Skip to main content

Moving the Needle to Industry 4.0 with 5G and the Edge

Smart factory, 5G, edge computing

There’s no way around it: If you’re a manufacturer chugging along with Industry 3.0 today, you need to be moving your shop floor toward Industry 4.0 for tomorrow—with plans for 5.0 if you want to be around next week.

But how does the manufacturing process need to change to get there? 5G may just be the answer.

We talk to Philippe Ravix, Global Digital Manufacturing Solution Architect at Capgemini, a global leader in digital transformation, technology, and engineering, about having a road map for the future, the role of edge computing in manufacturing, and how 5G can lead to Industry 5.0.

Certainly a lot has changed in the manufacturing space recently. Can you talk about how it has evolved since the advent of the Internet of Things?

We are now in the digital transformation era—also called Industry 4.0, factory of the future, intelligent industry, or smart factory. Those terms express not only that we need a data-oriented approach, but we need a collaboration with the foundation of manufacturing—what we call the Golden Triangle—which is based on three main systems: the PLM, the MES, and the ERP.

The advent of IoT is something that will have an impact on the manufacturing process based on real-time data collection and analytics; and it will complement existing systems that are more process oriented. So, it’s not: I will replace. It’s really: I will complement and collaborate with the existing systems that manage the shop floor and the manufacturer.

IoT is clearly one of the driving forces behind the Industry 4.0 movement. I think it will first enable immense automation. That is one of the key points—first, leverage data collection from the shop floor to the cloud; and at the end, leverage advanced analytics. Why? To optimize workflow and processes inside the manufacturer. This will be the next step after a lean strategy; it will be a kind of lean software, to have another step of process optimization inside the company and inside the shop floor.

What are some of the challenges that manufacturers face as they try to grow and scale their IoT initiatives?

Automation, flexibility, and sustainability are the three main challenges that we see.

The first one, automation, is clearly one of the key topics that we see in the market. How can we integrate technologies to automate manufacturing processes?

The next one is flexibility. Today it takes a long time—if you manufacture a product in the line—to change that line in order to manufacture another product.

And last, sustainability: to make manufacturing cost-effective by improving the efficiency of the equipment and the processes; to minimize energy consumption; to decrease manufacturing time and lead time; to reduce waste, and to use less material.

The advent of 5G is opening a lot of really exciting new possibilities. How will 5G address where manufacturing is going next?

I would say there are two game changers in IoT today that will create the IoT of the future. The first one, 5G, is definitely one of the game changers. The edge is the other one. When I started in IoT 10 years ago, it was a device sending data to the cloud for analytics and for human interaction. It was more cloud-to-human. This is a south-north connection from device to cloud, without a lot of data.

Now, with the amount of data and the number of devices deployed, at the end of the day you have a lot of data, and you’re not able to send everything to the cloud. So the edge is really important, and the key part in addressing this manufacturing challenge is having this intermediate platform to collect data, to standardize data, to compute data. Then after you can say: I can send to the cloud, I can send to my colleague, to another edge, and so on and so on. So edge is clearly a game changer for IoT in manufacturing.

5G is also, for sure, a key technology for IoT. Why? What is interesting with 5G is that you will be able to avoid having wire connectivity on the shop floor. So along with the capabilities of the edge—meaning speed and near-zero latency—5G will eliminate wire connectivity and will offer that degree of flexibility that I mentioned as being a key challenge in the process, by adding mobility for everything.

Can you talk a little bit more about the edge architectures you see emerging out of this new paradigm?

The edge platform is really this intermediate platform that you can have at the device level, at the machine level, at the plant level. And each level of edge will have features or capabilities for compute and storage. And so this is the value of the edge.

The edge is a platform, so it’s 100% a cloud-style architecture. We can see the edge as part of the cloud—so we do not disconnect the edge from the cloud, or the cloud from edge. In fact, the edge is seen as part of the cloud—the same architecture style. And it’s why the big cloud providers—like Microsoft Azure, AWS, or Google—have now on the market their own edge platforms. This is why there was an interest in the cloud from the bigger players first.

And with this kind of architecture, there is also an interesting point that today the main connectivity is from device to cloud—so south to north. With edge, you can create a collaboration from east to west. You can create east-to-west connectivity—meaning, the edge will be able to discuss and to manage integration and to exchange data from one edge to another one from other specific use cases.

So everything at the shop-floor level will optimize the process—meaning that you don’t need to send data to the cloud to optimize the process; you can optimize the process at the plant level. So that’s why you have this collaboration between edge and all this data.

How does Capgemini help manufacturers implement such a system and deal with all the complexities?

Manufacturing is a complex system, for sure, with a lot of complexity from everything—from the connectivity, from the data management, from the data, from the use case, and from the architecture point of view. So we support a lot of clients in digital manufacturing transformation. We have a dedicated approach for this, starting with both a business vision and business use cases, and an architecture view.

We always start with business and architecture, because in digital transformation there is the question: What is the right use case? What is the value of this use case? What is the road map? But also there is the digital question—meaning the technology. It would be a mistake to separate business from technology today. So we start to support the client with the business and IT roadmap—I would say that is the first phase.

There is a lot of experimentation with each client, and the key problem now is not to identify or to validate the business value; it’s how to scale. This is the challenge today. We know that in IoT we can develop a lot of proofs of concept, but the value of IoT is not in the proof of concept, which costs money. It’s in the global deployment.

After the business and IT roadmap, we directly go to a scaling program with the client—meaning architecture. And one of the key points is really to have a platform strategy. Do you have the connectivity platform? Which one? Do you have the data platform? Which one? Do you have the analytics platform? Which one? How do you manage the global integration between all the systems?

Everything is based on the platform; everything is based on the cloud-style architecture. So we define this detailed architecture. From the key use cases that have been validated during phase one—or else during the previous work done by the client—we select no more than five use cases for development and global deployment.

Where does security factor into your thinking about this?

Security can be seen globally on the shop floor. We have this platform, and most of the time on the shop floor we have a private network, and we manage the private network in 5G. And we manage also all the security between the system and the machine with encryption.

And after, on the cloud, we use the security coming from the cloud provider. When we work with Azure and AWS—meaning that we know that it’s a secure system—we don’t need to add anything. The point is how to manage security between the plant and the cloud.

So, we can manage the security from plant to cloud, and inside the plant we manage the security with the network. It’s something that we address by design in the solution that we have.

How do you work with Intel® to achieve success? And how does that relationship support everything else you’re doing?

Intel® has been a strategic partner for Capgemini for many years now. At Capgemini we have a global alliance team at the group level, and Intel is part of this global alliance. With Intel we know that we will always have access to the best technologies, to expertise, and to innovation. It’s really a technology partner that is very powerful, and it’s very powerful in the digital transformation world.

One of the key points also with Intel is that they have a huge ecosystem of partners; that is powerful for us. And we can access all these partners from Intel. When we have a question, Intel will be able to put in front of Capgemini the right partners with the right technology, and we can have direct access to the right technology for all projects. It’s also a way to accelerate and to secure our delivery. And, the last point, and very important for us, is that we have a joint collaboration in solution development with Intel.

What advice would you give manufacturers considering whether to deploy 5G and edge computing?

You need to have a clear vision of the market—meaning that if you don’t move, your competitors will move, and you will have lost market share. But be sure that your client has a very good understanding of the technology where it is today, where they want to go tomorrow, and why.

Second point: have the right architecture—meaning the right platform, integrating with the edge—because everything will move very quickly. So have a clear view of the architecture and use cloud-style architecture. Because if not, you will have silos.

And last, also be sure that the client has a foundation in Industry 3.0—a lot of clients do not have an MES, for example. So they have an ERP, but they do not have an MES. A client that does not have an MES should not collect data today—it’s too early. So have the right foundation—what we call the Golden Triangle.

But if you want success, you need to have a clear vision of where you want to be in terms of business tomorrow.

To learn more about the role of 5G and edge in smart manufacturing, listen to our podcast The 5G Factory of the Future with Capgemini.

About the Author

Kenton Williston is the Editor-in-Chief of insight.tech and served as the editor of its predecessor publication, the Embedded Innovator magazine. Kenton received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering in 2000 and has been writing about embedded computing and IoT ever since.

Profile Photo of Kenton Williston