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5G offers potential £6.3bn boost to UK manufacturing by 2030

In addition to outlining the potential of adding multi billions to the value of the UK manufacturing industry by the end of the decade, the UK operator recommends support for manufacturers to invest in 5G mobile private networks, and the creation of 5G test and innovation centres

A study from communications operator Vodafone is suggesting the adoption of 5G could transform manufacturing operations and significantly increase productivity across the country, especially in the North West, North East, Midlands and Wales.

Moreover, the Powering up manufacturing, levelling up Britain report calculates that the successful deployment may add as much as £6.3bn to the value of the UK manufacturing industry by the end of the decade.

The study, with economic analysis by WPI Economics, looks ahead to how the technology could impact the UK’s manufacturing industry and highlights how the adoption of 5G in the manufacturing industry could play a significant role in realising Government’s levelling up ambitions. It highlights key areas where 5G can support economic growth in the manufacturing industry across the UK.

The report’s stake in the ground is that wirelessly connected factories with bespoke 5G mobile private networks (MPNs) can support the sharing of large quantities of data from thousands of devices simultaneously in real time, enabling better and faster decision-making, facilitating machine learning and allowing processes to be adapted to maximise productivity. The report also emphasises how 5G allows for predictive maintenance, meaning monitoring hundreds of variables, forecasting when and where repairs will be needed and avoiding expensive unplanned downtime.

Key 5G-supported applications driving the transformation are augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology, which the reports envisage as being used to visualise and plan designs in detail prior to the construction of physical prototypes. This, said the study, will help workers to maintain and repair failed machinery and enable workers to be trained with less direct use of expensive physical machinery. 5G-supported AR and VR technology can also connect workers on a factory floor with engineers and designers located elsewhere, enabling them to access technical expertise without costly and time-consuming site visits.

Yet despite pointing out the intrinsic technological advantages to be derived from 5G, the report also called on the Government to set an ambitious target to become a global leader in the use of 5G technology in manufacturing over the next decade. It recommended support for manufacturers to invest in 5G mobile private networks, and the creation of 5G test and innovation centres in the regions and nations that stand to benefit most from increased take-up of 5G in manufacturing.

“We are only at the beginning of the 5G journey, but through our work with Ford, we know it offers huge potential for the manufacturing sector and beyond,” said Vodafone business director Anne Sheehan. “To realise this potential, we need to all get behind it, from Government and Ofcom creating the right policy and regulatory environment, through to businesses embracing the power of innovation, and of course us as network operators creating this network of the future.”

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UK Minister for Digital Infrastructure Matt Warman added: “5G can change the way Britain builds and we’ve sparked a wave of innovation in UK manufacturing through our £200 million 5G trials scheme.

“We’ve seen driverless vehicles at Nissan’s Sunderland plant, VR at BAM Nutall building sites in Scotland and Vodafone boosting laser-welding robots in Essex. The benefits of 5G for improving productivity, efficiency and safety in our manufacturing sector and beyond are clear, and Vodafone’s report is a ringing endorsement of how this revolutionary technology can help us build back better from the pandemic.”

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