APAC 5G LEADERS’ CxO SUMMIT, SEOUL: Operator KT is targeting smaller manufacturers in South Korea to drive new growth, with plans to introduce a smart factory offering in the second half of the year to help companies improve economies of scale and lower costs.

Producing small volumes of a diverse range of product, small and medium-sized factories tend to have lower levels of equipment and control automation compared with larger producers, so can benefit the most from smart applications, explained Kim Gwang-dong, SVP of future convergence policy at KT (pictured).

And because they are more labour intensive, frequently changing their production lines, with generally poorer working conditions, they often find it difficult to recruit younger employees, he said.

The mobile operator, the second largest in the country, is developing a cloud-based service for factories that runs on its new 5G network, which Kim believes will not only improve efficiency but make the companies more attractive places to work.

“Large manufactures are going digital, but ICT is not applied to the same degree at smaller factories, which have little automation,” he said.

“5G can drive digital transformation at these companies, and we are looking to them as a growth engine.”

Kim said it will move wired robots to the mobile platform since wireless connections are more cost effective. It will also push the use of ‘co-bots’, robots that work alongside human workers.

KT will manage a factory’s ICT requirements end-to-end. It aims to have 1,000 to 10,000 factories running on the smart platform by 2025.