The eventual widespread deployment and adoption of 5G technology will change the way companies operate and transform supply chain management and logistics operations, according to a new report from Transport Intelligence (Ti).
5G is fifth-generation wireless network technology, which is expected to take mobile data communications to another level by supporting more devices and allowing much faster speeds simultaneously, the Ti whitepaper on 5G and its implications for the logistics sector said.
5G technology will reshape how enterprises operate, introduce new business models and reshape the economic models of many countries, said Ken Lyon of the Ti Advisory Board, author of the report. It will enable the practical deployment of new manufacturing capabilities such as large-scale 3D printing. It can give any company the potential to become a virtual one, able to extend its operations to the most appropriate location.
As the technology develops, it is also expected to transform logistics operations in at least five key areas, said Ti, a UK-based transport and logistics intelligence service provider.
Visibility. 5G is seen to deliver instant and accurate visibility across and into supply chain operations, improving operational performance beyond shipment track and trace.
“Supply managers will be able to monitor and manage the flow of processes and services using 5G throughout the extended network. Any problems or unexpected deviations from plans can be adjusted in real time, maintaining service levels and keeping customers advised of the progress,” said Lyon.
Predictive decision support. With the increase in the amount of data generated by sensors and connected devices across 5G networks, systems that provide decision support to managers should be able to produce more precise options or courses of action, and eventually be able to re-analyze prior data and conclusions to “learn” to make better decisions.
Internet of Things (IoT). IoT refers to a system of interrelated, internet-connected objects that are able to “talk” to each other, collecting and transferring data without human intervention.
5G can enable supply chains with huge numbers of IoT-enabled intelligent devices and sensors to provide a running commentary of what’s happening across the operational landscape, said Lyon. This will result in many of them becoming more responsive and adaptable, leading to potential improvements in productivity, accuracy and efficiency.
As an example, inventory locations in warehouses and distribution centers could self-notify when levels run low, saving cost and time and maintaining the performance level.
Enhanced fleet management. Commercial vehicles have turned into advanced sensor platforms. These sensors monitor the condition and performance of a vehicle, helping to maintain availability and avoid unexpected breakdowns.
“As 5G networks are extended beyond urban areas, commercial vehicle fleets will become part of a continuously accessible transport network. Transport Management Systems (TMS) will be able to command in real-time how these assets are directed for the benefit of the supply chain as a whole,” said Lyon.
Moreover, 5G mobile technology will have a hand in making fleet networks very adaptable and highly available and increasingly autonomous.
Enhanced reality. 5G technology can enable the practical implementation of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) systems.
AR systems can enhance or overlay information onto what we look at as we conduct our daily lives. For example, a warehouse operator can quickly locate an item in a distribution center amongst thousands of other similar items. Using a mobile phone or a pair of AR glasses, the item would draw the person’s attention to its location by projecting its image onto the screen or the lenses in a different color or maybe bouncing up and down.
Virtual reality is where an imagined or virtual image is overlaid onto the real world, again by using a mobile phone, VR glasses, or lenses. This could help with design and layout of a new facility, or redesigning an existing one. Only 5G networks are able to deliver the high volumes of data necessary to render such imagery seamlessly in real time.