We are hearing about 5G everywhere these days. What does it mean and how will it affect our industry? 5G is the 5th generation mobile network. It is a new global wireless standard after 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G networks. 5G enables a new kind of network that is designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together including machines, objects, and devices.
5G will help support the move to mobile technology in the warehouses and trucks. Limited 5G network deployments began in some markets in 2019, with widespread rollout expected to take place through the 2020s. The 5G wireless technology promises to accelerate data speeds, improve quality, and reduce latency in the world’s mobile networks all of which means higher performance than today’s broadband wired networks. “5G will be a game changer because it’s 100 times faster and will support 10 times more devices than current 4G networks,” according to the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association.
What Impact Will 5G Have On Supply Chain Management
The speed of 5G and its ability to handle volumes of data will have a profound effect on supply chain management as well as virtually any industry. The technology is expected to fuel the growth of innovations such as the Internet of Things, robotics, and drones in the supply chain. More generally, it promises to trigger a wave of new applications and services that cuts across all industries. Payment gateways will be able to process more transactions at a much faster pace. Document transactions, particularly for international shipments, will be streamlines and sped up and online purchasing will experience a genesis as it all connects wirelessly with countless devices to clouds of data via more intelligent and dynamic networks. 5G is sure to transform online transactional commerce. In our new contact-less transaction environment this is an unplanned benefit.
IoT technologies can enhance supply chain management using identity chips, sensors, communication devices, cloud computing networks, and data analytics engines all working together to fuel automation, continuous feedback, and better decision-making. With 5G, billions more IoT devices can be connected to the global network, according to Ericsson, a telecommunications equipment manufacturer.
In warehouses and distribution centers, 5G will allow faster updates and access to more computational power for a myriad of industrial and warehouse-centric applications. On the factory floor, 5G networks can help managers better monitor quality, increase speed, respond to supply fluctuations, and simplify workflows.
On the financial side of things 5G networks will provide the needed support for systems like blockchain technology. You may recall from some of our previous articles we see blockchain as a significant technology in international commerce. It will enhance the security of transactions and legitimize all parties involved. A blockchain is, in the simplest terms, a time-stamped series of immutable records of data that is managed by a cluster of computers not owned by any single entity. Each of these blocks of data is secured and bound to each other using cryptographic principles. The blockchain network has no central authority. It is the very definition of a democratized system. Since it is a shared and immutable ledger, the information in it is open for anyone and everyone to see. Hence, anything that is built on the blockchain is by its very nature transparent and everyone involved is accountable for their actions.
Lastly, in the retail industry, initially, 5G expected to greatly improve all the things retailers do now with 4G to make money, save money, be more competitive, and offer shoppers superior in-store and online experiences. Then, after a period of maturity, it will open the doors to a whole new age of capabilities. Savvy retailers will utilize high-resolution video, augmented reality, and even virtual reality to differentiate themselves from the competition. A new age of commerce is indeed upon us.
When 5G is widely available, its speed, quality, and lower latency will help realize the promise of many applications already under development, from the Internet of Things and robotics to virtual reality. Many of these innovations simply wouldn’t work well enough at slower data speeds, with lower quality and higher latency. New applications are also expected to emerge, and as with any technology, many will be hard to imagine until 5G is widely available.
The supply chain is seen as a particularly strong candidate for 5G innovation, including IoT devices for better monitoring, control, and even financing. Supply chains that require a high degree of synchronization will see significant improvements with 5G. Consider inbound-to-manufacturing in the automotive industry. Today, companies employ significant manual controls around the sequencing of goods to reach the assembly line.
Higher visibility on the transportation from outside the warehouse and seamless transition between warehouses and transportation will change how we operate these supply chains today. Track and trace visibility is expected to be the major area for improvement in supply chain logistics because better devices available at lower cost will increase visibility into shipments. Just-in-time manufacturing can track parts moving to the assembly line in real time compared to simply relying on the scheduled arrival.
While new technology may birth advancements that haven't yet been conceived, there's plenty of room for making existing supply chains more efficient. Implementing and getting the most out of an investment in 5G may require closer collaboration between supply chain and business users and the IT function in your organization.
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