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Programme

Factory of the Future

Using the power of 5G to help manufacturers drive up productivity, boost efficiency, improve safety and cut waste.

Digital Catapult will be leading the integration capability for manufacturing and industrial domains, as part of the Factory of the Future project – led by the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).

Efficiency, productivity, and sustainability are everything in manufacturing. From advanced product and machine tracking, to autonomous warehouse transportation and remote assistance for operators, technology can help the industry drive down production costs – while driving up market productivity levels and competitiveness.

5G is the first network able to deliver on all of these use cases. However, many businesses still hold concerns around 5G cost, complexity and security – hindering its meaningful adoption in industrial settings. This means we are losing out on an opportunity to fully realise the potential of industrial digital technologies and reap the benefits of futuristic, smart factories.

By helping industry harness 5G in factory settings, we can:​

  • Allow real-time feedback & closed loop control of manufacturing systems, thanks to 5G’s low latency
  • Allow line side support through augmented and virtual reality devices, thanks to increased bandwidth from 5G
  • Enable efficient integration and exploitation of mobile IoT technology for digital manufacturing

The 5G Factory of the Future project brings together industrial and academic leaders from the manufacturing and telecommunications sectors to establish a 5G manufacturing testbed. The project will develop integrated solutions for key challenges in deploying 5G technologies in industry, demystifying the technology and helping the UK to realise the benefits.

By developing an industrial 5G testbed to encourage adoption of 5G technologies in manufacturing, the project will help to increase manufacturers’ understanding of the benefits of 5G adoption in a real- factory environment – from lower costs, to increased product quality and improved delivery times.

Digital Catapult is the technical authority lead and is coordinating the integration of 5G, Operational Technology (OT) and edge computing. It will also be offering cellular, 5G Industrial IoT solution platforms to facilitate experimentation and uptake of digitalisation in the UK’s factories of the future.

Digital Catapult is also working closely with Miralis, BAE Systems, aql and IBM on a use-case looking at how 5G-connected sensors can provide real-time condition monitoring, helping to prevent lost and late supply-chain production items – which can cause significant loss in productivity.

The open-access 5G industrial testbed was awarded £9.5m by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), including match funding from industry, and is part of the government’s £200m investment in 5G test bed facilities across the country.

What will the benefits be?

5G Factory of the Future will provide potential for new ways of working that contribute to broader objectives of UK manufacturing to improve efficiency, productivity, safety, and reduce CO2 emissions and other waste.

By helping companies get ‘5G ready’, the Factory of the Future project will help manufacturers predict downtime, optimise delivery schedules and provide improved customer service in a trusted supply chain; develop full life-cycle product management from incoming materials to products being recycled; and develop new business models and sustainable services.