we really didn’t know if you would see any ROI,” said Köse Kulacz. “But now, I can see early signs that with our very first use case, the automatic pilot wave pools, we have seen serious efficiency improvements.”
However the innovation head warned that one use case alone does not justify the investment.
“The beauty of investing in an infrastructure that we can scale within the same place is that we’re now working on new use cases, and each one of them has its own business case. When you adopt those business cases on top of each other, we will for sure see an ROI – but how much I still don’t know,” Köse Kulacz added.
Subscribe to our Editor's weekly newsletter