Vodafone and Ford revolutionise manufacturing processes through 5G private network

Vodafone 5G is completely transforming production at Ford’s Electrified Powertrain in Manufacturing Engineering (E:PRiME) facility in Dunton, Essex.

  • High-speed, low-latency 5G Mobile Private Network (MPN) enables ultra secure data capture, real-time independent control, full data sovereignty, analysis and remote expert support

  • Only 5G technology is capable of offering real-time handling of the data generated by the electric battery welding process

  • Vodafone’s 5G MPN also brings greater flexibility to operations, as Ford can reconfigure production lines more easily

  • This 5G MPN has also won two awards for Best Industry Deployment from the 5G Week Awards and Best 5G Operator Innovation from the Glotel Awards 2020

“In the future, we’ll need more flexible facilities to be able to quickly reconfigure as there is likely to be a lot more customisation in cars, for example”

Vodafone’s 5G Mobile Private Network (MPN) allows real-time, secure data capture and analysis that will revolutionise several manufacturing processes.

For example, the motor and battery of a Ford electric vehicle requires around 1,000 welds and could generate up to 500,000 pieces of data per minute.

The high-bandwidth, ultra-low latency 5G MPN is custom-built for Ford’s critical operations, helping to speed up assembly, bring greater precision and boost efficiency at the factory.

It also complements existing technologies already in place that help optimise how people, assets and suppliers all work together.

5G makes Ford more agile

Vodafone’s 5G MPN is also customised to the company’s immediate needs, so they have a greater degree of control and freedom. This will become more important as the automotive sector evolves.

“Equipment is usually fixed and hard-wired,” explains Ford’s Chris White, who also leads the 5GEM project (a consortium of eight organisations exploring the potential of 5G in industry).

“In the future, we’ll need more flexible facilities to be able to quickly reconfigure as there is likely to be a lot more customisation in cars, for example.”

Vodafone’s high-capacity 5G network and the ability to “get data to where we need it," as White says, also open up other possibilities.

Initially, the 5G MPN will transform the production process of electric batteries in the future. Potential applications include untethered robots and automated guided vehicles (AGV) to complete repetitive tasks, AI systems to monitor and run predicative maintenance and engineers able to assist remotely using augmented reality.

Improved security

In an industry where a few lost seconds costs thousands of pounds, security can also give you a competitive advantage.

Having a private network means Ford can ensure that their data always stays on site giving them full independent control of critical aspects of their production process.

Streamlining operations and speeding up production at the electric vehicle plant is not only good for business, it's an important step forward in the fight to reduce carbon emissions and slow global warming.

Ford and Vodafone will be developing other ‘factory of the future’ ideas as part of the government-backed 5G Testbeds & Trials programme.

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