The Impact of 5G on Warehousing and Supply Chain Operations
The Next Generation of Connectivity
Industries are responding to these disruptions, however. To boost supply chain performance, companies are venturing into the world of digitization. According to a Gartner report, over half of the large global companies will utilize IoT, artificial intelligence, and advanced analytics in their supply chain operations by 2023. By making use of 5G technologies to digitize their warehousing and supply chain processes, companies are creating value and mitigating risks, while increasing profitability.
5G technology offers a solution to problems that plague warehousing logistics and supply chains around the globe. The next generation of wireless technology offers enhanced data speeds, ultra-low latency, and a 90% reduction in power consumption compared to current networks. 5G will enable IoT technologies to collect, process, and execute real-time data analytics on an immense scale
According to a recent study commissioned by Qualcomm,
by 2035 5G will facilitate $13.1 trillion dollars of global economic output
5G is the fifth generation mobile network. With speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G, 5G technology is more reliable and can carry data at greater speeds with lower inactivity.
5G uses multiple input multiple output (MIMO) technology for multi-targeted tracking. This technology supplies improved speed, ability, and coverage. It also allows more devices to connect to the Internet and stay connected. 5G enables virtually everyone and everything to connect to each other. This includes machines, objects, and devices. 5G technology can provide:
- High data speed
- Low latency
- Increased reliability
- Massive machine type communication (mMTC),
5G networks can supercharge the Internet of Things. Because of this, the use of IoT sensors and devices will increase. These sensors and devices are beneficial because they can provide real-time data that can be used to address key supply chain challenges.
By capturing data from a variety of data sources, new insights can be developed that can be valuable to global supply chains. An example of IoT’s power with 5G is its ability to provide data regarding damaged products. In dealing with orders involving damaged products, businesses can cancel the shipment and instantly notify consumers of a delayed order. This advances the transparency of transactions, enhancing the customer experience. In addition, businesses benefit by avoiding return shipping cost when the item is received by the customer and then needs to be returned.
5G network equipment and devices consume only 10% of the energy consumed by 4G network equipment and devices.
Top 5 5G Network Providers
Samsung ($200.6 billion)
AT&T ($171.76 billion)
Huawei ($136.23 billion)
Intel ($77.87 billion)
Cisco ($49.3 billion)
1GB/second 20GB/per second
10,000 devices per sq. mi. One million devices per sq. mi
Evolution from 1G to 5G
1G or first-generation mobile networks brought about the beginnings of analog mobile phones and device connectivity.
2G introduced digital technology to the world. It made mobile devices capable of sending communications in text and picture messaging.
3G brought about broadband and smartphones. This technology allowed users to send and receive emails from mobile devices.
4G expanded broadband speed and access which allowed for faster connections. This technology enabled high quality video streaming.
5G allows for the expansion of the Internet of Things and all things connected to it. 5G utilizes faster speeds for increased connectivity: 5G is 100 times faster than 4G and can manage 10,000 times more internet traffic.
5G’s Big Impact on Supply Chain
5G technology is upgrading the capabilities of supply chains by giving them the power of real-time communication. This level of connectivity allows businesses to monitor supply chain operations, as well as the health and safety of employees and products.
Supply chain visibility refers to how companies track products from point of production to delivery to the end customer.
5G technology helps to facilitate greater inventory control by providing clear-cut views of a company’s inventory storage and inventory movement. Visibility helps 3PLs and shippers in capturing and using data to meet customer expectations and to improve customer satisfaction rates.. By managing inventory while it is in motion, 3PLs and shippers can supply scheduled updates that limit disruptions.
5G can enhance visibility into supply chains in a way that can potentially stop current and prevent future disruptions. 5G can give IoT devices the power to track each part of supply chain operations digitally. Due to 5G’s ability to supply connectivity to a massive amount of IoT devices, 3PLs and shippers could be able to increase the use of single-item tracking. Attaching individual items with 5G-enabled IoT sensors would allow a company to view its entire supply chain in real time.
This level of visibility can supply information such as:
- The specific location of products
- Real-time inventory data
- Vehicle temperature
- Data on environmental delays
5G gives businesses a way to predict supply shortages and give them time to find alternative sources for goods to mitigate potential shortages. By labeling, tracking, and recording each item in a shipment, companies can know
- When products will arrive on retail store shelves
- If products are under compromise
With the increased demand on workers and heightened supply chain pressures, businesses need access to real time data. 5G technology enhances the effectiveness of supply chains by facilitating speedy data transfer between people, vehicles, and even goods. This ensures that products are seamlessly transported from point to point, with full visibility. 5G makes this possible through its low latency, which allows it to deliver messages near real time. This is highly beneficial because it lets businesses make smart supply chain decisions quickly. According to DAA Capital Partners, 93% of shippers and 98% of third-party logistics firms feel data-driven decision making is crucial to supply chain operations.
As 5G supply chain technologies develop, they will be able to produce data in nearly every segment of supply chains. This information can be used to optimize supply chain performance by revealing opportunities to make decisions that can benefit:
- Inventory management
- Transportation / Delivery
One example of 5G data communication in action is the optimization of transportation routes. 5G can enable the capture, analysis, and delivery of speed and fuel usage data. This data can be used to schedule the best times and places to refuel. During last-mile delivery services, this can eliminate costly or inefficient movement. 5G can support last-mile delivery whether it be by sea, plane, rail, road, or drone.
As the use of 5G-enabled IoT sensors becomes more common, cargo transportation and delivery will become safer and more efficient. The faster connection speeds and lower latency of 5G can drive the machine learning that can produce solutions such as weather forecasting. This solution can be used to instantly identify deliveries and notify drivers of hazardous conditions, diminishing risk and improving the occupational health and safety of workers.
Although 5G has not been implemented widely across supply chains, its use is becoming more prevalent. It is primed to play a key role in taking supply chain visibility to the next level, becoming an instrument to help businesses capture and communicate insights in real-time.
The combination of real-time visibility and predictive technology can increase the operational efficiency of supply chains. This is especially beneficial to cold chains. These technologies can be used to identify shipments that may be susceptible to disruptions such as faulty temperature control which could result in food spoilage. Both shippers and consumers no longer must wait until products have been delivered to know if they have spoiled. Instead, companies can be made aware of products at risk of spoiling while they are in transit. Drivers can be notified so that they can fix the issue or reroute to a safe destination to protect product quality. This information can also be passed along to the consumer so that they can be made aware of changes to their products.
81% of supply chain manufacturers are expecting to adopt 5G in the next five years
Leveraging 5G technology in freight signal prioritization will help shipments move through road intersections by adjusting traffic queues and stopping or unblocking traffic flow.
This can result in:
- Accelerated delivery times
- Improvements in fuel efficiency
- Increased health and safety of workers
- Detailed Product Monitoring
- Improved Inventory Management
- More Accurate Warehouse Management
- Enhanced Automation and IoT Capabilities
- Real-time Data Sharing
5G in The Warehouse
Labor is the costliest expense in warehousing. It can affect all aspects of warehouse logistics from receiving to shipping.
The escalating cost of labor is driving many businesses to use automation.. In 2018 there were approximately 4,000 automated warehouses around the world. Experts predict that number to increase to 50,000 by 2025.
Automation often refers to IoT-connected machines or robots that perform repetitive tasks, create efficiencies, and reduce costs. However, automation also includes:
Machines that perform deliveries
Software that streamlines invoicing
Technology that enhances warehousing processes
Improvements to workplace health and safety
Warehouses and distribution centers are developing their use of the Internet of Things swiftly. Although it has improved business processes, the current networks place limits on IoT’s capabilities. Warehouses and supply chains continue to struggle with communicating real-time data analytics as well as fully integrating their warehouse management systems with smart technology.
5G is bringing forth smart warehousing by shifting how businesses consider inventory and warehouse management. The use of 5G networks enables companies to collect and communicate data in real-time. This data can be used with artificial intelligence and machine learning in autonomous mobile robots (AMR).
Due to its latency, warehouse facilities can leverage 5G to increase the number of smart devices that they use as well as the speed of the devices. This can enhance the fulfillment process by perfecting picking, packing, and shipping operations.
As supply chains continue to digitize, the adoption of automated technology inside of warehouses will continue to increase. The use of 5G can support this progress, especially as the number of e-commerce warehousing and fulfillment centers grow. It can enable the warehousing and storage industries to better manage operational costs by:
Utilizing automated systems
Operating sensor-based controls
This will allow businesses to keep up with growing consumer demand and succeed in meeting customer expectations. The possibilities that 5G brings to warehousing operations seem endless.
Cameras that leverage 5G and artificial intelligence can perform three dimensional visual evaluations of goods inside of the warehouse. This is useful in verifying if products have damages or imperfections prior to shipment.
With 5G and supply chain 4.0 technologies, current issues or potential disruptions can be identified and corrected at once. This is possible because businesses can readily observe what is going on inside of their storage facilities in real-time to make sure that they are running optimally. Capabilities such as this are why there are several advantages to leveraging 5G in the warehouse.
One of the most important reasons warehouse operations utilize 5G is to improve the worker experience. Technology such as augmented reality (AR) improves worker experience by enhancing warehouse associate’s ability to complete tasks.
Warehouse wearables such as smart glasses are an example. Smart glasses relay information to workers based on data received from IoT sensors connected throughout the warehouse. These instructions can save time in the picking process. They can also increase worker safety by alerting them to imminent traffic or provide other routes for more efficient movement.
Automated Mobile Robots – The ultra-fast, low latency wireless connectivity offered by 5G means that AMRs can be utilized almost anywhere inside of a warehouse. This would allow warehouses to automate product inspections or picking and packing processes.
Automated Mobile Vehicles – Sometimes called Autonomous Guided Vehicles, AMVs can move around warehouse space freely to transport and stock goods. Their artificial intelligence allows them to optimize their movement to increase efficiency and safety. AMVs can mitigate risk by avoiding one another or humans.
Automated Inventory Management – 5G and artificial intelligence-fueled cameras densely populated throughout warehouse space can visually track products in real-time. This provides a visual perception of when products arrive, where they are, and when they move out of the storage facility.
Automated Building Management – Smart warehousing allows storage facilities to automatically perform duties such as locking or unlocking doors, changing indoor lighting, or modifying temperature based on real-time data captured in each building or room.
5G enhances warehouse automation due to its capacity to support one million connections within a given area. This is vital to implementing IoT technologies that manage inventory control and robotic maintenance. Sensors can communicate the exact location of faulty equipment so that it can be repaired or updated.
Some advanced robotics could also utilize 5G to enhance its artificial intelligence. This may help to facilitate self-repair and self-updates, without human interference. Warehouses and distribution centers can also utilize 5G for continuous communication between AMRs and AMVs. This capability could allow for full automation in warehouse facilities that can be dangerous for human workers, such as cold storage warehouses.
Worker safety has increased in importance in warehousing. A key advantage of 5G is its ability to increase the occupational health and safety of employees. Using 5G-enabled IoT sensors, autonomous mobile vehicle’s (AMV) such as smart forklifts can:
- Avoid collisions with humans and other robots.
- Stay within specified lanes.
- Communicate real-time inventory storage updates.
- Seek emergency services.
All types of warehouses and supply chains, from e-commerce warehousing to cold storage, can benefit from 5G technology. The increase in online shopping and consumer expectation for immediate delivery will continue to disrupt logistics and supply chains until the entire global supply chain has adopted 5G.
5G powers new ways to keep inventory levels steady and enhance customer experiences. With the use of IoT-enabled sensors, humans and machines can send data across a massive network, speeding processes such as picking, packing, and shipping.
5G can also help advance automated technology in warehousing and logistics. This can be beneficial to supply chain management across all industries. Not only does 5G enhance inventory management, but it also increases the occupational safety and health of employees across all parts of the supply chain.
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