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SME launches 5G trials to transform manufacturing

Posted on 18 Jan 2021 and read 491 times
SME launches 5G trials to transform manufacturingPhoto: AE Aerospace

West Midlands-based AE Aerospace, a leading precision machined component manufacturer, is set to be the first UK SME to deploy a 5G private network and it will work together with WM5G, W5G and its technology partner BT, on three new 5G use cases set to transform manufacturing productivity.

AE Aerospace operates a high-precision engineering facility and produces parts for a wide range of customers, including Rolls Royce, Raytheon UK and Moog. With an ambitious growth strategy, the company believes that all three 5G-enabled trials delivered via this project will not only improve productivity but provide existing clients with a better quality of service, as well as creating new business models and new revenue streams.

In trialling 5G, powered by BT’s world-class EE mobile network, AE Aerospace hopes to realise significant benefits, including the ability to maximise machine time, provide more accurate assurance that parts have been machined to specification with increased speed and efficiency, as well as being able to eliminate the need to re-work or replace damaged components impaired in transit.

Through these trials, the company will aspire to set a precedent to help the SME aerospace sector to take a leap forward in terms of ‘on time, in full’ delivery.

Manufacturing is a critical sector for the UK economy and the Midlands is the heartland of UK industry, accounting for more than £32 billion a year and 22% of jobs in the region.

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 the supply chains. The Covid-19 pandemic has greatly disrupted the manufacturing sector, but new Industry 4.0 technologies – including 5G – have the potential to power recovery by transforming productivity.

5G enables productivity improvements by connecting sensors on machines securely and in real-time to data platforms and applications to optimise processes and equipment.

Recognising the critical importance 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, which are the first projects in WM5G’s Manufacturing testbed.

WM5G will be supporting these trials working closely with W5G and its strategic technology partner BT, to integrate the technology infrastructure required to deliver the 5G trials. As part of the project, BT’s 5G connectivity will deliver the high reliability, high capacity and fast response times needed to support the Private Network deployment and 5G use case trials.

high-quality wireless 5G

The first 5G use case, known as ‘Machine Time Servitization’, will see high-quality wireless 5G and a range of sensors installed across the factory floor to enable wireless connectivity between machines, allowing high-volume data capture.

The ability to understand production flows and machine time utilisation is what will enable AE Aerospace to offer machine time to its clients.

A ‘Mobile Asset Location and Calibration Tracking’ trial will allow AE Aerospace to provide 100% assurance that its parts have been machined and measured to specification. Production units have many surfaces, holes and screw threads that must be measured manually with gauges. By tagging all the gauges, their location can be tracked and identified in real time over 5G — AE Aerospace will increase its speed and accuracy of measurement as a result.

Finally, AE Aerospace and WM5G will experiment with 5G to improve ‘Product Quality Assurance’ by eliminating the need to re-work or replace damaged components. By utilising a private 5G network, real-time ultra-high definition image comparison can take place to ensure product quality assurance prior to AE Aerospace shipping out products to customers.

The key learnings and best practice from these trials will be shared with the region’s manufacturing industry to help accelerate the adoption of 5G technology within the sector. Any efficiencies and productivity gains that AE Aerospace and WM5G prove from these trials could also be replicated across the sector to support the region’s economic growth.

Peter Bruch, AE Aerospace managing director, said: “We are delighted to have been chosen by WM5G, W5G and BT to develop the 5G Technology which will fast forward our Glass Factory, Servitized programme; by improving our productivity and flexibility, reducing costs and lead time for our customers. Post-Covid-19 and Brexit, we believe that this support will be a driving force, enabling the UK Manufacturing sector to compete on the world stage.”

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, added: “We face a massive challenge to get our economy back on track once this pandemic is finally over and we must capitalise on new technology to supercharge that recovery.

“By winning the Government competition to become the UK’s first large-scale 5G testbed, our region and its businesses are in a unique position to test and prove the opportunity for 5G to transform manufacturing productivity.”