MiMfg Sep/Oct 2022 | Page 26

26 MiMfg Magazine September / October 2022
Premium Associate Member

The Network is Critical for Industry 4.0 Success

By Jeff Hipchen • RF Connect
Industry 4.0 is transforming static , single-purpose production lines and often-erroneous asset tracking into agile , reconfigurable factories optimized through big data analytics . These initiatives are achieved through myriad innovative and still-emerging technologies such as machine learning , augmented reality , artificial intelligence and more to streamline complex automation , processes , systems and operational and information management . However , none of this can be accomplished without connectivity .
To attain optimal results , Industry 4.0 connectivity must be untethered .
Connectivity Conundrums and Opportunities
Until recently , manufacturing organizations undergoing Industry 4.0 modernization have been forced to make tradeoffs when it comes to connectivity . Machines and applications that need reliable high bandwidth and low latency are often hardwired despite the expense of multiple cable runs using special rugged cables or conduit . Wi-Fi , although it offers untethered connectivity , lacks the performance , reliability , security , coverage area and handoff capabilities to support rapid reconfiguration and mobility which are hallmarks of smart factories and plants . Lastly , while Public Cellular Networks provide untethered connectivity and overcome nearly all of Wi-Fi ’ s vulnerabilities , manufacturers utilizing this strategy have little control of their network ; they must rely upon and pay the wireless operator to deliver the required network capacity and provision any and all devices that need to be connected to the network .
The good news is the holy grail of connectivity became available in early 2020 when the Federal Communications Commission ( FCC ) commercialized the Citizens Broadband Radio Service ( CBRS ) frequency band which , for the first time , empowers nearly any organization to use carrier-grade cellular spectrum to build a private wireless network without the prohibitive costs of owning or licensing the spectrum . These networks , commonly known as private LTE and private 5G , deliver the same technical capabilities of public cellular networks including high speed and throughput , low latency and strong security which are critical for Industry 4.0 within smart manufacturing , heavy industry , logistics and related sectors . More importantly , the organization has complete control of the private wireless network including bandwidth and upgrades , management of users and devices , and full access to data analytics .
Advice for the Untethering Journey
The untethered connectivity toolkit is continually being innovated and evolved . Next-generation wireless technologies and solutions including 5G , Wi-Fi 6 and CBRS-enabled Private Wireless Networks – and , in the future , 6G and Wi-Fi 7 – will play a critical role in scaling Industry 4.0 initiatives . However , more options often lead to complexity . Whether you are just beginning or course-correcting , there exist best practices for navigating the untethering journey which is critical to achieving Industry 4.0 implementation success :
• Be proactive , not reactive .
• Consider short-term ( 12-24 months ), mid-term ( 3-5 years ) and long-term ( 7-10 years ) scenarios .
• Embrace a heterogenous network approach and adopt the best wireless tools for the job .
• Plan for the unexpected by designing for capacity and infrastructure upgrade contingencies .

• Don ’ t go it alone : engage trusted resources early and often 6

Jeff Hipchen is Executive Vice President at RF Connect . He may be reached at 734-476-6848 or jdh @ rfconnect . com .
RF Connect is an MMA Associate Member and has been an MMA member company since April 2022 . Visit online : rfconnect . com .