Ford gets collaborative with Vodafone private 5G

  • July 1, 2020
  • William Payne

Vodafone and carmaker Ford are leading a UK consortium to pilot use of 5G private networks to improve production processes across remote manufacturing sites. As part of the trial, Vodafone is installing a 5G network at Ford’s futuristic new electric vehicle production site in Essex, east of London. The consortium is one of nine projects that are being funded by the British Government to trial advanced uses of 5G technology.

Ford has established a new manufacturing centre at Dunton in Essex, England, to produce electric vehicles. A Ford EV partner, welding specialist TWI, operates a site in the English county of Cambridge. A separate 5G industrial network is also being installed at the TWI plant. The private network at both sites will allow Ford and TWI to work together on welding electric batteries.

Overall, the aims of the Ford Essex 5G private network include reducing delays in manufacturing, increasing bandwidth availability across the site, improving security and reliability and increasing productivity, according to Vodafone.

The Electrified Powertrain in Manufacturing Engineering (E:PriME) site at Dunton is scheduled for completion in autumn this year. It brings together an EV manufacturing consortium led by Ford’s global manufacturing team. The E:PriME consortium includes: JW Froehlich UK, HSSMI, National Instruments; Siemens; Signal & Noise. It has been enabled by funding of £12.1 million through the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), based at the University of Warwick, a joint venture between the UK Government and the UK Automotive Council, in addition to another £12.1 million of private funding.

The E:PriME campus at Dunton is aiming at the development of new processes and equipment for the production of ultra-high volume, next-generation electrified powertrain systems.

The Dunton site is seen as key to Ford’s global efforts to design and develop electric vehicles, as well as develop high volume manufacturing and industrial digitisation and digital twin technologies relating to EV production. 

Dunton, Essex, is the main design and research centre for Ford in Europe. It complements Ford’s technology centre at Merkenich in Cologne, Germany. 

Vodafone Business chief executive Vinod Kumar said: “5G mobile private networks act as a springboard for organisations, allowing them to rethink the way they do business. In this case, mobile private network technology makes the factory of the future possible. It allows machines and computing power to co-ordinate in real time, improving precision, efficiency and safety. We’re excited to help Ford plan for the future of its business.”