warehouse inventory management system

What Does 5G Technology Mean for Supply Chains?

Categories: Warehouse.

Chances are you’ve heard quite a lot about the rollout of 5G wireless technology in recent months. This new technology promises to provide quicker downloads, reduced lag, and a wider range for high-speed internet – changing the way we work, interact, play, and live.

On average, 5G wireless is about eight times faster than 4G and comes with about five times the bandwidth. The rollout has been slow going but is expected to pick up significantly in 2022. The total number of connected IoT devices globally is expected to be 30.9 billion by 2025.

5G is relevant for many industries but will have a particularly large impact on freight and logistics. Here, we’ll discuss some applications for 5G that are potential game changers for the industry: 

Smarter warehousing

Smart warehousing relies on IoT connectivity to create streamlined workflows. 5G’s increased bandwidth offers the perfect opportunity to collect and process as much data as possible to optimize warehouse operations.

5G will allow software systems to obtain more real-time data from a variety of assets simultaneously. That could translate into telematics-enabled lift trucks, drones, advanced camera systems, faster and smarter conveyor and sortation, and much, much more.

The larger data streams that will power this new technology will be routed using 5G, rather than WiFi and traditional Internet, expanding their range and expediting connectivity to cloud-based software systems. That means more IoT devices can be connected with a broader range and stronger signal, enabling a faster, smarter warehouse.

Workforce automation

Current IoT technologies serve as supplements to your existing person-powered warehouse. But with more data collection and improved connectivity of 5G smart devices comes more opportunity for automation.

In fact, the Department of Defense is currently doing research to create a fully autonomous smart warehouse, where “autonomous robots, cameras, augmented reality systems and other Internet of Things applications are connected over a 5G network to revolutionize warehouse operations.”

The modern American military maintains a vast network of far-flung bases and operations that extend beyond traditional supply chains. So, it’s no surprise that they have a major stake in advancing and automating logistics technology.

If successful, the DoD believes the smart warehouse could improve logistics operations, including tasks like organization, storage, retrieval, and transportation for civilian organizations as well.

Safer transportation

The expansion of 5G technology improves the connectivity needed to power safety automation technology that keeps truckers and passenger vehicles safe on the open road.

Autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles use sensors to detect and respond to their surroundings. They rely on advanced cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) communications to operate effectively. Autonomous vehicles need to make split-second decisions — so the tech needs to be very low latency.

Historically, vast stretches of the American highway system lack a reliable high-speed wireless connection – or any phone signal at all, in many cases – which presents a number of challenges for truckers and the data systems that serve them.

5G connectivity can potentially achieve better safety for truck drivers by automating key driving activities, for example, braking when another vehicle is detected too close ahead. In time, the hope is that eventually, we will have fully autonomous vehicles handling most transport tasks.

Additionally, lower latency also allows for faster, more accurate rerouting in case of inclement weather, accidents, and other dangerous road conditions. This keeps drivers as safe as possible and improves efficiency.

Better network security

Cybersecurity is a leading concern for companies all along the supply chain. Hackers have been increasingly targeting shippers and freight forwarders, ports and infrastructure, and trucking companies in search of vulnerable operations and valuable information to exploit.

Fortunately, 5G technology could help to improve network security for many firms.

5G technology offers better built-in encryption – both when data is at rest and in transit – and protection against man-in-the-middle attacks, which rely on subscribers’ unique identifier data that will be concealed by new features.

5G will also offer enhanced security for users who are roaming, by using secure interconnects among roaming partner networks – an especially important feature for supply chain companies and truckers with cargo in movement along vast network chains.

Building a more secure cyberinfrastructure should be a top priority for any organization in logistics, especially considering increasing cyber attacks and the outsized impact they can have on the supply chain.

Conclusion

As the 5G rollout continues, we’ll start to see the logistics world benefit from the improved speed and bandwidth it has to offer.

Many companies fear that, without substantial investment in new technology, they will be left in the dust. No insignificant percentage of companies on the supply chain still do things the old way – with a clipboard and a pen as the most important tools of the trade. But adopting competitive tech doesn’t have to require a total overhaul of the way your company works.

A 3PL partner with experience managing smart warehouses – not to mention moving goods through a major port – can give you a leg up when it comes to tech adoption. GlobeCon, a 3PL partner at the port of Los Angeles and Long Beach, can help you scale new software and hardware as you need it, at a speed and level of intricacy that meets your needs and expectations.

Interested in 3PL warehousing? Choose a partner that takes advantage of the latest technology. Contact us.