Design & Planning
Manufacturers are under pressure to become more efficient, both in the factory and throughout the supply chain. As it stands, the industry generally relies on logistics firms to control supply chains, whether that be raw materials arriving on-site or finished goods being shipped out. But end-to-end visibility of products is key—what’s more, certain goods have very specific shipping requirements meaning it’s important to not only track the location of goods but the conditions they are travelling in too. Additionally, Brexit has made shipping to Northern Ireland and beyond more complex, having a particularly significant impact on perishable items.
5G is therefore a welcome solution. 5G networks will assist the supply chain via automation and enhanced track and trace capabilities: innovative technologies, powered by 5G’s high bandwidth and low latency, will ensure everything runs smoothly. For example, automating processes and custom checks, which will save manufacturers a copious amount of time—or deploying sensors at a pallet or individual goods level to offer pinpoint accuracy location tracking. Aside from the efficiency gains, implementing these solutions will boost overall reputation (decreasing late deliveries or damaged goods) that will, ultimately, have a positive financial impact.
Factories and their warehouses can be vast spaces, with the Nissan car plant at Sunderland standing at 362,000 metres squared, the equivalent of 50 football pitches. Even SME manufacturers have substantial footprints, such as AE Aerospace whose factory in Birmingham is 16,500 square feet. Tracking the movement of materials and goods throughout the factory floor and warehousing space is imperative to streamlining production.
Most goods—both inbound and outbound—will move through multiple transport modes to reach their destination and as a result, tracking is usually complex. It is estimated that less than 10% of logistics companies have full visibility of their supply chain. But 5G networks make it much easier to share data across multiple sites, enabling inter-modal asset location tracking for goods. For manufacturers, this means less reliance on logistics firms to provide tracking data, greater visibility and ultimately an enhanced ability to adjust activities to maximise uptime and throughput.
The use of 5G networks and IoT sensors allow manufacturers to monitor both the environment in which goods are shipped and the conditions of the goods themselves. Real-time monitoring enables rapid detection of any deviation in conditions (for example, temperature) and allows for quick intervention. This is essential for meeting customer expectations and ensuring perishable items are delivered in optimal condition.
The UK’s recent departure from the EU has made the process of customs increasingly complex, with significant impacts for manufacturers. Late arrivals of raw materials can delay or halt production processes, and delayed deliveries to customers can incur penalty charges. When dealing with perishable items such as food or medicines, the potential loss is even greater. But with 5G, the network’s reliable wireless connection can facilitate a seamless, stress-free transition through borders, globally.
5G is a dynamic, scalable network platform that adds connectivity across supply chains. With the density of sensors that can be connected with 5G, shipping confirmations can be issued not just at a general container level but down to the individual goods level, providing increased confidence and pinpoint accuracy that goods have arrived at their location. Such confirmations not only help the manufacturer’s organisation but also satisfy the customer.