A new report published by Vodafone, called ‘Powering Up Manufacturing, Levelling Up Britain’ (opens in new tab) has found that the adoption of 5G could add as much as £6.3 billion to the value of the UK manufacturing industry by 2030, transforming manufacturing operations and significantly increasing productivity. It also found that investment in 5G technology in manufacturing could increase growth in the sector across the country, especially in the North West, North East, Midlands and Wales.
“We are only beginning of the 5G journey, but through our work with Ford, we know it offers huge potential for the manufacturing sector and beyond. To realise this potential, we need to all get behind it, from Government and Ofcom creating the right policy and regulatory environment, through to businesses embracing the power of innovation, and of course us as network operators creating this network of the future,” said Anne Sheehan, Business Director, Vodafone.
UK target to become a 5G global leader
'Powering Up Manufacturing, Levelling Up Britain' contains economic analysis by WPI Economics, looks ahead to how the technology could impact the UK’s manufacturing industry and highlights how the adoption of 5G in the manufacturing industry could play a significant role in realising Government’s “levelling up” ambitions, especially in the North West, North East, East and West Midlands and Wales.
The report calls on the Government to set an ambitious target to become a global leader in the use of 5G technology in manufacturing over the next decade. It recommends support for manufacturers to invest in 5G mobile private networks, and the creation of 5G test and innovation centres in the regions and nations that stand to benefit most from increased take-up of 5G in manufacturing.
Wirelessly connected factories
One of the key areas highlighted by the report where 5G can support economic growth in the manufacturing industry across the UK is wirelessly connected factories with bespoke mobile private 5G networks that can support the sharing of large quantities of data from thousands of devices simultaneously in real time. This will enable better and faster decision- making, facilitating machine learning and allowing processes to be adapted to maximise productivity.
The report also highlighted that 5G allows for predictive maintenance, which is important for the manufacturing industry. Predictive maintenance means monitoring hundreds of variables, forecasting when and where repairs will be needed and avoiding expensive unplanned downtime.
5G-supported AR and VR technology
Another key point covered in the report is that 5G-supported Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technology can be used to visualise and plan designs in detail prior to the construction of physical prototypes. In manufacturing, this will help workers to maintain and repair failed machinery and enable workers to be trained with less direct use of expensive physical machinery. 5G-supported AR and VR technology can also connect workers on a factory floor with engineers and designers located elsewhere, enabling them to access technical expertise without costly and time-consuming site visits.
"5G can change the way Britain builds and we’ve sparked a wave of innovation in UK manufacturing through our £200 million 5G trials scheme. We’ve seen driverless vehicles at Nissan’s Sunderland plant, VR at BAM Nutall building sites in Scotland and Vodafone boosting laser-welding robots in Essex. The benefits of 5G for improving productivity, efficiency and safety in our manufacturing sector and beyond are clear, and Vodafone’s report is a ringing endorsement of how this revolutionary technology can help us build back better from the pandemic," said Minister for Digital Infrastructure, Matt Warman.