5G: more autonomy and safety for industry


Automated guided vehicles are becoming increasingly popular in industry. Why? They offer, in part, a solution to the labour shortage. Find out how Orange and F3-Design are counting on 5G for this.


Pallet transport and pallet wrapping machines


How 5G is used 

An automated guided vehicle performs repetitive transportation tasks within a production plant. It can adapt in real-time to its environment, such as objects, humans, delivery of goods for transport, etc.


What 5G has to offer

  • Very high bandwidth
  • Low latency
  • A stable and reliable network, with no risk of outages and thus loss of remote monitoring and control



  • Achieve autonomy through connectivity
  • Maintain real-time remote monitoring to enhance safety, respond to transport emergencies and avoid pallet backlogs
  • Improve human-machine interaction to guarantee overall safety and security


An automated guided vehicle (AGV) can be available 24/7. It enables optimised transport between warehouse and shop floor whilst keeping costs to a minimum. However, to be a truly safe and sustainable industry alternative, AGVs need collision avoidance systems and machine learning. This is the key to achieving autonomy.

Autonomy also requires connectivity, and here quality is crucial: you need sound, reliable, secure and high-performance connectivity that can guarantee constant control of connected objects. With this in mind, the Orange 5G Lab in Liège teamed up with F3-Design. F3-Design is a Dutch company that previously launched a smart pallet truck, called the Nipper. With Orange, they developed the 5G prototype of the Nipper: the Intelligent Pallet Mover.  

AGVs are complex systems and they present two major challenges:

  1. Communication
    To accurately move around and carry out tasks without being dangerous or damaging to the working environment, AGVs need to be able to communicate with their environment. Good communication is vital to creating efficient production processes while ensuring production consistency and scalability. A strong network connection is important. This enables good communication with fleet management software, while ensuring communication between the various AGVs.
  2. Operation
    All AGVs need to be able to manoeuvre reliably and safely, especially in confined spaces. To do this, a stable, high-speed, low latency network connection is crucial.

5G is the answer to these challenges. “In this business, companies of all sizes need to be aware of the new opportunities that the 5G mobile network can bring them,” explains Olivier Nerinckx, Product Manager Device Industry 4.0 of Orange Belgium. “This is why we got in touch with F3-Design, and co-created with them a new version of their existing automated guided vehicle, the Nipper, and subjected it to real-world testing. We wanted them to see for themselves the potential for their customers of a 5G-connected automated guided vehicle. This is also part of the Orange 5G Lab’s mission.”


In this business, companies of all sizes need to be aware of the new opportunities that the 5G mobile network can bring them.

Olivier Nerinckx
Product Manager Device Industry 4.0 of Orange Belgium


Orange 5G Lab: experimenting in the field

In the basement of the Orange 5G Lab is the production line of a craft brewery. The basement is brimming with bottles, kegs and brewers – but nothing here is automated. It’s the perfect place to test the AGV. Nerinckx: “Pallets of barrels and empty bottles arrive via the goods lift. This is used for both empty and full vessels at the same time. The constant back and forth of pallets definitely represents a major challenge in this fairly cramped space.” The Intelligent Pallet Mover can help by taking the empty bottles to the brewer. It brings the filled bottles to a buffer zone from where they are taken to the warehouse.


Safe, secure and reliable automation with 5G

“Previous technologies such as 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi often suffered from congestion problems. 5G is a real game changer as it has low latency and very low jitter – a variance in latency –  while being highly reliable. This is a tremendous advantage when it comes to AGVs as it increases their coordination, improves the safety of human-machine interaction and quite simply improves the efficiency of autonomous transport vehicles,” says Nerinckx.

The Intelligent Pallet Mover sped up operations for the brewery. It spelled the end of laboriously hauling goods around the cellar. Everyone was able to focus on their real added value to the company – their expertise. Once they no longer had to deal with shifting full and empty barrels and bottles, the team noticed that the brewing process was seamless. So how did that happen? Thanks to the sensors fitted on both sides of the vehicle. These 5G-connected vehicles instantly detected any nearby person or object. This resulted in improved workflow and responsiveness, which at fleet level translates to a high level of self-organisation.


Numerous sectors are reaping the benefits from 5G. What about in your sector?

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