The 5G upgrade: future-proofing Australian distribution networks and calling for improved connected warehouses

By Greg O’Loan, Epicor Software Regional Vice President for ANZ

2020 was a year of disruption and uncertainty, the supply chain and logistic industry was forced to navigate extraordinary challenges. Meeting unforecasted and fluctuating demand saw distributors and manufacturers embrace technology, automation, and innovation like never before.

With the ongoing adversity of COVID-19, economic recovery, rise in ecommerce, as well as increasing geopolitical tensions with China, 2021 will continue to significantly place pressure on global supply chains. It is imperative that businesses build on the digital momentum of 2020 and upgrade technology solutions, such as adopting 5G, to not only drive resilience and efficiency but ultimately future-proof operations in an Industry 4.0 era.

With the local manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines come February, Australia will embark on one of the greatest strategic, operational, and logistical challenges of our time. Technology will be indispensable for manufacturers and distributors, and will also offer advanced and transformative solutions applicable to the wider industry. A key enabler to drive digital transformation within the industry, through COVID-19 and beyond, is 5G.

The 5G connected warehouse of the future

5G will be an enabler for the industry as the higher bandwidth equates to greater network connectivity and performance. The network will be a seamless link throughout the supply chain allowing organisations to overcome WiFi blackspots both inside and outside of operations, as well as online and offline. With greater integration of cloud and 5G, manufacturers and distributors can improve automation of their processes to build agility, increase efficiency whilst reducing costs. AI and machine learning will also enhance the accuracy of real-time monitoring and intuitive operations. For example, a cloud-connected robot via 5G could find the best way to navigate its environment or perform tasks thanks to machine learning.

The vast volumes of data produced through increased connectivity and technology solutions will ultimately ensure businesses will have access to the right information, from the right source, at the right time, from anywhere. With clearer visibility on operations, manufacturers, and distributors will have the essential tools to make fast, smart data-based decisions and effectively navigate disruptions to supply chains and fluctuations in demand. Investing in 5G will allow the Australian connected warehouse to thrive and compete on a global scale.

Navigating the 5G signals and embracing change

The revolutionary capabilities of 5G has faced its fair share of critics. Extraordinary claims have gone mainstream with the next network generation – but have been proven baseless and merely a harmful distraction. The immense computing capabilities of 5G will drive instrumental improvements in operations, communication and produce exceptional amounts of invaluable data. These developments will have far-reaching industrial implications but more significantly boost national economies at a time when it is needed the most. Economic modelling projects that, by 2030, 5G networks could be adding up to 0.2 per cent to productivity every year equating to around $50 billion in additional GDP for Australia.

As Australia focuses on recovery, 5G integration offers vast opportunities to stimulate the economy and repair with resilience, efficiency, and speed. Adopting 5G in the manufacturing and distribution sector will enable the industry to rise to global standards and effectively compete in the fourth industrial revolution. With the growth of connected warehouses that embrace new technology and innovation, Australia will be able to start again with the best foot forward, ensuring local resources support the Made in Australia movement and further drive economic recovery.