Edge computing and 5G unlock the potential to improve the lives of factory workers, solve growing labor shortages, and contribute to a more sustainable planet.

She drove 30 miles to a single-engine aircraft factory five days a week for 20 years. There she stood for 8 hours in a metal building on a concrete floor at her wooden inspection station. Anti-fatigue mats and high-tech “standing” shoes weren’t invented yet, and air conditioning wasn’t in the super-slim budget. In the early mornings of winter, his breath lingered, cloudy in the icy air. Midday in the summer, temperatures approached 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Dehydration, migraines and repetitive strain injuries were his frequent companions.

On the first day, she received a set of welding gauges and a small paper manual. A few hours of practice later, she was alone. She inspected the gaps between the panels welded to her workbench and inside the tight confines of the fuselages. She rejected those who did not comply. Welders sometimes took these releases personally.

She got on a plane with the test pilot, just once, to show that she believed in her job and that the scraps were necessary to avoid disaster during operations and not personal. Jobs like hers were rare back then, and she was grateful to have it. That was two generations ago; Since then, working conditions have steadily improved in many factories.

Still, manufacturers are struggling to fill openings, and a quarter of the manufacturing workforce in the United States is over 55. Many factory workers are getting older, while others are leaving for jobs in fields such as professional services, trade, construction and administration. and support services, according to the US Census Bureau.

See also: The Many Use Cases in an Emerging “Industrial Metaverse”

Putting data to work for workers

As is the case in many industries, manufacturers are turning to data to help them attract and retain skilled workers with better working conditions and the potential for career growth. Two key technologies in the enterprise toolkit that make these results possible are edge computing and 5G. These technologies allow manufacturers to instantly collect, analyze and act on information from devices, sensors, assembly lines and other data sources in their factories and supply chains.

Many repetitive tasks, such as visual quality inspections of weld spaces, food products, packaging, etc., can be automated. Even welding itself can be improved using self-adjusting, high-precision robotic arms that learn from feedback based on quality data fed into artificial intelligence/machine learning applications. “Co-bots,” such as autonomous mobile robots, transport parts and assemblies to where they are needed, saving workers time, improving process flows, and reducing physical labor and the risk of injury. The training takes workers into virtual spaces where they can observe and practice new tasks in a safe environment without worrying about the impact on production operations. Workers can be automatically reminded to put on protective gear when entering high-risk environments. Materials handling and supply chains can be better managed to save money and ensure sustainability.

How Manufacturing Leaders See Edge Computing and 5G

I am encouraged by the growing number of manufacturing sites recognized by the World Economic Forum’s Global Lighthouse Network initiative and the new sustainability designation these factories can achieve. These factories are paving the way for collaboration, learning and the adoption of transformational technologies, such as edge computing and artificial intelligence, which enable the “fourth industrial revolution”.

A Dell Technologies-sponsored study of 350 manufacturing leaders reveals that a large majority of respondents agree that edge computing and 5G connectivity are critical to manufacturing transformation. The findings also underscore the need for IT and operational technology (OT) teams to work more closely together to achieve modernization, the cornerstone of this ongoing “revolution.”

A new era for a new type of work

The hero of my personal story, my factory worker mother, is approaching the age of 92. When I ask her, she remembers that she really liked “getting out of the house”. This work, his sacrifice, sent me to college, a rare thing among my cohort. While I was there, a friend offered me a ride in a single-engine airplane made at my mother’s factory. I took it.

Today, Mom is (or pretends to be) fascinated by the stories I tell her of how her work is done in factories that rely on data and automation to perform heavy physical labor. and monotonous. If she worked today, she might learn how to make parts from 3D printers, maintain or help deploy and train co-bots, or develop courses in artificial reality or virtual reality. to teach others how to perform new tasks.

Factories that are safer for workers and that give us more hope to sustain our planet: these are the factories of the fourth industrial revolution. They are our heritage our children. Hear what industry leaders think about the challenges, impact, and adoption of edge computing and 5G in this video, infographic, and eBook.

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