Nokia's factory in Finland, where execs say they have automated some product lines to ~99%, shows how high-speed connectivity can transform manufacturing (Chris O'Brien/VentureBeat)

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Nokia’s “factory of the future” in Oulu, Finland offers a glimpse into a world in which high-speed connectivity promises to transform manufacturing. But the potential to automate just about every aspect of these operations also raises questions of what roles will be left for people to play.

During a recent visit, I got a chance to step inside Nokia’s factory, where the company is manufacturing its 5G base stations. The Oulu campus is the heart of Nokia’s 5G radio design and innovation efforts, and having that manufacturing facility onsite allows the company to test and build equipment in tandem with researchers.

As 5G networks begin to roll out, one of the most heavily hyped use cases is Industry 4.0, or the “factory of the future.” 5G proponents argue that these blazing-fast networks, which can support massive numbers of connected objects in small areas and with no latency, will allow manufacturers to use automation and data to make their facilities far more efficient.

To prove this point, Nokia will be embracing many 5G principles in its Oulu factory. “We have our own factory here,” said Jani Leskinen, head of Nokia’s research and development in Oulu. “Why not use this as a playground?”


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