Companies are building their own fast lane on the information superhighway

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Munich, DusseldorfAt first glance, that looks Osram-Werk in Schwabmuenchen to Old Economy. The heavy, blue machines are sometimes more than 30 years old. Here, for example, molybdenum wires are drawn, which are later mounted on the filament of a lamp. But appearance is deceptive. The machines have been trimmed over the years, are automated. Each step is digitally controlled and tracked.

When a wire spool is full, an autonomous mobile transport robot has recently rolled in and brought it to the next station. Schwabmünchen is a 4.0 pilot factory for mobile networking. “It was probably already factory managers of 30 other companies with us to see how this works,” says factory manager Ingo Hild.

A closer look reveals what makes the control of the mobile robot possible. Two dozen small, gray antenna boxes are installed in the factory halls and hallways, and on the roof a large mobile radio antenna. The Osram plant in Schwabmünchen is the first test case for a campus network of the German Telekom, With campus networks, the network operators, like Telekom, designate a closed area in the mobile network. The machines are networked via an LTE mobile network and as soon as possible with the new standard 5G. Not only does the robot learn when to pick up one of the coils weighing up to 30 kilograms.

For example, virtual reality goggles are also in use, with the help of which an expert in the USA can be integrated when a machine is being serviced.

The Internet of Things, ie the connection of the machines to the Internet, is currently the big topic in the industry. “Networking the machines together is a core element of Industry 4.0,” says Stefan Fritz, who is responsible for the topic at Osram. “And we need latencies of less than a millisecond.”

The current construction of the factory is only a preliminary stage. Because only 5G should offer the full power. The current LTE standard is still too sluggish and does not provide the low latency of less than a millisecond. The mobile robot therefore takes on an annoying but also simple task that is uncritical in terms of time.

The transporters also have their own sensors, and stay where they are if something gets in the way. Via the mobile network the route planning and the fleet control takes place. For other machines, control can arrive almost in real time.

5G especially interesting for the economy

Therefore, the industry is currently waiting with great tension on 5G. A nationwide communications infrastructure is a prerequisite for many applications of Industry 4.0, said Siemens-Industrial Board Klaus Helmrich.

Osram is the pioneer, meanwhile other companies such as ZF Friedrichshafen are following their own campus networks. The telecom rival Vodafone has followed suit and equipped the factory of electric car start-ups Ego in Aachen with its own campus network. Telefónica also wants to offer the technology. A pilot project is to become a factory hall of Mercedes in Sindelfingen.

The global industry looks with great hope to the chances of 5G. Especially German industrial groups expect new impulses for their business and their product development through the technology. A whole series of studies has examined the potentials of 5G for the industry in Germany – from the digital association Bitkom, via the management consultancy Capgemini to the telecommunications service provider Seim & Partner.

All research shows that 5G is especially interesting for the economy long before consumers benefit from the technology. In a survey by Capgemini, German companies rated the technology as important for their own transformation as cloud services. By contrast, artificial intelligence ranks fourth only behind robotics and data analysis.

Corporate customers should be able to use the advantages of 5G via campus networks, ie the closed area in the mobile network, without outsiders being able to access sensitive company data.

Therefore, the public part of the network is disconnected. This can be used, for example, by external service providers for the remote maintenance of machines – but also by the local population. This emphasize providers such as the Telekom express.

Even if a concert takes place near the factory premises and many people surf with their smartphones, the quality of the company network is guaranteed. So companies have a reserved fast lane on the information superhighway via the mobile network. With the introduction of campus networks and 5G, network neutrality is being compromised through the back door. Corporate customers get the full benefit when they are willing to pay the corresponding money.

Great interest of the companies

While many regions will probably have to wait a long time for the perfect network coverage, each square meter is perfectly taken care of on a factory site like in Schwabmünchen. “But it also benefits companies and private customers within a radius of one to two kilometers,” says Osram plant manager Ingo Hild. “Many are happy that they have 5G reception soon.”

Telekom is presenting interested customers with the first pilot projects at an innovation center in Munich. The rush is great, reports Patrick Köhler, Innovation Manager at T-Systems, the major customer subsidiary of Telekom. “Everyone is currently interested in 5G.” Almost all companies have already heard something about the subject. “Now you want to know what that means for you.”

To explain the benefits, Telekom uses a project with special pumps. The DaxCorporation has built a campus network in a refinery of a major oil company. There are several thousand pumps in use. Failure to do so at a critical point can cause the whole system to stop.

A pump is now equipped as a test with vibration and temperature sensors. The data obtained in this way should enable predictive maintenance that should prevent failures.

Robot at Osram in Schwabmünchen

The work is the first test case for a campus network of Deutsche Telekom.

(Photo: © Wolfram Scheible for Deutsche Telekom AG)

Especially for the hitherto restrained oil companies, the new technology could bring a digitization boost. The industry is conservative and long-term in its investment decisions, says T-Systems manager Thomas Weber. “The oil and gas industry does not like experiments. The pace of innovation has not been very high over the decades. ”

This is partly due to the high safety standards. In addition, the facilities for projects are not easy to rebuild. “Cabling a refinery, you do not do that in passing.” Here campus networks with the wireless connection offer great opportunities.

Deutsche Telekom is currently working on offering its customers complete systems. For example, we are currently negotiating a cooperation with a large sensor manufacturer, reports Weber. The Group can offer all the technology – from the antenna to the edge computing platform, where the data is processed close to the machines – for a managed pump. “The customer does not have to worry about the installation.” The payment can be made on a monthly basis.

The automation solution at Osram has been developed by Gestalt Robotics, InSystems Automation and the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology. The driverless transport system uses sensors to scan the surroundings in the hall and thus move through the aisles without accident.

It should not stay with one machine. Driverless transport vehicles should in the future move autonomously throughout the factory premises and communicate with each other. The network is equipped with a so-called Local Edge Cloud. The servers are on the company premises. Complex computing operations can be performed faster than in a remote data center.

Car manufacturers rely on autonomy

The system could soon be rolled out to other Osram factories. Flexibility is crucial in the age of 4.0, says Stefan Fritz. “We can not lay new cables every time we rebuild a line or test new sensors.” Connectivity is “the highway we need.”

“At each location, we test something else,” says the expert. “If it works, it will become standard. If something does not work, it will be buried. “Speed ​​is crucial in the digital age. For this, the employees would have to remain agile. “Industry 4.0 is 30 percent technology and 70 percent cultural change.”

However, not all companies want to rely on offers from network operators such as Telekom. Especially the German car manufacturer rely on independence. For this purpose, the Federal Government has opened a special route with the award of the frequencies for 5G mobile communications this year.

The Federal Network Agency has reserved part of the spectrum for companies and research institutions. They should be able to build local 5G networks. In contrast to the network operators, who had to pay a total of around 6.5 billion euros in the auction, companies should get the local frequencies for a small fee.

Siemens CEO Helmrich says that, thanks to local frequencies, small and medium-sized businesses, even in rural areas, could use the benefits of 5G for digital transformation – “independent of the provision of a provider, similar to today's use of Wi-Fi”. As a partner for the expansion of local 5G networks to provide the equipment Nokia and Ericsson on.

For Osram manager Fritz, a local 5G network is not an option. “We learned a lot. But I would not want to build the next network myself. “Mobile communications operators would have more expertise on issues such as technology and data security.

The technology is now largely developed, the pilot projects are now running. But the technology has yet to prevail. T-Systems manager Weber says, “We need to prove to customers that they really can save costs with 5G networking and the use of edge computing.”

More: Antje Williams wants to convince business customers of the advantage of their own mobile networks on the premises. In the interview, she explains why she thinks this is necessary.

(tTTranslate) 5G (t) Mobile (t) Internet of Things (t) Automation (t) Industry 4.0 (t) Osram (t) Deutsche Telekom (t) IoT (t) Network Technology (t) Transmission Technology (t) Internet ( t) Digitalisation (t) Computer Aided Manufacturing (t) Production (t) T-Systems (t) Cap Gemini (t) Siemens (t) Ericsson (t) Bitkom (t) Nokia (t) Dax (t) ZF (t) Bundesnetzagentur (t) Telefonica (t) Vodafone (t) Thomas Weber (t) Klaus Helmrich (t) Telecommunications industry

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