How 5G Will Transform Supply Chains
By Sarah Bricker Hunt
With most organizations either already aboard the 5G train or about to board, supply chain implications are coming into sharper view.
5G promises to reduce latency, dramatically impact up-and-down network speeds and to deliver significantly better network “slicing,” which divides the cellular signal among the many thousands of users, enterprise systems and devices that rely on it.
We can expect to see supply chain benefits at a high level — think strong, lightning-fast IoT mesh infrastructure — and at an unprecedented granular level. Product tracking and monitoring are undergoing a transformation that will ratchet up supply chain expectations from production all the way through to end-level consumers.
Three Ways 5G Will Transform Supply Chains
5G-powered networks will enhance supply chains in numerous ways. Here are three of the most hotly anticipated improvements we can expect in the coming months and years:
Product Monitoring Benefits
5G slicing has the potential to fundamentally change what we can expect from product monitoring. 5G can connect up to one million sensors per square kilometer, greatly increasing the number of units that can be simultaneously monitored with fourth-generation cellular connectivity.
Supply monitoring advances in recent years have empowered enterprises to track qualities like product temperature, but only at broader levels. For example, we’ve been able to monitor shipping compartment temperature. 5G-connected IoT sensors will deliver real-time information about product conditions at an individual, SKU level.
Combined with predictive AI capabilities, producers and shippers could pull a leaking product package from within a container before the damage spreads to other individual products.
Tracking and Tracing Improvements
Complex supply chains, in particular, will benefit from more sophisticated tracking and tracing oversight. 5G will enable larger operations to cut out many of the manual processes used for sequencing goods ahead of assembly lines, for example.
Because goods are tracked with much more precision throughout the supply chain, manufacturers can track parts moving toward the line in real-time versus counting on pre-scheduled arrivals that tend to “show up when they show up.”
5G-infused warehousing will similarly benefit: This will be especially apparent for warehousers that move and manage high volumes of small parcels and individual goods frequently picked and packed together.
Three cheers for reduced latency! After all, this 5G benefit is surely one of the most anticipated improvements for consumers and enterprises alike. Less lag time means sensors are detected more quickly by the various linked systems up and down the supply chain.
Gaining true real-time control over sensor data will allow suppliers to do things like line up delivery vehicles in a smarter way and to better program and automate warehouse robots.
How Soon Is Soon?
We’ll soon be able to pinpoint the movement of goods with near-scientific precision. How soon is soon? Gartner reports that end-to-end 5G infrastructure will be available through most cellular service providers by 2025 to 2030. In the meantime, savvy enterprises are jumping ahead of the pack by building out their own 5G networks for specific uses, including supply chain applications.