A 5G Network Improves Productivity at Worcester Bosch but More Work Required to Encourage others to Follow

Subscribe To Download This Insight

By Michael Larner | 1Q 2020 | IN-5726

Worcester Bosch produces more than 1,000 boilers each day. The company is a test bed for Industry 4.0 technologies, and 12 months ago the factory became the first in the United Kingdom to deploy a 5G wireless network. The company utilizes over 400 machines and employs 1,200 people.

Registered users can unlock up to five pieces of premium content each month.

Log in or register to unlock this Insight.


The 5G Test Bed at Worcester Bosch


Worcester Bosch produces more than 1,000 boilers each day. The company is a test bed for Industry 4.0 technologies, and 12 months ago the factory became the first in the United Kingdom to deploy a 5G wireless network. The company utilizes over 400 machines and employs 1,200 people.

The significance of the facility’s 5G network is not only that it’s a U.K. first, but also that the network has been deployed by the Worcestershire 5G Consortium. The consortium’s members include the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, the 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey, AWTG, Huawei, O2, BT, the University of Worcestershire, Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, and Worcestershire County Council.

Many of the above organizations were present at the recent meeting of the 5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation (5G-ACIA), which held its January conference in Coventry, England. The event was a good opportunity to hear the perspectives of government bodies such as the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS); the telecom regulator Ofcom; public agencies like West Midlands 5G Network and Digital Catapult; network providers; and technology suppliers such as Bosch, Siemens, and Fujitsu.

The 5G network at Bosch encapsulates the potential of 5G networks in a factory and the 5G-ACIA conference highlighted the reasons why other manufacturers have yet to invest.

Worcester Bosch: The United Kingdom's First 5G Factory


Worcester Bosch is looking to the test bed to improve productivity at the plant, which involves introducing sensors across the plant to help understand the performance of the robots and underpin the firm’s predictive maintenance activities. For example, 24 sensors monitor the activities of the robots involved the painting process while sensors attached to a welding machine relay fluctuations in performance over the 5G network, generating 5MB of real-time data per sensor per second.

The sensors come from another Bosch division. The Bosch XKD sensors (including an accelerometer, a gyroscope, a magnet meter, a humidity sensor, a pressure sensor, a thermometer, a microphone, and a light sensor) transmit data to an Ericsson DOT. Data transmitted via the network is secured by international defense company QinetiQ, while Yamazaki Mazak is utilizing the network to provide remote support to engineers.

Worcester Bosch CEO Carl Arntzen believes that, compared to 4G, the lower latency provided by the 5G network means that problems are identified in real time. In addition, Arntzen has found that the 5G network is cheaper than a 4G network and provides more flexibility than Wi-Fi or wired connectivity.

The predictive maintenance activities have already improved the factory’s productivity and improved the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) at the facility. Worcester Bosch used to take its big presses offline for maintenance on a quarterly basis; however, by continuously monitoring the machines, they now only need to be taken out of circulation every six months. Worcester Bosch looks to improve its productivity by 3%every year and Arntzen can already attribute a 1% productivity improvement to the 5G test bed.

Worcester Bosch Will Remain an Outlier for Now


On the face of it, compared with Wi-Fi and 4G the improved latency, higher bandwidth, and allied network security offered by a 5G network is a compelling proposition for manufacturers. So why haven’t more factories invested in a 5G network?

For manufacturers, the process of converting supplies or raw materials into finished goods should be as smooth as possible and applications such as predictive maintenance and asset tracking, which a 5G network can support, should enable manufacturers to increase efficiencies, be more productive and reduce downtime. In addition, a 5G network can improve safety in the factory by alerting individuals if they’re about to enter a hazardous area, help locate items in the warehouse, and/or provide remote support to technicians. These types of use cases were discussed during the conference and often the key reason that a 5G network has not been deployed is that LPWAN, Internet of Things (IoT), sensors or 4G networks can already provide these capabilities.  Manufacturers are often cautious when it comes to introducing new technologies and the potential benefits of a 5G network are not fully appreciated with legacy considerations dictating the thinking.

For Worcester Bosch, the 5G test bed helps ensure that, for example, they don’t have delays in delivering batches of boilers to house builders because data collected from the robots can be utilized to improve the efficiency of the production line and the key machines don’t go offline unannounced. Even if there is an issue with a machine, it can be rectified quickly thanks to Yamazaki Mazak’s expert technicians, who are available to provide support but not necessarily on site.

At the moment, as explained in 5G for Industrial Applications (AN-5122), 5G networks have been introduced by high profile manufacturers such as Bosch, Mercedes Benz, and Haier, or in telecom equipment suppliers’ own factories, as discussed in Ericsson Upgrades Nanjing, China Smart Factory for 5G Radio Production (IN-5612). 5G and edge compute enable a diverse set of Industry 4.0 tools and use cases for manufacturing.

However, ABI Research’s Digital Factory Data (MD-IICT-105) forecasts that 5G connections in factories will be a slow burner. The number of connections will only surpass 100,000 in 2025 and approach 6 million at the end of the decade. By contrast, it is expected that there will be 200,000 LPWA-LTE connections in 2020, rising to 98 million in 2030.

Adoption is being held back by the lack of spectrum and the uncertainty surrounding the availability of chip sets and components—for more information, please refer to 5G and Edge Networks in Manufacturing (AN-4904). Furthermore, UK5G and the Digital Catapults need to continue their education programs to help both large and small manufacturers understand the potential benefits of a 5G network and also speak to the needs of both Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) teams.

Manufacturers are not really concerned about telecommunications per se; they want to know how the latest developments will solve a problem and improve their operations.