At the mention of Huawei's new Songshan Lake base, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the picturesque, fairytale-style campus.
In fact, a tidal wave of digital transformation in industrial scenarios is quietly gaining momentum. Next, let's take a look at how AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 powers this digital transformation journey.
Currently, Huawei's automatic production lines in the Songshan Lake Digital Factory can produce one mobile phone every 20 seconds and one AP every 45 seconds. Such high efficiency can only be achieved through digital transformation of the production lines with wireless networks playing an increasingly pivotal role. Any network fault may affect production, so how can faults be prevented or quickly rectified? At Huawei's Songshan Lake base, how has Huawei made digital transformation a big success?
Huawei's Songshan Lake Digital Factory is a real-world example with tangible benefits of digital transformation. The Digital Factory provides end-to-end services, from raw material and semi-finished product processing to integrated equipment testing and assembly to delivery.
Due to rapid business growth in recent years, Huawei's Digital Factory has accelerated digital transformation, focusing on seven areas: IoT for asset management; going from wired to wireless connections; Automated Optical Inspection (AOI); automatic upgrading and testing; Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV); PLC control; and AR/VR.
Digital transformation has enhanced Huawei's Digital Factory in many ways by enabling flexible manufacturing and smart quality detection, improving both production efficiency and speed, as well as enhancing inspection precision.
In the past, Huawei's production line relied on wired connections, requiring the inspection stations to directly transmit photographing data to industrial PCs installed on the stations for inspection. Each station had one industrial PC, but these resources could not be shared. Combining these edge computing resources could reduce inspection costs. In particular, Huawei's smartphone production line needed to replace the industrial PCs approximately two or three times a year, which takes eight hours each time, severely affecting productivity.
Huawei wanted to introduce a wireless network to tackle this problem. The wireless network needed to support real-time transmission of the photographing data, without the need for industrial PCs to perform data compression. At Huawei, a typical production line has four inspection stations, each equipped with two 8K UHD cameras. Moreover, there are typically multiple production lines in a single workshop. The wireless network must cope with the high demands from all these UHD cameras, and an estimated uplink bandwidth of 2 Gbit/s per AP was needed.
Huawei conducted multiple verification tests and found that only the highest-specification Wi-Fi 6 products can deliver the network performance required for high-density scenarios that involves multi-AP and multi-connection continuous coverage networking.
On Huawei's mobile terminal production line, version upgrades had to be conducted at least twice. The first upgrade was a test version to perform mandatory tests, while the second was the official release version for factory delivery. In the past, Huawei used a USB copy to manually upgrade the terminals. This approach was error-prone because any version changes before factory delivery would require all USB flash drives to be updated. Wi-Fi was introduced to the production line so that terminals could be automatically upgraded and tested wirelessly.
The most advanced 8x8 MU-MIMO Wi-Fi 6 APs were deployed to make full use of the new terminals' capability to support Wi-Fi 6 and the 160 MHz bandwidth. These Wi-Fi 6 APs can work at the 160 MHz bandwidth to provide super-fast wireless access for terminals and a shielding box prevents interference. As such, after terminals automatically complete the version upgrade, the related verification tests can be automatically carried out, so the entire process is now automated.
AGVs are widely used in Huawei's factories and warehouses to improve efficiencies in sorting and shipping. AGVs, however, require exceptionally high network reliability. They would stop working when there is packet loss, network disconnection, or even long network latency, reducing the overall work efficiency. To ensure smooth operations, the running speed of AGVs was set to 50 cm/s, and the number of AGVs was limited to 50 per 1000 square meters. However, as the capacity of the production line increases, more AGVs running at higher speeds were needed, posing new challenges to the network.
By fully considering the roaming principle for the cellular network, Huawei developed a lossless roaming technology that ensures zero packet loss even when AGVs are operating at high speeds (2 m/s). Additionally, this technology enables 200 AGVs to work concurrently within 1000 square meters, improving the production efficiency considerably.
Inside Huawei's Digital Factory, all IoT endpoints, such as Wi-Fi enabled PLC, RFID material identification, asset tag, and energy sensors, need to upload data through the network. In a typical workshop area, more than 1600 IoT endpoints need to be connected, involving a wide range of IoT protocols. For this reason, it is unrealistic to build a dedicated network for each IoT protocol.
Huawei adopted a Wi-Fi and IoT converged networking solution to overcome this challenge. The solution features Huawei Wi-Fi 6 APs with built-in or external IoT cards, enabling support for protocols such as BLE, RFID, and ZigBee. Meanwhile, iMaster-NCE — a unified network management platform — provides access to a large number of IoT endpoints, automatically identifies IoT types, and implements policy-based access control. Furthermore, open APIs are available to connect to third-party systems.
Additionally, we do what we can at Huawei to ensure 24/7 network continuity. For example, we fully implement reliability and redundancy assurance even during network design. AI is also deployed to predict network faults, quickly locate faults, and analyze root causes, ensuring a high quality network experience, free from interruptions.
This year's Wireless Global Congress (WGC) — hosted by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) — explored how "Wi-Fi Connects the World," with many renowned Wi-Fi device and chip vendors in attendance. Based on the session's theme of "Wi-Fi 6: A Step Change in Technology," Li Xing, President of the Campus Network Domain, Huawei's Data Communication Product Line, delivered a speech titled "Wi-Fi 6: Advanced Use Cases for the Manufacturing Industry" on June 18, 2020.
Dr. Li Xing stated,"During digital transformation and upgrade of campuses, we've noticed that industrial manufacturing campuses have much higher requirements for wireless bandwidth, capacity, and latency, compared to common campuses. Conventional applications have long faced Wi-Fi issues related to bandwidth, roaming, latency, and continuous networking, which can be resolved by Huawei's Wi-Fi 6 solution. In addition, the solution enables the entire WLAN network to evolve from best-effort delivery to high SLA assurance."
Today, we are living in a fully connected environment where people, things, and production applications are intricately connected. In particular, the manufacturing sector is undergoing inevitable trends of going digital, wireless, and Internet-based to achieve efficient collaboration between different production elements. Against this backdrop, Huawei will, as always, collaborate with industry peers to actively accelerate campus network upgrades and usher in more efficient enterprise workspaces, smoother application experiences, and more intelligent manufacturing.