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Mantec Inc. wants to help manufacturers reap benefits of York-area gigabit installationUltra-fast broadband network also will affect Ephrata and Hanover

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You may have heard of it. You may know it's much faster than other high-speed Internet access. But how will York-area manufacturers really benefit from planned gigabit-speed fiber optic lines?

Let Mantec Inc. count the ways.

The York-based consultant and resource center for businesses in southcentral Pennsylvania is launching a technology survey to collect information from businesses that will be affected when the Gigabit Revolution broadband line is completed later this year.

Mantec also wants to help manufacturers understand the many ways in which the service will be useful.

Hint: It's not just about being fast.

"Our existing speeds aren't horrible in this neck of the woods," said Scott Sipe, Mantec's director of finance and technology. "Obviously one of the benefits is that (gigabit) will provide an opportunity for enhanced business processes."

Broadband speeds on the new line, which is a project of York-based United Fiber & Data, would be 100 times faster than currently available services.

The new point-to-point fiber network is being built from New York to Ashburn, Va., via York, as a means of building redundancy into the existing Northeast Corridor data infrastructure.

Business benefits

In the telecommunications world, data transmission typically is measured in bits per second, and a gigabit represents 1 billion bits of data.

For perspective, the typical home currently receives 5 to 10 megabits of data per second through its Internet connection.

What does that mean for businesses? Sipe suggests several benefits:

• Improved design services

Many manufacturers rely on data-intensive design software for projects and production. Storing, uploading and collaborating remotely on such efforts will be considerably faster and easier with gigabit service.

• Planning and production

You've heard of big data? Such large sets of information tend to be too complex for ordinary data-processing applications. Sipe says gigabit service will facilitate easier handling.

• Improved sales

Sipe suggests that harnessing faster and more interactive customer service applications will enable manufacturers and other businesses to increase sales.

• Better machine maintenance

Like big data, the Industrial Internet of Things is another tech concept some companies have yet to understand and embrace. It refers to the ability of machines to communicate with one another on everything from automated operation to diagnosing (and sometimes fixing) problems. Gigabit service will facilitate those types of IIoT applications, Sipe said.

• 'Lights out' manufacturing

Increased automation under IIoT also will enable manufacturers to do more hands-off production, Sipe explained — for example, adding an extra late-night shift when workers may not be available.

• Supply-chain enhancements

In an era of just-in-time manufacturing, gigabit-level speeds will help manufacturers communicate their needs even more rapidly, allowing rapid adjustments in supply-chain scheduling, Sipe said.

The survey

Within a 10-mile radius of the UFD fiber there are more than 4 million Pennsylvanians, thousands of businesses, hundreds of communities and more than 100 existing broadband companies, Mantec says.

With input from the state Department of Community and Economic Development, business and community leaders, and UF&D, Mantec hopes the survey will help all of those stakeholders understand how best to connect manufacturers with the service.

The survey can be downloaded here, and information about how to submit it can be found here.

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Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at rdupuis@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @rogerdupuis2.

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