Telecommunications company Ericsson announced on Thursday that Lewsville, TX will be the location for its first fully automated smart factory in the US. The 300,000 square-foot factory, first announced in June, will use 5G to create Advanced Antenna System radios to boost network coverage as 5G deployments gain ground in the US and it will employ 100 people.
SEE: Special report: The rise of Industrial IoT (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and internet of things (IoT) technology in factories is becoming more popular as manufacturers enter the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, said Matthias Lidén, head of group supply for the Americas at Ericsson.
This revolution relies on the use of automation to digitally transform factory operations. Not only does the technology help keep workers safe, but it reduces downtime and helps employees work faster and smarter.
In June, Schneider Electric opened the first industrial smart factory in Lexington, KY. This brownfield factory modernized legacy systems, using IoT to deliver safer, efficient, and sustainable results. While Schneider Electric was the first site that digitally transformed into an automated factory, Ericsson is creating the first greenfield, 5G-enabled smart factory.
“It is a brand new, greenfield factory with fully automated operations and connectivity is applied from the start, without any consideration to any legacy ways of working,” said Lidén.
The smart factory will start commercial operations in early 2020, fueled by 5G connectivity to promote flexible and agile operations. These 5G industrial solutions include connected logistics, automated assembly, automated warehouses, packing and product handling, and autonomous carts, according to the press release.
“5G will not only be faster and more reliable, it will enable communication with almost no latency,” Lidén said. “That will enable us to instantly act on data in real time and benefit from instant results of process control and/or visualization of any kind.”
Along with 5G, the factory will also be equipped with IoT and AI, Lidén said. “[We are] using the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform, where essentially data is collected, stored and processed through whatever application you want to apply,” Lidén noted. “For predictive applications, for instance, to predict certain production parameters, artificial intelligence can be applied to instantly process data as it is collected and instantly feedback responses to operators and/or directly self-adjust the machine settings.”
The company invested $100 million into the smart factory, which is projected to be nearly 30% more energy efficient than comparable buildings. Ericsson also plans to install solar panels to generate onsite renewable energy and install 26,000-gallon tanks to collect and reuse rainwater. Ericsson is pursuing LEED Gold and LEED Zero Carbon certifications for the smart factory, which will make it the first Ericsson factory in the world to achieve this goal.
The opening of the factory is a culmination of Ericsson’s investment in the region. In the past two years, here are some of the other investments the company has made to support 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies:
- Opening of a 5G ASIC Design Center in Austin, TX, to help accelerate 5G product development;
- Creation of Global Artificial Intelligence Accelerator innovation hubs in Santa Clara, California and Montreal, Canada, to speed up adoption of advances in AI and machine learning;
- Launch of D-Fifteen in Santa Clara, CA, which is a new co-creation center in Silicon Valley for industrial partners and service providers to drive the next industrial revolution, powered by 5G, IoT and AI
- Opening of Ericsson’s Center of Excellence training facility in Lewisville to attract, train and develop industry-leading tower climbers and field services staff;
- Production of the first 5G radios in the US, with a production partner in St. Petersburg, Florida during 2018;
- Establishment of a new radio network software R&D center in Austin, TX.
2020 is predicted to be a huge year for global 5G adoption, driven by the rise of 5G mobile handsets. While the road to seamless 5G deployment might be long, the manufacturing and utilities industries will reap the biggest benefits.
“Today’s technology is much more powerful than in the past. Data can be processed instantly and cross referenced with data from several other areas,” said Lidén, “The greatest benefit is that operators in the factory are given future predictions of performance and can adjust the process accordingly before too late and/or directly self-adjust the machine settings.”
For more, check out How Samsung and AT&T plan to use IoT sensors in smart factories on TechRepublic.
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