Factories of the future, not grey but rainbow-ish

Any car as long as it is black – Nah! That will not work now. Because Industry 4.0 can lead to many exciting changes in manufacturing.

VoicenData Bureau
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Any car as long as it is black – Nah! That will not work now. Because Industry 4.0 can lead to many exciting changes in manufacturing, revolutionising it beyond imagination


At Voice&Data TLF 2023, a panel Discussion on ‘Industry 4.0: Leveraging 5G+ for Smart Manufacturing and Automation’ unravelled many drivers and disruptions of this paradigm shift.

A lot of hype and excitement surrounds Industry 4.0 – but we need to wrap our heads around what it means and transpires. What exactly is Industry 4.0 and how exactly is it different from previous manufacturing models? How will 5G transform manufacturing with smart factories and Industry 4.0, asked Moderator Ibrahim Ahmad, Group Consulting Editor, CyberMedia as he spurred some hands-on industry experts to share their experiences and observations.

A peek at the new factory-in-making


Earlier a lot of data was generated in the manufacturing space but used only in factory space and not in the enterprise, explained Vivek Roy, Head – Digital Connectivity & Power, Digital Industries, Siemens Limited. “Now the industry is looking at flexible manufacturing due to various challenges. This ‘flexibility’ cannot happen without digitisation. And that is only possible with Industry 4.0 where 5G plays an important role. It takes technology beyond the shop floor- with enhanced mobile broadband connectivity, massive machine type communication, and URLLC.”

Dharmender Khajuria, Head- Network Partnerships, Bharti Airtel seconded that outlook and told how all this plays out in various industries. “In healthcare, real-time diagnostics and connected ambulances can be massive advantages. We have showcased such use cases already. Similarly, in manufacturing, advantages like these can be tapped – before, during and after manufacturing. 5G is all about ultra low-latency and a lot of outcomes can come with that. Like – digital twins, flexible manufacturing, customisation, logistics with real-time data, and more.”

Keeping the trail of these examples flowing, Purushottam Konar, Director and Head, Product Solution and Engineering (IoT and 5G), Wipro Limited talked about customised productivity, hybrid production models, IIoT convergence, process digitisation, and bespoke products. “Data will be a key lever. 5Gwill contribute strongly to the aspect of data acquisition. Decentralisation of production with hybrid manufacturing is one such instance where Industry 4.0 will shine. A lot is happening at the Edge too.” He also underlined how MTTI and MTTR – MeanTime to Identify and Repair a problem – will be redefined with 5G.


Bhanu Pratap – Head of Sales, Niral Networks helped to spell out how Private 5G will play a part here.“Plus, there would be network slicing and uses where data is used without interference amongst various services. Bringing the data back and augmenting response time – are also areas where 5G will be impactful.”

Better factories, happier customers

Taking the lens beyond technology and focusing on end-users, Shridhar Krish, Executive Director & COO, Tikona Infinet cited how Asian Paints is more of a Data Science company and less of a paint company. “Today that company has a competitive edge through data – with precise and customer-preference-backed colour combinations. We have come a long way from ‘Any car as long as it is black.’ Now a customer can choose anything and a factory can produce it even if it is just one order. That was not possible with line manufacturing and traditional assembly lines.”


Roy zoomed in a bit on this talking of how all this is not possible in conventional manufacturing set-ups. “In flexible set-ups, you need the same machines to do multiple activities. Data has to travel back for process changes for the next batch or model to be quickly implemented. The response time here has to be finite – it cannot be infinite. That is where 5G plays an important role. It is sensor-edge-Cloud, a new set of layers now. A lot of computing power comes to the Edge now.”

As to how enterprises get started and keep moving on this new path, the experts shared many suggestions on strategy and execution. Konar emphasised understanding the use cases of 5G- Planning on what you want to achieve with 5G in your business. “Day zero is all about network optimisation. Define the number of nodes. Understand which network needs to play where in your factory. You need to find out the blind spots.”

As to the dilemma of legacy systems, Khajuria suggested using clarity on what is required – the outcome that is needed. “People get confused between digitisation and automation. Here, opportunities are immense but an enterprise needs to realise what it exactly needs.” Roy echoed that problem- manufacturing industries are automating well but automation is not digitisation. “One challenge in both cases is the skill level of people- that needs to go up. Especially on the shop floor.”


Khajuria also confronted the fears of security threats that some people have. “5G is secure by design. There are also features for home control authentication- already built into 5G- for example. In network slicing, you get separate networks. Localised networks will emerge as billions of devices emerge and talk to each other. As the technology grows, the security issues will be navigated well.”

The panel also touched upon 5G adoption in other regions across the world, ROI from these investments, the advantage of 5G over 4G in precisely focusing on subscribers (beam formation which was not present in 4G), and other facets. There is good traction in some verticals- Oil&Gas, ports, discrete manufacturing, manufacturing in mining sectors – and are witnessing a lot of adoption in India too. Experts recommended how solution-focused approaches, adaptability, need for domain expertise, integrating new use-cases with legacy IT, and addressing skill gaps can help to propel this progress.

When you drop ink in a glass of water, it sits for a bit before it dissipates in a fast way. The same path can be seen with 5G, Konar augured. Right now, the drop is sitting, waiting to spread fast.