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Intel has combined forces with hardware manufacturer Exor International and Telecom Italia to develop a smart manufacturing facility that uses 5G networking and artificial intelligence (AI).
Intel said manufacturers were evaluating ways to take advantage of IIoT technologies such as AI and 5G to reduce maintenance and energy costs and improve workforce productivity, but they were still trying to see the true business benefits of deploying smart factory technologies.
Intel, Exor and Telecom Italia have teamed up to build an end-to-end smart factory in Verona, Italy, in a bid to showcase the benefits of Industry 4.0 digitisation to manufacturers.
“We built this smart factory from the ground up to take advantage of the latest 5G and AI technologies from Intel and Telecom Italia,” said Exor International’s chief technical officer, Claudio Ambra.
“Our smart factory in Verona will demonstrate that digitisation can happen at any scale. This is increasingly important for small and mid-sized manufacturers which are looking to stay innovative and competitive in the market,” he added. “We can’t wait to share what is now possible for manufacturers of all sizes with Industry 4.0 solutions.”
Through the collaboration, Exor said it would open a portion of its smart factory floor and 5G laboratory to other companies to prove how they can move to Industry 4.0 with wireless communication.
Claudio Ambra, Exor International
Exor also plans to pilot a visual quality inspection machine, based on Intel’s Movidius VPU (vision processing unit) and OpenVINO deep learning framework. This will be used to flag and classify defects, dust and scratches automatically in near real time.
5G will be used for internal communications in what the companies described as an “extreme factory design setup”.
The 5G network will be used to test peer-to-peer communications via industrial robots. The impact of 5G on edge computing cluster connectivity versus wired connections will also be assessed.
Other Industry 4.0 application areas being piloted include autonomous human resources. Such technology aims to provide the factory with a way to react to changes in orders and employee availability in real time.
Intel, Exon International and Telecom Italia said they were also looking at smart factory technologies to improve weekly planning and ensure that supplies, components and documentation are in order and ready for production.
The final part of the smart factory collaboration is real-time updates on order status and work-in-progress advancements, regardless of order size.
“We’re seeing Industry 4.0 adoption accelerating and hearing from customers that they are interested in understanding how 5G and AI can speed up their digital transformation,” said Christine Boles, vice-president in the internet of things group and general manager of the industrial solutions division at Intel.
“Exor’s new smart factory is a great example of how deploying solutions based upon standards with open architectures can help lower maintenance costs, increase productivity and take advantage of new business opportunities,” she added.