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The Inventory Mentor

Nov 8, 2019


5G – The game-changer for Industry 4 and supply chain companies.

Industry 4.0 brings us exciting technologies, designed to improve business efficiencies by automating processes. For Industry 4.0 technologies to be beneficial, they need fast and reliable networks, and this is where we will see a fundamental improvement with the release of 5G. 5G will connect all things IoT, linking and controlling robots, medical devices, industrial and agricultural equipment.

5G is a software-defined network and although it won’t replace cables entirely, it could replace the need for them by largely operating on the cloud. Speed and latency improvements over 4G is the main result seen with 5G where your time to download a 2-hour movie, as an example, is cut from 6 minutes using 4G to 3,5 seconds on 5G. Additionally, response times or latency rates, which is the delay between receiving and sending information, are dramatically improved. With 5G, we will see a latency of only one millisecond against that of 50 milliseconds on 4G.

 While this does not sound like a massive difference in time, consider what one millisecond means to the functioning of self-driving cars. It could be the difference between life and death. A continuous stream of real-time data is needed to enable split-second decision making in a lot of new technologies such as self-driving cars.

5G technology is still in its infancy. Network operators have begun their infrastructure setup with a few pilot projects in some cities in the USA, UK, and South Korea. However, since infrastructure complexities and costs are high, the full rollout will still take a few more years.

Industry 4.0 technologies are prevalent in our warehousing, manufacturing, and distribution industries where it is familiar to see, for example, sensor-driven machines and equipment used to self diagnose maintenance related issues. 5G will be like a steroid shot to these existing technologies, whereby the speed and latency improvements will make a significant impact on operational efficiencies. 

What we can expect from 5G in a supply chain business

  • We will see more uptake in the use of smart devices due to the broader coverage and reduced latency improvements. This will ultimately improve your processes across your business. 
  • 5G will also pave the way for low-cost connected sensors. Sensors designed to monitor a product from the production line to the warehouse through distribution to the final retailer’s shelf. The location and condition of the goods can be tracked in real-time, providing 100% visibility of your inventory, supply chain, and sales. This will allow you to minimize your risk, and the data collected will provide incredible insights to enable you to streamline your operations even further. 
  • Safer, more reliable deliveries, as delivery vehicles will be able to react quickly to real-time data via a 5G network than what they are currently able to do.
  • The use of Drones and robots will become more viable as a last-mile delivery mechanism.
  • A higher bandwidth connection will support intelligent transportation systems creating a secure and effective operations environment for Port operations.
  • Augmented reality applications in your warehouse will be more efficient due to the reduced latency times. They will help to improve the user experience with AR applications and lower the chances of operational errors.

For companies that have already embraced the digital world and have implemented new technologies in their business, 5G will further enhance and perfect your processes and operations. What these companies should be ensuring is that their data infrastructures can handle the massive amounts of additional data that will be pouring in as a result of 5g.

For companies that have not yet started on their digital journey, the good news is that 5G is still a few years away. However, now is the time to put your digital strategy into action and start implementing new technologies. Companies that refuse to change and adapt will most certainly struggle to survive and will most certainly not be a competitive force.