Building an electronics factory of the future based on the unique opportunities offered by 5G technology is the challenge faced by the LACROIX Group. At their Montrevault-sur-Evre factory (Maine-et-Loire, France) – known as an “Industry of the Future Showcase” – they have run full-scale tests with Orange as part of the “Symbiose” project to demonstrate the benefits of 5G and its application to the Industry 4.0 concept. The technology offers numerous opportunities for manufacturers. First and foremost is the development of the modular factory concept and improved technical building management.

The potential of a (true) factory 4.0

A listed medium-sized family company and an international French equipment manufacturer, the LACROIX Group specializes in the design and production of on-board electronics systems and industrial connected objects. The Group has approximately 4,100 employees at 10 factories and 11 design centers worldwide. Eager to experiment with the benefits offered by 5G, Chairman and CEO Vincent Bedouin explains why he wanted to collaborate with Orange to help build a factory 4.0: “It allows us to go much further with digitalization, in particular with mass data, real-time activity and maintenance tracking, and the use of digital twins.” Our objectives include the option to adapt to variable production requirements over time, in terms of quantity and at any time, thanks to much lower data acquisition costs.



Orange allows us to experiment with new applications, which is crucial.

 

Vincent Bedouin, Chairman and CEO of LACROIX Group

The deployment of a 5G network, a decisive step towards a modular factory

To fulfill the ambitions of the LACROIX Group, Orange devised and deployed an indoor 5G network using Ericsson equipment. Four indoor 5G antennas (Ericsson Dot) were installed inside the factory, with Orange operating a virtualized core network distributed between its facilities and the customer site. An added bonus is the option to locally process and secure data, as well as reduce network latency. The entire process is fully adapted to the needs of LACROIX Electronics, a subsidiary of LACROIX Group. A controlled environment used to produce circuit boards offers yet another example of 5G’s positive contribution to better technical management of buildings and infrastructures. The connected devices, which receive real-time environmental measurements from this zone, are supplied by another Group business, LACROIX Environment.

Able to manage up to one million sensors per km2 (3GPP 5G standard), 5G can deal with an increase in sensor numbers in the factory. Over time, this will make it possible to calculate the carbon footprint and electricity consumption required to manufacture each product.

A partnership focused on experimentation

“Orange allows us to experiment with new applications, which is crucial,” Vincent Bedouin underlines. This is an essential aspect to deploy a technology whose potential is still largely yet to be discovered. This is why an innovation partnership was the logical choice: “It’s an approach which will support our Smart Industry strategy and our electronics factory of the future project (Symbiose), which will kick off in late 2021,” the CEO explains. Another plus is being able to rely on the expertise of two companies to anticipate, integrate and plan the new factory and its new applications. In brief: to innovate.