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5G private networks set to transform SA’s manufacturing sector

Johannesburg, 11 Dec 2023
Sudipto Moitra, GM: ICT Solutions, MTN Business.
Sudipto Moitra, GM: ICT Solutions, MTN Business.

Traditional manufacturing challenges – which range from machine downtime and maintenance to supply chain delays, quality issues and inefficient material handling – can be reduced significantly by using 5G private networks to drive the optimisation of processes.

This is according to Sudipto Moitra, General Manager – ICT at MTN SA Enterprise Business, who says: “Across the world, manufacturing companies that have added 5G private networks to their operations are already benefiting from the technology, which is driving automation, the internet of things (IOT) and artificial intelligence (AI) on the factory floor.”

5G connectivity is predicted to add US$13.2 trillion to the global value produced by industries by 2035. Of this, almost 33% will come from manufacturing.

Moitra explains that the benefits of private 5G networks include exclusive capacity, as there is no competition for space from other network users. Private 5G networks deliver high data speeds, faster than previous connectivity, which translates into quicker downloads and uploads of large files and data sets, video streaming and large-scale data transfers.

Moitra adds: “Notably, the problems associated with working in industrial areas far from urban centres and having spotty or weak indoor coverage are eliminated.

“5G private networks, with their improved performance and dedicated capacity, support a range of 4IR use cases in manufacturing. Because they run separately from public networks, they can be deployed within a customer’s premises or in specified geographical areas, offering a dedicated and isolated network environment,” he says.

Moitra says moving to 5G private networks can help improve production quality by supporting predictive analysis to reduce the number of defects and detect damage in real-time. It also enables virtual reality-based training, to improve productivity, efficiency and safer work practices.

The ‘smart factories’ that increasingly rely on automation, augmented reality and IOT will see 5G private networks powering devices and sensors around the factory, integrating AI into operations.

The introduction of 5G private networks will also see industrial robotics communicating more reliably and with much less delay than was previously possible. Tethered and untethered robots could also be controlled, monitored and reconfigured remotely over the 5G private network.

In a sector where supply chain stock sitting idly on shelves is expensive, 5G private network users are effectively managing supply chains by utilising ‘just in time’ (JIT) techniques to ensure that materials and equipment are available when needed. The benefits are reduced production delays and improved efficiency.

Moitra says: “MTN believes that 5G private networks will play a pivotal role in transforming manufacturing. Its judicious implementation will be especially beneficial to African-based manufacturers who will be able to use its capabilities to leapfrog competitors who are not as connected, while producing high-quality, desirable products for local and international markets.”