Ericsson Smart Factory: Sustainable and Energy-Efficient

Ericsson's smart factory based in Texas, US builts 5G and advanced antenna systems radios. The smart factory is 25% more energy-efficient, produces 17% of required power on-site via solar panels, uses 40,000-gallon tanks to collect & reuse rainwater, and reduces shipping distance up to 5 times.
Ericsson US Smart Factory
Image Credit: Ericsson

Ericsson‘s smart factory based in Texas, US builts 5G and advanced antenna systems radios. The smart factory is 25% more energy-efficient, produces 17% of required power on-site via solar panels, uses 40,000-gallon tanks to collect & reuse rainwater, and reduces shipping distance up to 5 times.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) recognized Ericsson as a global front runner in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). It awarded Ericsson’s US-based smart factory site with its prestigious “Global Lighthouse” designation to recognize the deployment of next-generation technology and its impact – including 2.2 times improved output per employee compared to a similar factory without the automation and 4IR improvements. 

Smart Factory Use Cases

 

Smart Factory: Energy monitoring and management

Factories use a significant amount of energy. Not having visibility into energy consumption at the device level prevents the factory management from incorporating optimization strategies. A connected energy monitoring & management system enables data gathering from all the factory’s energy appliances. Factories can use the real-time view of the energy consumption to preset rules for turning on or off relevant appliances, reducing energy consumption. 

Challenges

  • 40 percent of energy and 70 percent of electricity is used by buildings, including factories
  • Inability to define energy optimization strategies due to lack of information on energy consumption at appliance/device level

Solution

  • Monitoring of energy consumption by appliances
  • Gathering & tracking of real-time energy consumption
  • Rule-based turning on/off appliances

Benefits

  • Reduction in energy bill by 5 percent from monitoring & controlling energy consumption.
  • Ability to negotiate consumption per unit price with energy utility companies due to visibility into actual power consumption

Potential Industry applications

  • Manufacturing
  • Agriculture
  • Retail & smart buildings

 


 

Smart Factory: 5G-powered augmented reality for remote support

Factory maintenance is difficult due to the lack of availability of on-site labor. It is also expensive to have trained labor on-site or flying in/out vendors or employees for repairs at the site. 

Augmented Reality (AR) powered with 5G can provide the factory members with virtual guidance from experts for troubleshooting and equipment repair. The AR system with a headset can share real-time video, audio, and annotations for faster & precise support globally. 

The 5G-powered AR remote support can decrease labor, travel, vendor costs and increase the uptime for equipment. 

Challenge
  • It is difficult to complete factory maintenance due to a lack of specialized on-site experts. This problem would further elevate as 27 percent of the US manufacturing staff retire in the next ten years.
  • High cost for having on-site labor as well as flying them out to factory for timely repairs
Solution
  • 5G powered AR headsets for maintenance teams for troubleshooting and repairing equipment in conjunction with vendor support teams and real-time access to knowledge-base
Benefits
  • Reduce factory maintenance labor by 10 percent
  • Decrease equipment downtime by 5 percent via efficient troubleshooting
  • Reduce vendor service cost by 20-25 percent
  • Reduce travel cost by 40-50 percent
Potential Industry applications
  • Manufacturing
  • Energy & Utilities
  • Healthcare

 


 

Smart Factory: Connected drones for factory inspection

Factories require comprehensive surveillance, which is both difficult and expensive. Dispatching staff for surveillance of large factory premises is also very costly and challenging.

Autonomous drones can patrol the factory premises 24/7. They can provide the required factory operational and surveillance information. The smart drones can automatically fly, i.e., take off and land and recharge themselves, reducing the labor and security cost. 

Currently, the 4G network connects the drones. In the future, the factory can use the 5G network for connecting the drones, which would provide live video streaming & precise positioning. 

Challenge
  • It is difficult and expensive to provide 24/7 surveillance and inspection at factories via dispatching people.
Solution
  • Day and night patrolling by inspection drones, responding to any alarms and transmitting live video, landing, and recharging by itself.
  • Lower personnel risk with 24/7 surveillance coverage
Benefits
  • Reduction in the workforce by 10 percent
  • Reduction in inspection cost (e.g., vehicles, personnel) by 10 to 15 percent
Potential industry applications
  • Manufacturing
  • Energy & Utilities
  • Public safety
  • Retail & smart buildings

 


 

Smart Factory: Digital compliance for safety and quality

Factories must ensure their employees’ and visitors’ safety and security on the factory premises, i.e., whether the visitors and employees are wearing protective clothing and accessories, e.g., electrostatic discharge jackets and helmets. It is a time-consuming and cumbersome process to manually check whether each personnel complies with the set security and safety standards. 

A camera connected with a video analytics platform can detect whether the employees and visitors are wearing safety attire. The video analytics platform can improve safety and quality compliance and reduce factory incidents. 

Challenge
  • Factories need to ensure continuous safety and security of all visitors and employees.
  • It is difficult to manually verify that visitors and employees comply with safety and security rules, e.g., wearing jackets, eye and hearing protection.
Solution
  • The video analytics platform can detect and notify visitors and employees wearing required safety jackets, shoe coverings, eye, and hearing protection.
  • The platform also detects people, events, and objects. 
Benefits
  • Improve compliance and reduce incidents by 10 percent
Potential industry applications
  • Manufacturing
  • Energy & Utilities
  • Healthcare

 


 

Smart Factory: Monitoring factory environment

Manufacturers can incur up to $1000 in output and increased waste due to environmental factors such as high temperature and humidity. It can also affect the working environment for the employees. 

Factories can deploy an environment monitoring solution to collect and analyze environmental factors such as temperature and humidity. The related insights can help in increasing manufacturing quality as well as reduce the waste production conditions. 

Challenge
  • Environmental factors such as 90 degrees or above temperature can cost factories up to $10K in output and increase waste.
  • It isn’t easy to understand how environmental factors impact factory production and the employees’ working environment.
Solution
  • Gather and store the environmental monitoring data such as temperature, humidity from the factory floor in the data lakes for correlation purpose
Benefits
  • Waste reduction by 5 percent because of production conditions such as humidity and high temperatures
Potential industry applications
  • Manufacturing
  • Energy & Utilities
  • Agriculture
  • Retail & smart buildings

 


 

Smart Factory: E2E digital thread for production

Unplanned machine downtime results in a very high cost for the manufacturers. One of the key contributing factors for the unplanned downtime is the lack of component history, making it difficult to identify the downtime’s root cause.

Gathering and maintaining an end-to-end digital thread of the complete history of radio components, its suppliers, related tests, past troubleshooting, and a single source of truth can reduce the repair costs with faster root-cause analysis.

Challenge
  • The cost of unplanned downtime for manufacturers is approx. $50 billion per year
  • It is difficult to identify the root cause of failure due to lack of component historical information, resulting in machine downtime, rework, increased repair costs, and recurring failures.
Solution
  • Single source of truth (in data lake) and complete history of each of the radio’ components and its production, such as supplier information, test results, past troubleshooting – for faster root-cause analysis
Benefits
  • Reduction in repair costs by 15 to 20 percent from reduced machine downtime, rework, and recurring incidents.
Potential industry applications
  • Manufacturing
  • Healthcare

 


 

Smart Factory: Wearable devices for alerts and escalation

It is time-consuming to check all the factory appliances continuously. Smart devices can provide alerts and suggest actions to service providers in real-time, based on past actions. The uptime of machines increases with faster response times enabled via the smart devices & smart alerting system. 

Challenge
  • Factory operators and responsible personnel do not get a real-time alert if there is an issue.
  • If operators are not around the production line computer, they will not update the issue, resulting in production loss.
  • There is also no guidance to the operator on the actions required for the issue resolution.
Solution
  • Smart wearables can provide real-time alerts and alarms to the operator and also suggest immediate workflow actions.
Benefits
  • Machine uptime increases by 5 percent from faster response time by the operator. 
Potential industry applications
  • Manufacturing
  • Energy & Utilities
  • Public safety
  • Healthcare

 


 

Smart Factory: In-factory asset tracking 

Continuously checking factory assets is a time-consuming process. Not detecting empty material magazines on time can result in production loss.

Factory asset tracking systems can provide real-time alerts to the service providers and suggest actions based on past responses. It increases the machine’s uptime by accelerating the response time. 

Challenge
  • Lack of information on factories’ critical assets location and status can lead to significant downtime. On average, it costs factories $100K for an hour of downtime.
  • Looking for in-factory assets leads to waste of time and rework
Solution
  • Real-time tracking of critical assets location, status, and condition via integrating the asset tracking solution with sensors on the factory floor
  • Tracks production progress and provides insights to the operators and managers on the factory floor
  • Provides a real-time update on the finished products from the production floor
Benefits
  • Increase repair tech productivity by 10 percent
  • Reduced rework and waste by 5 percent
  • Costs can be reduced by 10 percent on the indirect purchase of spare items.
Potential industry applications
  • Manufacturing
  • Retail & smart buildings
  • Healthcare

 


 

Smart Factory: Visual inspection based on machine learning

Visual inspection is a time-consuming process with a high risk of error. Background clutter and illumination conditions in the factory impact traditional visual inspections of the machines. 

A high-resolution camera with machine learning algorithms can increase the visual inspection accuracy and reduce the inspection time. 

Challenge
  • Visual inspections result in errors in the range of 20 to 30 percent and are also time-consuming.
  • It is a struggle for existing machine vision to handle specific instances, e.g., background clutter or illumination conditions.
  • Machine downtimes from high false positives and missing errors
Solution
  • The accuracy of the production area board inspection is improved via a combination of high-resolution cameras and machine learning algorithms.
Benefits
  • Decrease in labor’s inspection time by 5 percent
  • Throughput increase by 5 percent due to a reduction in false-positive failures
Potential industry applications
  • Manufacturing
  • Energy & Utilities

 


 

Smart Factory: Automated unpacking process

Factories typically use 50 to 80 percent of manual labor for activities. The process of gradual unpacking and placing of materials from one container to another is also labor-intensive. 

Materials are not delivered in a particular order, making the process to structure and organize it time-consuming. 

An automated robot can identify and pick material from unstructured bins. It can then place the materials onto trays in particular locations and orientations, which the production lines can automatically receive. This automation process also referred to as the decanting process, can reduce the labor kitting time by 50 percent and increase production uptime.

Challenge
  • Factory activities such as unpacking and placing components onto trays, in a particular order to be picked up by automated production lines, is a manual time-consuming labor-intensive activity.
  • Overseas material is not delivered in the order required by the production lines. 
Solution
  • Autonomous robots pick materials from unstructured bins and place them on trays in particular locations and orientation for production lines to receive them automatically.
Benefits
  • Warehouse operator labor reduces by 50 percent. 
  • Uptime increase by 5 percent from efficient unpacking
Potential industry applications
  • Manufacturing
  • Agriculture

 


 

Smart Factory: Control tower to showcase plant dashboards

It is a cumbersome process for engineers to find correct and updated production data in the factories. In most cases, the data is stored in siloed systems, and there is no mechanism for the engineers to get overview data.

The central control tower system can provide a master overview of what is happening in the factory by accessing and correlating information from all the factory systems. It sends alerts for performance issues enabling faster response. The efficient alert communication and direct access to updated information from the central control solution save labor hours.

Challenge
  • Engineers take 14 to 30 percent of their time finding the correct and updated production data in a large factory.
  • The process and production information is stored in siloed systems in most cases, and it is difficult to combine all the info to provide a real-time master view.
Solution
  • The central tower has access to all the information systems
  • It is integrated into the factory floor, related security & safety systems as well as building management
  • The centralized tower provides flexibility and scalability to the factory
  • It also raises alerts for faster response
Benefits
  • Reduction in labor hours by 5 percent because of better communication as well as access to required information
Potential industry applications
  • Manufacturing
  • Energy & Utilities
  • Retail & smart buildings
  • Healthcare
  • Public safety

 


 

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