Nokia, NTT DOCOMO and OMRON bring 5G to the factory floor in Industry 4.0 trial


Nokia, NTT DOCOMO, INC. and OMRON Corporation have agreed to conduct joint field trials using 5G at their plants and other production sites. As part of the trial, Nokia will provide the enabling 5G technology and OMRON the factory automation equipment while NTT DOCOMO will run the 5G trial.

The trial follows the increasing demand for wireless communications at manufacturing sites driven by the need for stable connectivity between IoT devices.

As background noise from machines and the movement of people have the potential to interfere with wireless communications, the trial will aim to verify the reliability and stability of 5G technology deployed by conducting radio wave measurements and transmission experiments.

During the trial, Nokia, DOCOMO and OMRON will aim to establish the feasibility of the concept of a layout-free production line with Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs).

As product cycles become shorter due to fast-changing consumer demands, manufacturing sites are under increasing pressure to rearrange production lines at short notice. By taking advantage of 5G’s high speed, large capacity, low latency and ability to connect multiple devices, the trial will see AMRs automatically conveying components to the exact spot where they are required based on communication with production line equipment.

The trial will also leverage 5G connectivity for real-time coaching using AI/IoT. Machine operators will be monitored using cameras, with an AI-based system providing feedback on their performance based on an analysis of their movements. This will help improve the training of technicians by detecting and analyzing the differences of motion between more skilled and less skilled personnel.

“This trial will allow us to address some of the biggest challenges facing manufacturers today”, said John Harrington, President and CEO, Nokia Japan. “Whilst consumers will experience faster, more immediate mobile communications, it is manufacturers that are set to benefit the most from 5G. The stable, lower-latency and higher throughput wireless connections that come with 5G allow them to truly embrace the Internet of Things. Production lines will be more flexible and adaptable, and productivity on the factory floor can be more easily improved. We are dedicated to helping manufacturers enable this Industry 4.0 vision.”

Takehiro Nakamura, Senior Vice President and General Manager of 5G Laboratories, NTT DOCOMO, commented: “NTT DOCOMO has conducted multiple trials creating 5G use cases with a variety of partners, with factory automation emerging as one of the most interesting and challenging fields to explore. We are delighted to collaborate with Nokia and OMRON in the co-creation of innovative 5G services for the manufacturing sector. We are confident we will be able to prove the feasibility of layout-free factory production lines with Autonomous Mobile Robots and person-machine collaboration, thanks to Nokia’s expertise in 5G infrastructure and OMRON’s manufacturing technology know-how.”

“We are pleased to start this experiment with Nokia and DOCOMO, aiming to bring 5G onto the real manufacturing floor”, said, Shinji Fukui, Executive Officer and Senior General Manager, Technology Development Division HQ, Industrial Automation Company, OMRON Corporation. “OMRON is striving to create innovations in manufacturing through our technologies and solutions based on the industry’s widest range of control devices. We believe this collaboration will enable us to create innovative solutions with 5G to address issues in the manufacturing industries by integrating OMRON’s control technology, DOCOMO’s 5G expertise and the cutting-edge technology of Nokia.”