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The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), a facility in Coventry dedicated to supporting manufacturers to benefit from new technologies, is launching a 5G private network to help manufacturers boost productivity via 5G use cases. MTC is launching this exciting capability in partnership with leading 5G partners comprising West Midlands 5G (WM5G), Worcestershire 5G (W5G) and its technology partner BT.
The private 5G network powered by W5G and BT will be installed at MTC’s manufacturing research facility, located at its Ansty Park site in Coventry. The 5G connected workshop environment will enable enterprises of all sizes to explore multi-edge computing and robotics applications, and benefits, including a live 5G-connected robotics demonstration later in the year.
Manufacturing organisations, including SMEs, will have access to an advanced 5G-connected manufacturing facility to spearhead local manufacturing productivity and support post pandemic economic recovery.
The connected facility at the MTC will allow manufacturers of all sizes to explore the benefits of 5G in manufacturing and inspire to scale up the development of use cases within and outside shop floor environments.
A live 5G-connected robotics demonstrator will also come on stream and give interested businesses insights into how 5G can boost their productivity through connected digital innovation for flexible manufacturing.
The short-term ambition is to prove the suitability and advantages of 5G services in the adoption of industrial digital technology and implementation of robotics in production environments, providing a benchmark for the future of 5G in manufacturing.
Manufacturing is a critical sector for the UK economy and the Midlands is the heartland of the industry. Manufacturing in the Midlands generates more than £32 billion GVA a-year and accounts for 22% of jobs. Despite the prevalence of large manufacturers in the Midlands, most of the value of the output in manufacturing comes from the SME businesses which make up these organisations’ supply chains.
The COVID-19 pandemic greatly disrupted the manufacturing sector. New Industry 4.0 technologies – driven by 5G – have the potential to power recovery by transforming manufacturing resilience and productivity. 5G enables productivity improvements by connecting sensors on machines and other assets securely and in real-time to data platforms and applications to optimise processes and equipment.
Recognising the criticality of the manufacturing sector, a group of leading 5G businesses have come together to co-invest in these pioneering trials. WM5G is the UK’s first region-wide 5G innovation company and forms part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS), 5G Tests and Trials programme. These trials are the first projects in WM5G’s manufacturing testbed. WM5G will be supporting these trials working closely with the Worcestershire 5G testbed and its strategic technology partner BT to supply and integrate the technology infrastructure required to deliver this unique showcase.
The immediate ambition is to prove the benefits that 5G services could have on the implementation of robotics and Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) in a modern production line, such as an Industry 4.0 factory environment.
The longer-term aim is to develop a series of 5G use cases bringing 5G connectivity, skills, and applications to the MTC Core Research Programme, supporting its SME Digital REACH programme and offering a testbed environment for their wider customer and partner base. SME Digital REACH offers SMEs guidance and support to increase productivity through the introduction and adoption of digital manufacturing technology.
With higher speeds, greater capacity, and shorter response times, 5G will unlock the potential of these technologies in a way not currently possible through previous generation connectivity solutions. The MTC workshop will be a functioning facility that is able to showcase this.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “This is yet another example of what a game-changer 5G is for the region, and why it was so critical we won the Government competition to become the UK’s first large-scale 5G testbed.”