What’s on Tap for 5G at Dell?

It’s funny you should ask…

This blog is co-authored by Jillian Kaplan.

If you’re wondering how 5G will impact the businesses of tomorrow, consider Exhibit ‘A.’ The Boston area-based brewing company is quickly building up a loyal (and thirsty) following with craftily named beers like Hair Raiser and The Cat’s Meow. As any brewer knows, creating a great beer is a process. More than just choosing the right hops or creating a clever marketing strategy, brewers need a repeatable, measurable process from fermentation through production. It’s a hands-on business that requires diligence because trouble in the production process is always brewing around the corner.

It was exactly this sort of trouble that led Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Company to connect with Dell Technologies for a wireless solution. Specifically, Exhibit ‘A’ was having trouble with temperature control in several of its brewing vats. If you’re unfamiliar with beer brewing, it suffices to say that temperature and pressure control are critical to the fermentation process. A few degrees or PSI too high or too low can change a beer’s taste. This change of taste is not typically good, resulting in a lost batch of beer and, thus, thousands of dollars.

Crying Over Spilled Beer

To monitor beer production, Exhibit ‘A’ uses temperature and pressure sensors throughout its production floor. These sensors help the company control and maintain its entire production process, from fermentation to final canning/bottling. However, these physical sensors require a human to read them, which is problematic unless you plan to spend 24 hours on the brewing floor. Exhibit ‘A’ needed a way to “read” all these sensors and send out alerts when a temperature or pressure reading changed. And that’s where Dell Technologies enters the story.

The 5G Open Innovation Lab and Dell are dedicated to helping companies like Exhibit ‘A’ use technology to find innovative solutions to business problems. Also, there may have been the promise of free beer. Just kidding! We worked with Exhibit ‘A’ to build and implement a solution that could use 5G technology to collect readings from all the sensors securely and send alerts to the smartphone of Exhibit ‘A’ co-founder Matthew Steinberg when temperature and pressure readings went above or below the acceptable range. Now, Exhibit ‘A’ has the information they need, in real-time, to quickly address and correct problems on the production floor to minimize waste and save up to 3% of operating costs. The best part is that any manufacturer can do the same with our starter kit, which is a plug-and-play solution to monitor liquid temperature and pressure over 5G.

After implementing the fermentation tank edge and 5G solution, work was started to bring computer vision and AI to the canning line. Operating the canning line reliably has been an uphill task, and there has been a lot of beer loss. The canning line processes 72 cans per minute, and if just one goes down, the operator must halt production, work backwards, locate, identify and fix the problem. Halting production involves not just losing momentum but often means the loss of dozens to hundreds of cans and the cleanup of a significant mess.

By working with the canning line operators, Dell identified four locations in the line that needed camera or sensor monitoring to detect a can issue (dented, label misalignment, fallen, etc.).

Dell utilized AI and computer vision to identify and remedy the problem proactively. We have created a solution that monitors the canning line via sensors and cameras using Dell’s PowerEdge XR4000 paired with an NVIDIA L4 GPU and computer vision software from Telit Cinterion. The AI on their canning line saves 25% of labor costs during a manufacturing run and frees up their staff to brew more beer.

Private 5G Was Made for Manufacturing

Edge solutions like Dell has done at Exhibit ‘A’ depend on reliable connectivity. If the edge devices, such as cameras or temperature gauges, lose connectivity, the solution will quickly not work properly. Like many manufacturing environments, breweries feature a lot of metal, thick walls and plenty of moving parts. In these conditions, private 5G is typically a better wireless choice than Wi-Fi because it delivers seamless connectivity through solid objects. Private 5G is also more scalable and can easily cover large areas while eliminating connectivity dead zones.

Dell can now bring private 5G connectivity to edge solutions like Exhibit ‘A’ through its recently announced strategic partnership with Nokia. Dell and Nokia have built a demo integrating the Nokia Digital Automation Cloud (NDAC) private 5G solution with the canning line solution built for Exhibit ‘A.’ The Nokia private 5G solution provides the connectivity for the cameras that feed the computer vision capabilities. Dell and Nokia are also working together to integrate Nokia’s NDAC solution with Dell NativeEdge, the edge operations software platform that will provide a comprehensive, scalable solution for enterprises.

If you have a business problem that you think 5G can solve, reach out. If you’re in the Boston area, don’t forget to visit the Exhibit ‘A’ taproom in Framingham, Massachusetts, and check out the Dell solution in action. Tell them Dell sent you.

Scott Heinlein

About the Author: Scott Heinlein

Scott Heinlein leads marketing for Dell Technologies Telecom Systems Business workload, RAN and Private Wireless solutions. He has been on the leading edge of technology for over 25 years with the unique experience of spending roughly half his professional career directly with communication service providers and the other half with equipment vendors. He has successfully launched and marketed various products and solutions to telecommunication market. He enjoys working on the latest advancements in technology. He graduated from Indiana University with a BS in Accounting and later earned an MS degree in Information Systems from the University of Texas.