How 5G infrastructure is impacting local manufacturing in Africa


Over the past few years, tech experts have been touting the potential of 5G technology to transform the way we operate in a modern, highly connected world. Buzzwords such as Smart Homes and Smart Cities have made their way into discussions at all levels of society. Over the past few months, the rollout of 5G networks across South Africa has taken these ideas from what-if scenarios to concrete opportunities, especially for those in the manufacturing sector.

We’re already used to living in responsive homes and smart offices, powered by the power of WiFi, and it only makes sense that the next frontier will bring the power of connectivity to the factory. While standard WiFi can support multiple networked devices in a home or office, this technology has never been well suited for industrial applications. The thousands of sensors and other devices in a manufacturing or warehouse environment demand a more flexible, robust and secure network solution, which 5G and Edge Computing provide.

Smart factory solutions now offer huge benefits to early adopters in terms of safety, labor productivity, and capacity utilization, to name a few. In a recent study conducted by Deloitte and the Manufacturer’s Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI)respondents cited double-digit gains in labor productivity (12%), plant capacity utilization (11%) and total output (10%) over the previous three years due to Smart Factory initiatives.

The benefits of adopting intelligent manufacturing processes are as vast as they are practical, and initial deployment costs are quickly recouped with cost savings and increased capacity throughout the manufacturing process. According to the Deloitte study, early adopters of AI in manufacturing can drive up to ten different initiatives, simultaneously targeting efficiencies at multiple levels. With 5G, these pioneering manufacturers can connect more devices and collect more new types of data, enabling them to boost production, reduce costs and stay at the forefront of the industry.

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Maintaining an agile supply chain and efficient manufacturing operations has never been more important than in the wake of the global pandemic. Manufacturers are engaged in a global race to harness the potential of smart manufacturing to meet rapidly changing supply and demand pressures. Raw materials are scarce, labor practices have had to change, and demand for manufactured goods remains high during and after the pandemic. The need for efficiency has never been greater and the Smart Factory is the only solution that has the potential to meet our current challenges.

5G is increasingly enabling industrial organizations to leverage powerful edge computing to bridge the traditional divide between digital and physical operations. African manufacturers have a clear advantage when it comes to adopting Smart Factory solutions, as we are building infrastructure at the same pace as those in traditionally more developed markets. At no time in recent history have developing economies had a better opportunity to level the playing field in global supply chain dynamics and manufacturing capacity. With the current pressures on the South African economy, this is an opportunity not to be missed if we are to see the economy recover and thrive in the post-pandemic world.

The Manufacturing Indaba, taking place June 21-22 at the Sandton Convention Centre, is meticulously designed to accommodate industrialists with deep technological knowledge and those lacking in technological skills. Participating manufacturers will have the opportunity to acquire the insights and knowledge necessary to progressively infiltrate relevant digital solutions into their current business practices, enabling them to remain or become globally competitive. Plus, exclusive talks will focus on seasoned tech industrialists to advance their existing knowledge and empower them to take their manufacturing operations to new heights. The Manufacturing Indaba is the perfect platform for African manufacturers to tap into the unique opportunities that await them and put them on equal footing with international economies.


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