The data must flow

The connected factory holds much promise for manufacturers, but if its full potential is to be realised, a raft of practical issues need to be considered and resolved, as Sam Fenwick discovers

Steve Johnson, Ruckus’s regional director, Northern Europe, sets the scene: “Contrary to commonly held opinion, the UK is still the eighth-largest industrial nation in the world. It still contributes over 10 per cent of [the UK’s] GVA (gross value added). The UK’s manufacturing industry spends more on IT infrastructure than healthcare, education and retail, and it’s only just behind a tech-heavy investment industry like the finance industry.”

Manufacturing has also in many ways come full circle, returning to the time before Henry Ford pioneered mass production, when customisation to precise requirements was routine rather than a rare exception. The obvious example is the car industry, where the dizzying amount of choice is prompting manufacturers to invest in augmented reality (AR) apps to help their customers make sense of it all. According to Erik Josefsson, head of advanced industries at Ericsson, it’s also happening in the telecoms industry, with Ericsson’s own products being customised for the purchaser in a modular way. He explains that this trend and the demands it places on the factory floor in terms of flexibility is driving a shift towards mobility.

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