In our fast-paced world, consumers are constantly swapping out used devices for the newest gadget. The ever-present call for the hottest new feature and the most instantaneous service is tightening its grip on the manufacturing industry.

So how will manufacturers keep up with the pace of this ever-growing demand for complex goods? 5G might be the key.

Offering more than just faster speeds, 5G has the connectivity capabilities, low latency and dependability that is required to revolutionize many industries in the near future. The manufacturing industry, and many others, will have the chance to adopt massive machine type communication and AI by using large volumes of data.

With data speeds projected to be 25 times faster than today’s 4G networks, 5G appears to promise unending opportunities to strengthen connectivity and digitization—both within the physical facility, and beyond them at every step along the entire value chain. Below, we’ll be reviewing three important ways 5G might change the game of manufacturing.

CLOUD CONTROL OF MACHINES

Automation in factories has relied on programmable logic controllers (PLCs) for decades. PLCs are usually installed on the machines they control and hard-wired into computer networks. If 5G delivers on its performance promises, PLCs can become virtual cloud applications, allowing machines to be controlled wirelessly in real time.

DEVELOPMENT ON SMART FACTORIES

The so-called Fourth Wave of the Industrial Revolution — coined Industry 4.0, is in its early stages of development. Smart manufacturing, a subset of Industry 4.0, is defined by The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as being “fully-integrated, collaborative manufacturing systems that respond in real time to meet changing demands and conditions in the factory, in the supply network, and in customer needs.”

This connection allows manufacturers to further improve factory automation, human/machine interfaces, and mobility in their processes. Alongside the physical production of goods, 5G technologies can support improvements in functions such as planning, supply chain logistics, inventory management and product development, including lifecycle management.

MAKING AUGMENTED REALITY THE NORM

Augmented reality (AR) can also help manufacturing technicians identify problems quickly and efficiently. Unlike virtual reality, AR does not hide, or cloak, the physical world – it simply enhances it with a digital layer.

Augmented reality will allow shop-floor workers to undertake advanced tasks without waiting for specialist engineers or incurring costly machine downtime. The best knowledge and work instructions can, therefore, be shared with all workers exactly when they need it, building worker skills better (and faster) than ever before.

5G will certainly not end world hunger and many of its claims are exaggerated. However, it can be argued that is will change many industries, including manufacturing, in ways we don’t quite understand.  From streaming videos more quickly to autonomous vehicles to empowering remote surgery, 5G technology has the promise of fundamentally changing many industries.