The world of manufacturing constantly strives for innovation and it’s no surprise why. The ever-growing global demand for goods creates an intense cycle requiring levels of speed, precision, efficiency and safety to keep pace. To add more fuel to the fire, COVID-19 severely tested the resiliency of supply chains around the world. Innovation became less of a nice-to-have, and now might be necessary for many manufacturers to survive.

In 2019, we cemented a strategic relationship with MxD, a non-profit that brings hundreds of partners together to advance the future of the U.S. manufacturing industry. Part of that commitment included bringing AT&T’s leading 5G with millimeter wave (mmWave) technology to MxD’s cutting-edge innovation center near downtown Chicago. We believe the heart of what many call ‘Industry 4.0’ is next-generation networks and connectivity. We are proud to say we flipped the switch and delivered that high-performance network to MxD.

That means we are providing an already-state-of-the-art facility the ability to help the industry’s best and brightest to better address one of its greatest challenges: using near real-time insights and data to improve all facets of operations.

Knowledge is power, and manufacturers have been using as much data as they can to improve their operations. But those operations are continuing to grow more connected and more sophisticated. The data from an increasing number of sensors, cameras and other devices will start to create larger bottlenecks. If left unaddressed, this can prevent them processing it all quickly enough to make adjustments in near-real time—where it really matters.

As the number of sensors and devices grow, the pool of data will only get larger and more difficult to manage. Enter—5G-enabled private networks and MEC (Multi-access Edge Computing).

These technologies bring the power of a cellular architecture closer to users allowing for new and unique ways to compute data with speeds and performance that can truly transform operations.

By working with MxD to create an environment powered by AT&T 5G and MEC, companies gain much easier access to the network speeds, low latency and reliability necessary to take advantage of more data and use the insights in near real-time. This opens the door for them to create, test and learn about more impactful use cases in a facility that can mimic their own— except idealized with 5G and MEC.

To demonstrate the power of 5G and MEC, we recently unveiled new demos on MxD’s 22,000 square-foot factory floor. We showcase how AT&T IoT – Video Intelligence with 5G can help optimize operations at nearly any manufacturing facility through 3 key areas: production quality, safety, and inventory.

  • Production Quality
    • Manufacturers can use video intelligence to quickly and accurately identify product abnormalities based on error specifications and near real-time notifications. Imagine pulling a product off the assembly line immediately after discovering a defect.
  • Safety
    • Technology continues to make manufacturing facilities safer around the globe, and video intelligence can help continue the trend by creating designated “safety zones” When something enters or exist those zones, the facility is alerted by near-real-time notifications.
  • Inventory
    • Accurate inventory reports remain hard to achieve. Near real-time notifications can help detect the number of boxes on a shelf or when a box is removed. It can also detect if someone places a box outside of the designated area.

Everything that was true in 2019 is still true today, even if it feels like an entirely different world—one that is still in recovery. A study from Deloitte found that recovery in the manufacturing sector to pre-pandemic levels might be challenging. But that does not mean there are no real opportunities to compete and grow.

That’s why we are not passively waiting for the future— we are helping to shape it. And we are doing that by connecting businesses to impactful technology today.

MxD is just one example. AT&T Business is already working with hundreds of companies to enhance their manufacturing and industrial facilities and operations by providing technology and helping to developing new use cases.

To continue the conversation, I will be hosting a fireside chat-style webinar on March 16 with Corey Cook, Senior Program Manager and Solutions Architect at Lockheed Martin and Chandra Brown, CEO of MxD. We welcome anyone who is interested in hearing these thought leaders discuss the roles of organizations like MxD, technology and 5G-powered capabilities in manufacturing going forward, to join us.

We invite you to register for the free webinar here. Also, if you’re interested in hearing more about our work with MxD see more resources specifically for manufacturers, visit our MxD page here, or take virtual tour of our manufacturing hub here.