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Industrial network solutions for a sustainable tomorrow

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As part of our GETIT thought leadership series, CEO and Founder of INCIT Raimund Klein recently spoke with Tata Communication’s Srivathsan Narasimhan (Sri), Director of Strategic Solutions on how manufacturers can equip themselves for future growth and sustainability through industrial communications and digital integration. Here are five key highlights from their thought-provoking discussion “Industrial Network Solutions for a Sustainable Tomorrow.”

1. Addressing critical pain points in job shop connectivity

Global manufacturers grapple with significant challenges, particularly in job shop connectivity and productivity measurement. According to INCIT data, job shop connectivity ranks among the lowest priorities for manufacturers. And while there is some existing connectivity for the job shop, it is limited. Many factories still lack wi-fi infrastructure, restricting connectivity to a handful of servers and individuals with access to specific applications.

The future promises a transformative shift where every piece of equipment will be pre-connected. Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) will sell equipment embedded with pre-connected devices, facilitating seamless integration and data exchange within manufacturing environments. According to Sri, “It’s not just about a factory or a plant being connected, but the equipment, or the devices inside the factory, are being connected. That is just one example of how technology can increase efficiencies on the job shop.”

2. Harnessing digital technologies for sustainable manufacturing

According to INCIT data, while the number one priority for manufacturers is job shop connectivity, sustainability comes in as a close second. In manufacturing, capturing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is critical, signalling a future where products come with CO2 passports. “However, for this [future] to materialise, manufacturers must acknowledge the importance of the last mile in the product journey. It’s essential to transfer the GHG profile of each product through its passport until it reaches its final destination,” explains Raimund.

Another way that digital technologies enhance productivity and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is by minimising downtime in the production process. Wirelessly connected factories enable efficient monitoring and decision-making during production processes. Advanced analytics leverage Internet of Things (IoT) data to identify and rectify inefficient machine settings, thereby reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions.

According to Sri, technologies like digital twins, AI/ML, automation, and robotics rely on foundational technologies such as the cloud, 5G, and IoT to achieve GHG-reduction goals. Yet, Sri suggests that the network may be the lesser contributor from the perspective of manufacturers’ carbon footprint. Sri says, “Manufacturers have more significant problems to worry about when it comes to their carbon footprint: energy management and optimisation, alternative fuels, sustainable sourcing, and viable supply chains for further downstream impact.”

3. Meeting consumer demands through customised manufacturing

In response to the growing consumer focus on sustainability and transparency, manufacturers are embracing solutions prioritising individualised design. The demand for consumer-centric production models focused on customisation and flexibility is snowballing. As Raimund explains, “Manufacturers are increasingly moving consumer production towards individual design, which requires high flexibility on the production end.”

Raimund further adds that to meet evolving consumer demands for transparency and sustainability; manufacturers must adopt solutions that facilitate a transition from mass production to tailored manufacturing processes. Sri also emphasises the importance of placing the customer at the center of the manufacturing process, “We follow this level of customisation ourselves. We tell the customer what the different use cases are in your industry. These are the various challenges. We see different solutions in your industry from the peers we are talking to or working with. Based on that, what use cases do you want to implement, and what customisations do you want?”

4. Enhancing cloud security for manufacturers

In response to the question about supporting manufacturers with cloud connectivity, Sri underscores the critical importance of network security. Traditionally, enterprises have managed network and security as separate domains, often utilising distinct products and teams. However, the way forward will be a shift towards a unified architecture where network and security are integrated seamlessly. This highlights the interconnected nature of modern IT infrastructure. With the proliferation of Internet-based operations and the migration of services to public cloud platforms like AWS and Azure, security concerns are paramount.

5. Transforming manufacturing with 5G connectivity

5G technology has opened a world of possibilities for manufacturing, such as process automation, advanced robotics, cloud-managed machines, and remote production system management. The transition from 4G to 5G offers significant bandwidth and connectivity speed enhancements. This upgrade translates into tangible improvements in daily life, such as seamless streaming without buffering. With 5G, data previously stored locally near factories can now be accessed from distant cloud locations via high-speed 5G connections, effectively replacing traditional lease line-based connectivity. 5G is a viable alternative for WAN (Wide Area Network) connectivity, simplifying network infrastructure by eliminating the need for multiple physical connections to each office.

Looking ahead, INCIT and Tata Communications envision that 5G will be the cornerstone of Industry 4.0, ushering in a future where factories and industrial operations are fully integrated and automated. 5G’s fast bandwidth, low latency, and reliability make it a game-changer for connecting remote factories and locations traditionally challenging to reach with fibre optics.

What’s next? Manufacturers need to explore and implement forward-thinking strategies that will help them achieve a sustainable tomorrow. Leaders need to collaborate with the broader industry’s experts, adopt customised manufacturing approaches, and leverage technologies like 5G to drive efficiency and environmental responsibility.

At INCIT, we provide several frameworks and tools to help start, scale and sustain manufacturing transformation journeys. The Consumer Sustainability Industry Readiness Index (COSIRI) is a comprehensive framework and set of tools designed to assist manufacturers in embedding sustainability into all their operations. COSIRI assesses 24 dimensions across four fundamental building blocks of sustainability: Strategy and Risk Management, Sustainable Business Processes, Technology, and Organisation and Governance. It is an independent benchmarking system that assesses the sustainability maturity of manufacturers and helps establish future roadmaps.

Please learn more about how we are helping manufacturers build a suitable tomorrow here.

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