Robson Santos: “5G is a great enabler of disruptive technologies the factory floor can use”


Business Development Specialist at Siemens and Digital Industry (DI) spokesperson, Robson Santos promotes the benefits of 5G to the industrial environment.

Brazil – Robson Paulo dos Santos is a Business Development Specialist in the Automation division of Siemens for distributor and system integrator partners, as well as a spokesperson for Industrial 5G at Siemens Brazil, in charge of the company’s and client’s main initiatives with the new technology.

An electrical engineer with over 17 years of experience in the industrial automation market, Robson Santos deeply knows the new connectivity technologies and their application possibilities in the industrial environment to boost productivity and reduce costs in several areas.

topin: How can the deployment of public and private 5G networks help the industry? 

Robson Santos: 5G is divided into two major fronts: private and public. We will use public networks on our smartphones to get more speed and utilize apps that provide more quality to any entertainment or a day-to-day technological solution.

When we talk about private 5G, it is a company’s own network, which provides a specific environment with wireless connectivity. With it, it is possible to concentrate the information within a physical space so that it does not leave this environment for security reasons.

Another aspect is performance; the industry is a little different from our daily lives: if I send an email or message using an application and it arrives five minutes later, there is no problem. But in the industry, if a machine or device sends a piece of information, it cannot be lost; it has to be delivered precisely in the given time. Often, it is not one or two seconds but milliseconds. We call this low latency, which the private network proposes to deliver. It is fast and reliable communication between equipment.

If you have the product package cut in a very synchronized way on a production line, the cutting information has to be delivered assertively and with synchronism. If I send cutting information and the machine takes five minutes to receive it, I lose a lot of material; it will not cut at the right time, and I end up not having the packaging with the quality I want or quantity I need.

This is the scenario of the industry, which needs fast and reliable communication so that the pieces of equipment involved in a production communicate assertively. These are the aspects of private 5G: fast and flexible communication. The machines will communicate quickly.

I can move machines in an industrial environment, on the factory floor. For example, I am manufacturing “car A,” and now I will manufacture “car B,” which has a production line set up that is entirely different from “A.” Imagine having to change all the machines and restructure the cables. 5G, precisely because it is a form of wireless communication, offers all this flexibility and agility for an automaker and greatly raises confidence and competitiveness because different cars are produced, and the line setup is changed quickly.

topin: This low latency issue is important, so much so that Edge Computing has developed, which is the decrease in physical distance to further reduce latency.

Robson Santos: Exactly. Edge Computing, which Siemens has also put on the market, aims precisely to be a solution that brings processing closer to the machine. On our mobile phone, for example, when we click on an app to update it, it takes a few minutes or seconds, and there is no problem. But imagine an enhancement that needs to be applied to the machines during production. It needs to be in real time, and Edge Computing provides that exactly.

It brings processing close to a machine, which is improved during production and in a very short time. Using Edge Computing with 5G provides fast processing, even higher communication speed, and flexibility because the cables are left aside, and the air is used as a means of communication.

topin: How important is the digital transformation of companies, with the adoption of technologies such as AI, IoT, analytics, digital twins, and AR? How can this boost their productivity?

Robson Santos: These cases make the industry more competitive, with lower labor costs, more specialized professionals, and products delivered faster to the market. Artificial Intelligence, for example, is the capacity to add more human behavior within the process automatically. Now we can apply an Artificial Intelligence algorithm to a production line, which begins to use automated systems to make a selection of products that often only the human eye could distinguish.

We start working on standards, continuous machine learning, trend identification, and production line and human consumption behavior – to adapt those to the production line – and all this makes the industry more competitive with respect to the international market.

Applying all these cases to the industrial scenario pushes industry forward. But how do I apply them? What do I use as infrastructure? I need speed and flexibility in wireless communication, which brings us back to 5G, a technology that enables a series of cases and disruptive components: AI, Augmented Reality, Edge Computing, and Machine Learning. 5G is a great enabler of all these disruptive technologies the factory floor can use.

topin: What has Siemens developed recently regarding 5G?

Robson Santos: Siemens was the first company to bring a 5G-enabled industrial router to the market. It allows any system with no possibility of exchanging information to use this standard to speak 5G. In the industry, I can come across a robot, machine, or equipment without native, enabled 5G connectivity. The Scalance MUM router makes it possible for any device on the factory floor to communicate via 5G technology, even if it only has, for example, an Ethernet port or Wi-Fi connection.

topin: There is no need to invest in other equipment again.

Robson Santos: Exactly, you do not need a new device or machine with a new connectivity concept; you just add a component to that machine, which makes it compatible with 5G and can exchange 5G information between different pieces of equipment, between autonomous vehicles – the Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV). The latter travel across the production process, taking material from one place and leaving it in another one, taking a semi-assembled vehicle from one part to the other.

We connect and enable these devices to speak 5G through the Scalance MUM, launched by Siemens in 2021 as the first industrial router that allows 5G in the industry. Household equipment would not withstand the impact of electromagnetic interference, suspended particles, traces of dust, or liquids, so the difference is that it is prepared precisely to withstand a very aggressive use environment.

Siemens is also working on solutions that enable the private 5G network for the end customer – automotive, pharmaceutical, or food industry. The idea is to have all equipment to create this private 5G network.

topin: Is there any estimate of how much Industrial 5G can provide in terms of the total cost of ownership (TCO) reduction and productivity gain for the sector in a scenario of modernization for the evolution of a traditional system with a programmable logic controller (PLC) wired up to a system with 5G wireless connectivity with AI and Cloud Computing? 

Robson Santos: Today, some data talks about 30% productivity with the application, not all of them, but some disruptive technologies such as 5G and AI. Brazil’s environment, of which we are most aware, shows that some companies, such as automakers, reduced around 15% to 18% of production costs by using not so disruptive but wireless technologies on the factory floor.

In Brazil, a large automobile company adopted a Wi-Fi solution and reduced production costs by about 15% for changing line setups. It is like the example of the automaker: producing a car requires a new configuration of the machines in the production line; it is necessary to swap “machine A” with “machine B,” “machine C” with “machine D,” and this has the infrastructure and labor costs.

This amount was reduced by 15%–18% with wireless solutions in this real case. Imagine if we think of 5G solutions, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality. These are figures that, according to research, can reduce production costs by more than 30%.

topin: It is a return that pays the investment relatively quickly.

Robson Santos: Relatively fast. Yes, it requires prior investment, the maturity of technology on the factory floor, learning. You have to apply it, understand it, and get around potential failures, but it is something that will only happen when it is applied. The industry needs to prepare for this, both financially and technically.

Training people and directing innovation staff within their teams so they are not behind in this revolution, which happens very quickly; sometimes this change is not so visible in our daily lives, but the industry is innovating and becoming more competitive over time.

topin: What is the status of private 5G network deployments in the region?

Robson Santos: We recently had the Anatel auction in 2021, making it possible for some mobile operators to get the frequencies to work with public 5G. There are still many tests, proofs of concepts happening in the industrial scenario.

Today, Siemens, along with some mobile operators and even 5G infrastructure manufacturers, works on at least four proofs of concept happening in real time to make the use of private 5G technology possible. They are companies from various segments – automotive, food, beverages, agriculture – all investing and testing 5G technology in their environments, seeking cases that bring improvements to their process.

There is at least one company doing tests with deployed 5G technology in all of these segments. Siemens even put some to run at its own factory in Jundiaí, Brazil; with the support of some private 5G providers, we tried some ways to improve our production using 5G. So, there is this possibility and companies working with these tests daily.

topin: What challenges prevent greater adoption of this type of solution? Is this the issue of maturity that you have mentioned?

Robson Santos: Entrepreneurs need to have a well-established return on investment and understand that production will improve and in how long. So, in addition to the financial challenge of investing in a new technology that aims to improve its process, it is also necessary to invest in people, teams that will work on the maturation of this technology in their environment.

They will need professionals to put this technology to work, study and apply the improvements in the process, integrate this, and hire companies that can provide advice and work with the sale of equipment for this type of technology.

Siemens is one of these companies and has helped many others achieve this technology maturity on the factory floor. So, yes, there are challenges, both financial and technical, of expertise.

topin: As it is all very new, it is necessary to have this guidance work at this first moment.

Robson Santos: Yes, it is necessary to have guidance, consulting, and people focused on the subject, not only to study it but to keep up with the news. Evolution is constant, we are doing tests, and new things are emerging all the time. The race for Industry 4.0 did not stop, did not remain stationary, it continues behind the scenes, and it is always happening.

Siemens’ DI and SI, by Robson Santos

Robson Santos: Siemens is a century-old company and today divided into two major sectors: services to the Digital Industry, of which I am a part, and Smart Infrastructure – SI and DI. Today, both have actions that face 5G, whether for applications in industry or for smart cities.


Siemens’ Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) policies are part of the company’s sustainability framework called DEGREE, an acronym for Decarbonization, Ethics, Governance, Resource Efficiency, Equity, and Employability, in line with 10 principles of the Global Compact and 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (UN) for all stakeholders.

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