Each advancement in technology promises significant and incremental improvements when applied within a specific industry, and supply chain applications are no different. With 5G technology on the cusp of a radical transformation, it is time to examine how 5G is set to transform supply chains.
5G: More Than An Upgrade From 4G
5G technology is far more than a typical upgrade of existing systems: a little better, a little faster, and nothing earth-shattering. However, 5G goes beyond speed. It involves device latency and density, which will transform industries around the globe.
For instance, 4G technology handles more than 10,000 devices within a square mile. 5G technology handles more than one million devices with a single area. This is over 250 times more than what 4G allows.
Also, 4G covers its areas to enable all devices within that area, which expends a tremendous amount of energy that may be unnecessary. 5G employs robust MIMO (multiple inputs/multiple outputs) technologies, which applies multi-targeted user tracking. The result is greater capacity, speed, and coverage. 5G is close to eight times faster and has over five times the bandwidth of 4G.
Transforming Logistics Management
Supply chain industry experts expect 5G to transform logistics from tracking products like microchips to vehicle-to-vehicle communication. Augmented reality applications in the warehouse setting will improve the performance of pickers. All of this will enhance green warehouse practices.
Dramatic Improvements Will Shape Strategies Along The Supply Chain
Because these innovative features are such an advancement over previous technology, 5G will be a critical tool to accelerate logistics transformation. It will improve visibility across supply chains and give access to real-time data to managers. Let’s take a look at the ways 5G is set to transform supply chains.
1. Streamlined Logistics Operations
In the current marketplace, most companies still employ manual methods to track and trace items. However, with 5G, supply chain companies will automatically label, track, and trace each shipment automatically, decreasing issues such as misplaced containers, lost cargo, smuggling and counterfeiting, and overall inefficient manual systems.
While a mass implementation of 5G technology is in the future, some organizations have deployed private networks with tremendous benefits and success.
One of these organizations is the Port of Livorno, a major intersection for commercial and industrial activity in Tuscany and Italy’s most active seaports. The Port of Livorno handles approximately 30 million cargo shipments on 7,000 ships annually. The port worked with Ericsson to develop a private 5G network to solve three crucial objectives: simplify the byzantine turnaround system to greater operational efficiency, manage increasingly high volumes of cargo to prevent logjams, and integrate employees across multiple locations.
As a result, many of the operations were conducted using automated, remote-control crewless vehicles. Management controlled the vehicles through the cloud and distributed computing. This innovation reduced vessel mooring time optimized productivity and saved around $2.95 million in annual savings. Also, the port lowered its carbon emission by about 8 percent annually, improved port security, enhanced worker safety, and improved business outcomes.
2. Smart Inventory And Warehouse Management
5G will also improve methods of warehouse and inventory management along the supply chain. The 5G high-speed network will enable a more transparent and efficient collection, delivery, and storing of goods and products. 5G improves three crucial areas in warehouse and inventory management: facilitating remote maintenance and controls, improving efficiency in critical processes, and dispatching autonomous vehicles for transporting goods.
For instance, organizations may have “grid” or “hive” warehouse systems that process significant items each day. Many supply chain companies want to leverage their network solutions to improve the processing, packaging, and delivery of products, minimize downtimes and improve efficiency across the entire order system.
This takes a wireless communication platform with higher speed and latency capabilities, and higher bandwidth than most wireless can offer. With 5G networking, achieving significant benefits becomes within reach.
3. Track And Trace
5G promises many benefits. At the same time, supply chains will need to adopt a higher degree of synchronization to reap those benefits. Track and trace is one area that will deliver those improvements to the bottom line. For instance, the automotive industry uses mostly manual controls throughout the inbound-to-manufacturing process. 5G will automate the sequencing of parts to reach the assembly line.
Track and trace visibility will be a massive improvement in supply chain logistics. Benefits include higher visibility along transportation routes to and from warehouses. Once parts have arrived, the track and trace continue on the assembly line. Prices on better devices used along the routes will decrease costs while increasing visibility into cargo and shipments. JIT manufacturing will trace parts headed to the assembly line in real-time, quicker than only using the expected scheduled arrival.
4. Seamless Fleet Management Operations
One critical 5G advantage includes efficient supply chain fleet management. Fleet managers will receive real-time data on collision avoidance and vehicle safety status. Autonomous vehicles will employ collision avoidance capabilities and advanced sensors to avoid collisions, keep them in their designated lanes, send immediate delivery updates and call for emergency services. This requires low latency networking for safety and dependability.
5G makes it easier to deploy this network infrastructure while improving these vehicles’ automation features. Indeed, test vehicles using 5G prototype technology have proven safer and more able to come to a complete stop at high speeds. Their high-speed, low latency connectivity and advanced sensors give them reflexes that respond more quickly than humans can.
Companies may also utilize these functionalities for better vehicle-to-vehicle communication between robotic fleets and automated trucks. This opens up the possibility for entirely autonomous fleet logistics, streamlined supply chain operations, and an optimized human workforce. This may save billions of dollars over the long term.
5. Product Monitoring
5G bandwidth enables network slicing capabilities that target specific devices that do not need the full capacity. Also, 5G connects within a dense environment, which means 5G can handle an impressive 1 million sensors across a single square kilometer. Plus, 5G enabled sensors can track much smaller items than 4G can without considerable expense.
Today’s technology allows you to monitor your items at the vehicle level. But, 4G does not enable monitoring at the product level. 5G changes this all the way down to the SKU level. Managers will have a greater knowledge of the product’s condition, location, and expected delivery time.
Preparing For 5G Deployment
To adopt and deploy 5G technology, your organization will need to reimagine and rework your existing data infrastructures. Using appropriate analytics solutions may be necessary, as well as developing new best practices. This may include developing new data management strategies, evaluating your current platform’s ability for rapid scalability, and shifting from cloud data services to low-latency, localized services. However, the tangible benefits are higher efficiency and lower costs.
Implementing these practices will help ensure that your organization harnesses the benefits of 5G and puts you in the most competitive position to identify new opportunities and accelerate your move towards 5G connectivity.
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