The telecom megalith, Ericsson, recently announced that it plans to open the world’s first fully automated smart factory in Lewisville, TX. The factory will be outfitted with 5G to build Advanced Antenna System radios that boost network coverage over its 300,000 square foot facility. The factory, one of the first major 5G initiatives in North America, will employ 100 people.
This technology, which is growing along with the Internet of Things and AI-based revolution, will improve worker productivity and plant safety, affecting a broad-based transformation of daily operations. Ericsson invested more than $100 million in its new plant, which is expected to yield considerable cost reductions and environmental benefits.
For instance, the factory is expected to be over 30% more energy efficient than other structures its size, featuring such environmentally friendly measures as solar panels and rainwater collection tanks. The company hopes to obtain LEED Gold and LEED Zero Carbon certifications for the plant, making it the first Ericsson factory to do so.
Making an Innovative Splash
Ericsson’s initiative more fully embraces the cutting edge than those that preceded it, such as Schneider Electric’s automated factory in Lexington, KY. Schneider’s factory updated its legacy system with IoT-based automation, but the Ericsson factory was the first to use 5G for comprehensive automation.
Ericsson’s factory is projected to open for business in 2020, using IoT connectivity to fully automate logistics and assembly. It will make the entire production chain more flexible and agile down to the very carts used in its warehouse.
“5G will not only be faster and more reliable, it will enable communication with almost no latency,” said Matthias Lidén, head of group supply for the Americas at Ericsson. The result is a factory that adjusts instantly to real-time data changes to realize greater efficiencies.
The decision to employ 5G along with the IoT and AI was an attempt to garner the full results of these efficiencies. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform could be used to garner information at every stage of the factory process, and AI can be used in conjunction with it to instantly predict parameter changes and adjust to any substantial shift in data.
Beginning of an Automated Future
Ericsson has made a number of substantial high-tech investments in Texas, of which its new 5G factory is only the latest and most comprehensive. Other notable achievements include opening a 5G ASIC Design Center and an R&D center for radio network software in Austin, and a training center in Lewisville for field workers. It has also launched innovation and production facilities in California and Florida in cooperation with other institutions.
All of the technological innovations Ericsson has invested in are expected to be major drivers of growth and innovation in 2020, and are widely considered to represent a 4th industrial revolution. By processing data instantly and cross-referencing it with other sources, 5G-powered IoT and AI enable Ericsson — and soon, presumably, many other companies — to run cleaner, leaner, more competitive operations.
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