ABB Power plugs into Ericsson 5G tech to increase factory productivity

Ericsson gears up for the post-coronavirus world with confidence in 5G and reveals project for its 5G-ready Industry Connect with global leader in power technology

Days after pinpointing its 5G capability as a key plank in its future profitability, Ericsson has revealed that ABB Power Grids has deployed its 5G-ready Industry Connect system into its transformer factory to increase productivity and performance.

In its first-quarter results for 2020, Ericsson noted that the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic had made a limited impact on its operating income and cashflow in the quarter, but its sales had slipped by 2%, adjusted for comparable units and currency on a yearly basis, to SEK49.8bn ($4.93bn).

Operating income dropped by 12% compared with Q1 2019 to SEK4.6bn ($425.8m), while net income declined by 5% to SEK2.3bn ($227.25m). Gross margin excluding restructuring charges improved to 40.4%.

Ericsson president and CEO Börje Ekholm noted the uncertain times for the company and the industry as a whole, but said he expected the industry to show resilience throughout the pandemic. He pointed out that the company was well positioned with what he called a competitive 5G product offering, used in 29 live networks across four continents, which would deliver on the next-generation infrastructure’s promises.

Very much part of the latter is the 5G-ready Ericsson Industry Connect deployment at ABB Power Grids, which is the first company in Sweden to commercially use the latest version of the network system in a fully operating manufacturing site at Ludvika.

Ericsson began its partnership with the ABB corporation in April 2019 – extending across research, business and factory connectivity – and the company said it was proud to see ABB Power Grids as one of the first ABB factories to go live with a private mobile network in real shopfloor production, after just one year.

By deploying a dedicated network that combines LTE and 5G in a fully operational factory, ABB Power Grids has access to a fast, robust and secure network that is required for secure data intelligence, said Ericsson.

ABB Power Grids claims to be a global leader and pioneer in power technology, addressing power and automation for the smart grid. As a first step in the deployment, the Ludvika factory is connecting essential tools such as cordless screwdrivers as part of its digitisation process. Further on, handheld computers will also be connected to improve connectivity quality and efficiency.

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The project, a collaboration between Swedish communications service provider Telia, system integrator AFRY (formerly ÅF Pöyry), ABB Power Grids and Ericsson, is designed to show how communications ecosystem partners come together to enable digital transformation for smart manufacturing. The partners have deployed, integrated and managed the 5G-ready dedicated cellular network to enable flexible, efficient and improved production quality.

“We are reviewing remote management of different processes to improve security, efficiency and quality aspects,” said Tobias Hansson, ABB Power Grids’ Ludvika site manager and senior vice-president, power transformers in Europe. “Another example is the optimisation and remote monitoring of our drying facilities, which operates 24/7 and requires monitoring.

“It is important to continue to be a pioneer. For more than a century, ABB has delivered innovations that have changed the world. I think it is vital that we invest in new technology to develop our business.”

Magnus Leonhardt, innovation and business director at Telia Sweden, added: “With a dedicated network, ABB Power Grids now has access to a robust and secure infrastructure to support critical data streams between different systems in a connected factory. It is also an innovation platform to test new technologies with partners. We are now discussing how to connect more of the production in the factory to accelerate the company’s digital transformation.”

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