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How 5G transformed supply chain

In the present pandemic time, the only part of business that faced the most impact is the supply chain. With lockdowns in almost all the countries and also restricted travel and transport through air and water, it became difficult for companies to sustain. Even of they had deep pockets, they weren’t able to procure and supply their products. Nightmare came for the companies who had not properly managed their inventories. Toyota’s JIT concept, which was considered the future of supply chain, also failed and thus the experts had to rethink about new ways to have a sustainable and stable supply chains.

The only answer to all of this was TECHNOLOGY, unlike popular belief, technology is not just an enabler, it’s a DISRUPTER. With the use of technology, the business can become more profitable and stable. The proof is evolution from MRP to MRP 2 and then to ERP, where business became more integrated, transparent and thus lead to a globalization. Along with IoT, AI/ML and automation, another arrow in the quiver is the 5G Technology

5G, for more people might seem like just and upgrade from 4G, an increased internet speed and better network coverage. But when it comes to business, these two make a whole paradigm shift. To understand this, we have to get to know some technical advancements that 5G bring. 5G uses a MIMO (multiple input and multiple output) technology and also has 8 times faster speed and 5 times more bandwidth than 4G. Another added benefit with 5G is the increased device density. 4G has capacity of 10,000 devices in an area of 1 square mile while 5G allows 1 Million devices in the same area.

Now, for companies moving towards IoT and automation, this is ground breaking. As with increased bandwidth, speed and device density, they can move towards installation of wireless devices in their warehouses, plants etc. and can easily monitor them from any where in the world. Talking about in detail, the benefits of 5G are

  1. With 5G, real time data processing becomes easy and faster. Port of Livorno. One of the largest ports in Italy, established their own private 5G network in association with Ericsson. This port on average handles 7000 ships and a cargo capacity of more than 30 million annually. So, for a port with such a huge capacity, a synchronization and operational efficiency is the key. Thus, with the help of 5G, they were able to achieve better operational efficiency, simplified process and also better management of high volumes and removal of bottlenecks.

  2. Amazon’s smart warehouse is also a product of use of technology. With 5G, collection, delivery of goods become faster and transparent. Deployment of autonomous vehicles and remote management is best possible with 5G. This integrated with cloud and IoT leads to smart warehouses which now any organization can have.

There is no doubt that 5G will allow smooth and transparent business but the companies have to ensure that they have proper infrastructure and also, they have to rethink and reinvent the way they do business. This also includes adoption of certain best practices integration of data analysis methodologies. These will ensure that enterprises have a secured and stable supply chains and they move ahead faster on the path of success with 5G connectivity.

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Mr. Vedang Makwe
PG B, 2019-21

Impact of 5G Technology on Supply Chain Management

5G- what is it that has made this technology so special that it is often touted as the precursor to the next wave of Industrial revolution? In the last 5 years, the speed of internet has dramatically increased from a time when dial up 512Kbps was considered a luxury to 10Mbps speeds which have become quite common place now. The main difference being the unified platform that 5G can provide to accommodate all the services which did not even exist until a couples of years back like blockchain, Artificial Intelligence and the most visible revolutionary- Internet of Things.

Now the main question that crops up is, how can supply chain which is largely associated with movement of physical goods benefits from this revolution in software technology? Unlike 4G which focused on delivering faster broadband services than 3G, 5G is designed to be a unified platform, supporting all the spectrum types and new ways to interconnect. It is these features which make it optimum in revolutionizing the Supply Chain as we know it today.

5G makes it easier to establish continuous feedback loop with IoT devices providing the physical nodes to supply data to the centralized monitoring system.

This combination is very effective in tracking lost containers. According to an estimate by the World Shipping Council over 6000 containers were lost at sea from 2013 to 2018. With low power and long lasting IoT devices connected to every container, everything can be traced, recorded and labelled automatically without human intervention, the losses due lost container, manual inefficiency and labor can be significantly brought down. The automatic data sharing among the supply chain partners can aid in streamlining operations and at the same time help in accelerating production cycles by enabling more companies to implement the Just in Time methodology.

The benefits also extend to warehousing and distribution centers. Using the speed and adaptability of 5G systems, the complex blend of different software used for performing different tasks can be computed in real time. Workers can be equipped with voice headsets, using speech recognition and machine learning based text-to-speech, real time records can be updated, reducing the scope of errors and making it easier to track back the changes in case of any discrepancies. This helps in reducing latencies and enhancing worker capabilities.

On the factory floor too, it can help managers in the better monitoring of the quality of the work being done, the speed at which it is being done, rapidly adjust to changes and disruptions in the supply. At the same time, it can also help to simplify and streamline workflows according to study carried out by Verizon. Cloud based virtually controlled industrial robots can help in reducing wastage and reducing errors in industrial operations.

Even in the retail industry, tech savvy retailers can utilize high resolution video, augmented reality to offer more choices to the customers without the need for creating real life models. This can help to better gauge consumer choices and accordingly help forecast the demand.

Thus we can see, the advent of 5G is going to touch every aspect of the supply chain helping in not only preventing existing leakages but further enhancing the overall supply chain experience.

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Mr. Daivat 
MBA IB, 2020-22

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