How super-connected networks enable manufacturing clairvoyance

Far from the steam, noise and chaos of factories from the industrial age, today’s manufacturing environments are a vision of order, efficiency and zero tolerance for downtime. Or so they should be. A shutdown of critical production lines due to machine failure or human error is unthinkable in terms of its financial impact. And yet, mistakes still happen. Breakdowns still occur.  

The only sure-fire countermeasure is predictive monitoring of the entire factory floor that borders on clairvoyance. You need to know before things are about to go wrong and either fix the problem or minimize the impact. But to have eyes everywhere, you also need an information network large enough to go anywhere and smart enough to carry anything. In fact, the network forms your secure and intelligent edge to cloud network fabric that integrates anywhere connectivity, artificial intelligence, pervasive computing, predictive analytics and ubiquitous sensors; generating new and personalized insights and enabling manufacturers to achieve their outcomes. 

The challenges – what the research shows

Reactive measures

Manufacturing omnivision doesn’t come easily. In fact, our 2022 Connected Industries Report shows that 91.7% of companies agree (55.3% strongly) that innovation and access to advanced technologies, including AI, IoT and machine learning are key to their technology strategy.

But it’s not just about deploying the best Internet of Things (IoT) solution and the most expensive smart network infrastructure money can buy. Factories are also businesses, and just like any others, they’re vulnerable to strategic, operational and sustainability challenges, often caused by world events and regulations beyond their control.

A McKinsey Industry 4.0 report calculates that a massive 96% of companies surveyed implemented at least one digital use case across locations in response to the pandemic. Google Cloud reports that 65% of companies now feel that Industry 4.0 solutions are more valuable since the COVID-19 crisis. So, the new focus for manufacturers beyond efficiency, is resilience. In fact, Reid Paquin, Research Director at the IDC, believes ‘manufacturing companies have a renewed focus on transforming from efficiency-oriented operations to resilient organizations driven by a tighter connection to their markets and customers. The key component to this shift will be maximizing the value of ever-increasing data ...’*

More data, better networks

More data, of course, requires better network performance. Cisco’s Annual Internet Report predicts a 30% compound annual growth rate in network capacity across industries to support the demand for HD content, social media and cloud compute. In the manufacturing world, it’s about visibility through, for example, HD video capabilities to monitor factory floors and fix machinery in real-time.

But many network and infrastructure leaders across industries report a distinct lack of visibility across network infrastructures with limited operational insights as a key challenge. This, combined with a constrained use of predictive analytics for a proactive operational approach, is bound to leave any manufacturer in the dark.

Let’s look at how a few prominent manufacturers have coped in this challenging new world?

* IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Manufacturing 2021 Predictions, Oct 2020 

It’s not just about deploying the best Internet of Things solution and most expensive network infrastructure… Regulations and world events can leave factories vulnerable to strategic, operational and sustainability challenges that are out of their control. 

Office IT to factory OT – the Hirschmann Automotive road trip

One manufacturer who wasn’t going to allow myopic visibility to hamper its production is Hirschmann Automotive. They simply had too much to lose. With facilities across the world, they employ more than 5,700 people to manufacture vehicle components that ensure reliability under the most extreme conditions in a vehicle. Hirschmann Automotive needed to make sure their people could work together from anywhere around the globe, as downtime was unthinkable. Having operations in many countries was made even more difficult because it was expensive and challenging to have the right skills available when a critical incident occurred.

Their vision? Super connected augmented reality (AR), of course. With RealWear AR headsets and Cisco’s Webex Expert on Demand software, they can now link technicians at production facilities – the operational technology (OT) environment – with experts in real-time, anywhere in the world. Downtime has been reduced significantly and Hirschmann Automotive’s productivity increased.

Working with us, the manufacturer also moved aspects of their collaboration environment to the cloud, so that employees could work together from anywhere, at any time, using any device, using a network-as-a-service model. We connected their meeting rooms using Webex Boards, allowing teams across the globe to work together in real-time, sharing thoughts, ideas, content and whiteboard sessions via the system.

But that’s not where the benefits end. As Hirschmann Automotive grows their AR adoption, the technology can help in many several other ways. Besides linking experts and technician live, the company is now thinking of creating a knowledge base that contains common problem solutions. Technicians could then follow a set, automatic process, using this data to fix the problem, even without expert advice or guidance. This includes providing lists of commonly asked questions, but with an existing video, a workflow-diagram or assembly sketch to make common problems even quicker and easier to solve. With a future vision like this, Hirschmann Automotive has its eyes wide open in more ways than one. 

Hirchmann Automotive logo

Success factors

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Expertise

Access to global experts working from anywhere

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Efficiency

Diagnosing and resolving problems in real-time

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Continuity

Minimizing downtime at production facilities around the world

‘Using augmented reality allows us to reduce downtime, tap into our pool of global experts faster and reduce our environmental impact, all vitally important at this time.’

Bernhard Bösch
Head of IT Operations, Hirschmann Automotive

The great taste of digitalization – Frucor Suntory’s network refreshes their people’s connections

Networks aren’t networks only to provide factory floor visibility. They also exist to connect people with people, and people with their data. Few manufacturers saw the value in their people using the network to work together in new and imaginative ways more than Australasian drinks manufacturer, Frucor Suntory.

Creating a digital backbone for the organization hinged on the deployment of a reliable network. Any downtime would both affect their manufacturing lines and the ability of teams to communicate with each other across locations in New Zealand and Australia.

Frucor employs 1,000 people in their factories, head offices and extensive branch office network. With this spread of operations, they depend on their network to keep their workforce connected to each other, as well as to applications hosted in their hybrid cloud environment. More than just a backbone for company-wide communication, their network is critical to their entire supply chain and needed to securely and quickly respond to the requirements of the business.

Creating a digital backbone for the organization therefore hinged on the deployment of a reliable network. Working together with NTT and Cisco, they deployed a new core network using Cisco’s Digital Network Architecture. This software-defined network provides a secure and flexible foundation, enabling seamless access to information and applications. With wired and wireless analytics, they’re also able to monitor performance, ensuring that any issues can be addressed before they affect the user experience.

With mobility being a critical component of their vision, the software-defined Wi-Fi network had to deliver a consistent and reliable connection for all users across all their sites, including employees, clients and visitors. It also had to support the growing number of connected devices forming part of their infrastructure, including an array of network-enabled operational technologies.

With a network capable of supporting their organizational culture of collaboration, Frucor can now focus on their core goal of delivering the best drinks to their customers in Australia and New Zealand. 

Frucor Suntory logo

Success factors

Innovation

Supporting business innovation to stay competitive

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Collaboration

Provides the backbone for company-wide collaboration

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Data access

Reliable access data and applications, no matter where people work from

‘We need a network that supports our business and allows us to stay ahead of the market. Using the power of a software-defined network allows us to do that.’

Gavin Sharkey
Head of Technology & Operations, Frucor Suntory 

It’s private – Schneider Electric’s 5G route to sustainability

No factory – whether making motor vehicle components or soft drinks – operates in a bubble. Besides forming part of critical global supply chains, they’re also major contributors to our collective human impact on the planet. How then, if anything, can the way manufacturers build and manage their campus networks help to minimize that impact? For Schneider Electric, a global manufacturing process and energy technology integrator, the answer lies in Private 5G (P5G) networks.

NTT and Schneider Electric are ready to pilot a brand new P5G platform at its Lexington Smart Factory this year. This will be the first of Schneider Electric’s US plants to become a Smart Factory example, featuring IoT connectivity, edge analytics and predictive analysis to improve energy efficiency and support sustainability objectives. The P5G network will help to solve problems related to equipment availability, machine performance and manufacturing output quality. For example, ‘machine vision’ capabilities (industrial cameras with specialized optics) in existing manufacturing plant and warehouse automation systems will help to spot problems before they occur, as well as monitor the wear and tear of equipment and machinery for incident root cause analysis in near real-time.

But again, it’s about more than just how smart the network is. It’s also about the planet we live and work on. Other than superior control and security, wireless networks also deliver better sustainability than a wired network. Less copper cabling means less energy usage and easier alignment to net-zero carbon objectives.

Schneider Electric’s purpose is called Life Is On, by which they aim to empower manufacturers to make the most of their energy resources, bridging process and sustainability for all. 

Schneider Electric logo

Success factors

Connectivity

Unfettered connectivity improves management of AGV devices across a factory footprint

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Performance

Machine vision application detect anomalies in machine performance to ensure high performance 

Maintenance

Augmented reality solutions enable remote worker support for enhanced equipment maintenance

‘Wireless networks offer superior benefits over a wired network from a sustainability perspective – smaller copper cabling footprint means minimizing energy usage and aligning to our net-zero carbon goals.’

Luc Rémont
Executive Vice President International Operations at Schneider Electric 

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