The 4 major impacts of 5G on the supply chain

Published on 11 May 2022

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The health and economic crisis has not spared the supply chain, confronting the sector in particular with an unprecedented increase in activity. To cope with this, logistics will be able to count on a strong ally: 5G. Much faster than its predecessor, this technology is likely to reinvent practices in the near future. Indeed, 22,636 5G sites were commercially open as of September 30, 2021, according to ARCEP.
 

Progressively deployed in France, 5G makes a promise: to guarantee a speed up to 10 times faster than 4G. Although it is not a technological breakthrough, it will considerably improve the performance of mobile networks, whether in terms of immediacy, reliability or responsiveness, while increasing the number of connected objects. Mobile networks are used by many sectors, including logistics.

For the retail and supply chain world alone, 5G will mainly enable the collection of more data, accelerate data analysis and promote decision-making, notably based on artificial intelligence solutions. What does this mean? More than any other technological development, 5G "represents an opportunity to create new services and make existing solutions more efficient", as Isabelle Badoc, Product Marketing Director at Generix Group, explained at the Orange 5G Lab in Lille.

Here is a review of 4 concrete impacts.
 

1. Increased automation

Today, even if human presence is indispensable, part of the logistics activity is automated or robotized, with or without external intervention. This is especially true for order picking. However, in case of failures, the time needed to intervene - usually remotely - may penalize the whole chain.
 

Thanks to its higher speeds, 5G will first of all reduce latency. An operator, located off-site, will be alerted to the problem more quickly and will be able to react in a shorter period of time. Coupled with an artificial intelligence solution, the technology can even guarantee automatic interventions, considerably limiting downtime. This is an opportunity that could even encourage supply chain actors to automate more parts of their activity.

 

2. Increased accuracy in traceability

The deployment of 5G will also provide better end-to-end supply chain visibility. Thanks to faster and more accurate information feedback, the technology will notably enable better tracking and optimization of product routing. As Isabelle Badoc points out, it is possible to improve "overall performance, if each link in the chain is able to receive information from the other chains that interest it." For example, it will be possible to adapt the activity of a loading bay in real time according to the exact time of arrival of different trucks.
 

In addition to improving an existing service, 5G can also enable the invention of new functionalities for traceability. By improving the performance of data mining and video mining solutions, for example, the technology can be used to find out exactly what happened to a package at a given moment, with video. A way to further optimize product tracking and customer satisfaction, without being limited by the technical constraints of the mobile network.

 

3. The invention of new delivery standards

As is beginning to be the case at Rungis Market, the logistics sector is developing more and more remote delivery solutions, mainly by drone. However, these tools must be controlled by humans and require a high-performance communication network. In this field, 5G will be able to improve video broadcasting and haptic feedback (touch alert), simplifying remote control. By 2025, it is even possible to envisage the democratization of drone deliveries within city centers thanks to this new technological advance.
 

Eventually, last-mile delivery could even be fully autonomous, thanks in part to the contribution of 5G. Following the example of some Asian countries such as Korea, consumers could be delivered by autonomous robots, capable of locating and moving around thanks to artificial intelligence technology based on data provided by the mobile network. This would automate and robotize a new link in the supply chain, while improving customer satisfaction (faster delivery, fewer errors, etc.).

 

4. Optimization of the work of human resources

Of course, 5G will improve all facets of employee learning and supportreinvent the digital uses of logistics players. However, we must not forget that "technology must also be at the service of human resources" as Isabelle Badoc reminded us. In this respect, 5G will enable the optimization of a tool that is already present in the warehouse: digital learning videos, available via Smartphone and enabling operators to better learn and follow instructions, particularly for preparing orders.

 
More generally, 5G will , notably through the democratization of more powerful and intelligent devices. In addition to connected glasses, allowing an expert to analyze and guide the operator in his tasks, the future may - for example - see the appearance of computer vision solutions, capable of accompanying operators in real time in their actions and decision-making.