Iowa’s largest manufacturing employer is integrating fifth-generation technology — or 5G — broadband cellular networks into many of its facilities.

Quad Cities-based John Deere won an auction from the Federal Communications Commission last week to implement 5G in its production lines.

Craig Sutton, who’s runs Deere’s manufacturing innovation, says 5G will allow the company to expand past previous limitations.

“That is kind of the future of manufacturing. We’re very excited about it,” Sutton says. “We want to change the mindset that manufacturing’s the old, dirty smokestacks and the dingy areas. It’s a really cool environment.”

Sutton says automation won’t take workers’ jobs, but it will make them easier.

“We can make quicker and better decisions,” he says. “We can move people to the right positions. We can predict machine failures. We can stay in front of any machine that might be having a performance issue. We actually see things like automation as a way to augment work, and then let the people, the highly-skilled people, do the work that they’re skilled at doing.”

Deere is laying the groundwork to switch to 5G next year with a complete rollout expected within 12-14 months.

The tech will be implemented at Deere facilities in four Iowa counties — Black Hawk, Dubuque, Polk and Scott — as well as Rock Island County, Illinois.

(By Marianna Bacallao, WVIK, Rock Island)