In February 2023, Nokia and Kyndryl announced a three-year extension of their agreement to co-innovate and accelerate the deployment of LTE and 5G private wireless connectivity services and Industry 4.0 solutions. The partnership builds upon previous successes over the past year, during which the partnering companies have had more than one hundred active engagements with enterprises across 24 countries. Most of these engagements have been in industrial manufacturing, including multinational petrochemical, mining and timber, utilities and energy companies.
In this article, I examine the Nokia/Kyndryl partnership and the reasons for its impressive growth.
The world of manufacturing is changing
Industry 4.0, also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is the most recent phase in the Industrial Revolution that embraces automation, machine learning, real-time data and the industrial internet of things (IIoT). Industry 4.0 goes beyond new technology and tools to revolutionize business operations and growth.
IIoT sensors now report environmental changes such as conductivity, temperature and vibration to the cloud in real time, allowing automated data interpretation to generate recommended actions.
Many automated assembly lines benefit from high-accuracy robotics that can work 24/7 without breaks or risk of injury (think Tesla). In this setting, private 5G networks with high bandwidth, low latency and extreme reliability are essential to uninterrupted operations. Autonomous machines, guided vehicles and warehousing operations (think Amazon) also rely on private 5G.
Augmented reality provides a virtual environment that helps technicians find and solve problems faster and helps train new staff. Augmented reality can reduce downtime by aiding technicians in complicated repair jobs and eliminating the need to search for information on a separate computer.
An excellent example of Industry 4.0 in action is chemicals giant Dow, for whom Nokia and Kyndryl have successfully implemented a private wireless network with edge computing at a petrochemical processing plant in Freeport, Texas. Dow’s Freeport site is the largest integrated chemical manufacturing complex in the Western Hemisphere, with 40 production plants covering 20 square miles. You can find the whole story on the Dow project—complete with a video—here.
The before-and-after contrast in the Dow project could not be starker. Imagine thousands of components maintained using manual, paper-driven processes. To execute a maintenance work order, an engineer often had to go into the field to inspect the affected components, pull the relevant process documents from the paper filing system, write a safety analysis report and then deliver it to a field operator. The act of digitalization drastically reduced paper and replaced it with real-time communication, making information readily available for troubleshooting and preventative maintenance.
Nokia and Kyndryl: A synergistic partnership
Following its 2021 spinoff from IBM, Kyndryl identified three areas of focus: cloud networking, edge computing and private wireless. It chose these areas because the company—formerly IBM’s infrastructure services business—already enjoyed a strong reputation among customers in them, and because they had high growth potential.
Kyndryl already provides managed services for many Fortune 1000 customers. For those customers, there was already a high degree of trust, which is essential because a private wireless network deployed within an industrial facility is critical infrastructure.
Another important consideration is that projects like the one for Dow involve much more than just providing a private wireless service. They also include integrating operational technology, local area and wide area networks, cloud networking and enterprise applications that run both on the network edge and in the cloud.
Stitching the whole solution together is not an easy thing to accomplish. For Kyndryl, a crucial part of the value proposition for new projects is the success already achieved with other customers.
Meanwhile, Nokia’s contribution to the partnership is private wireless technology which is excellent from an operational standpoint. Nokia’s Digital Automation Cloud (DAC) is a private wireless networking and edge computing platform offered as a service. DAC provides connectivity options with local edge computing capabilities and a catalog of click-and-deploy applications to support operational technology (OT) use cases. Nokia also has a robust portfolio of ruggedized industrial equipment, including edge computing hardware and radio access points.
The platform includes a Web-based portal that enables customers to manage multiple sites worldwide. The portal can deploy applications and push software updates to all locations or individual ones.
Based on results so far, the value proposition of Kyndryl's know-how, system integration and ongoing management plus Nokia's private wireless technology and ruggedized industrial equipment is compelling for industrial customers.
Overcoming customer objections
One of the biggest challenges for the partners is demonstrating business benefits and potential savings to decision makers. Working with global system integrators like Kyndryl, Nokia has created a rapid prototyping system that can stand up a private network in less than an hour and demonstrate its business benefits within one to two days.
Simplicity is an important quality that Nokia has made a top priority. A private network set up incorrectly can have a high cost of ownership, because setting up a 5G network in a factory is understandably much more complicated than setting up a few Wi-Fi access points. Nokia's strategy has been to simplify the process; in fact, DAC resulted from a three-year effort to simplify every aspect of the process as much as possible to deliver the lowest cost of ownership.
Considering Industry 4.0 and IIoT, we are in a good place. There are interoperability standards among vendors, robust security and solution providers that can mask the complexity.
As enterprises adopt Industry 4.0, the effective integration and deployment of LTE and 5G private wireless networking is essential to enable the use cases discussed above. Private 5G provides complete control over data, security, user experience, wireless coverage and cellular device operation—without relying on large carrier commercial networks or slices of public carrier services.
Those who benefit most from improving operational efficiency and safety are in the industrial space, including mining operations, chemical plants and automobile manufacturing. If you fit that profile, perhaps it is time to talk with the folks at Nokia and Kyndryl.