Welcome to “Ask Deb from QA,” a new column from MxD.
Every week, Deb from QA — with decades of experience on the factory floor — will answer your questions to demystify and explain the digital manufacturing industry.
Please submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Everyone seems to be talking about 5G, but how exactly will it “transform” manufacturing?
5G is a bit like a Jimmy John’s sandwich — freaky fast. In fact, it’s as much as 25 times faster than 4G. Now, you might think 5G is just for smartphones to scroll through Facebook faster, but it has a lot of implications for the manufacturing industry. Let me explain.
Computers and machines talk to each other. However, current wireless network speeds limit just how much is being communicated. It’s fast, sure, but when we’re talking about millions of complicated real-time decisions being made every minute, latency rears its ugly head.
Translation: there may be a time lag between when an instruction is given and when the device accepts and implements that instruction.
Even a few moments of delay — because of a sluggish 4G network — can cost a manufacturer a lot of money in mistakes or loss of productivity.
Take self-driving cars. The latency issues of networks slower than 5G make it difficult for vehicles to be truly autonomous and safe (right now they’re semi-autonomous, requiring human input). When the 5G network becomes nationwide — a future world with flawless communication and nearly zero latency — driverless cars could become a reality.
Whether it’s a private network in your factory or nationwide coverage, when 5G is up and running it’ll be like upgrading from a four-door sedan to a rocketship. Lag time will become virtually non-existent.
But back to how 5G can change manufacturing. It gives manufacturers the ability to have a modular factory, to quickly reconfigure a factory to meet current production needs without rewiring. And you can have real-time data on your products from the start of production all the way to final delivery.
Or, maybe there’s a problem on the floor, and you need a specialist to be on-site to fix the problem as soon as possible. With a super fast 5G network, you might use augmented reality to “beam” the specialist to the problem site in near real-time. Big servers that once had to be built into the factory could now be in the clouds. Things that once took minutes will now take milliseconds. It adds up in a hurry.
So yes, 5G is something that, for manufacturers, can’t arrive soon enough.
Deb from QA wants to hear your questions. Send ‘em to email@example.com and she’ll answer as soon she’s done with her shift.