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How Can 5G Transform Transportation and Logistics?

By David Cohen, T-Mobile, Director of IoT Sales, Enterprise & Strategic Accounts - East Region

OnRAMP
Thought Leader MadeinPA

The digital management of logistics was already growing significantly with 4G, but the advent of 5G opens up a whole new set of opportunities. 

With 5G, the process of how goods get from factory to customer will be revolutionized through next-gen fleet management, asset tracking and last--mile delivery. 

Here, we take a deeper look into these three aspects of the supply chain: 

Fleet Management 

Traditional fleet management and telematics tools can plot and track driving times and routes by having a physical device plugged into each vehicle. These devices connect with an application that gives managers access to vehicle data and enables communication with the driver. 

With 5G solutions, much more functionality can be enabled like providing services, such as live driver coaching and dynamic rerouting of vehicles based on real-time shipment data and weather conditions. 

5G connectivity could allow companies to take advantage of diagnostic data in real time, with digital dashboards and metrics that provide insights into driver behavior, route efficiency and fuel efficiency. Through the use of smart sensors and onboard computers that monitor and transmit position, speed, fuel consumption, truck wear and component failure, operational efficiency can improve across the board. Data can be captured, analyzed and viewed no matter where the assets or the central office is located. 

Another potential 5G use case is platooning, where trucks travel on a highway with vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications and autonomous technology maintaining a fixed gap between them. Trucks could form coordinated, identically spaced convoys that can drive close together over long distances, thus reducing drag, lowering fuel consumption and cutting costs. The European Automobile Manufacturers' Association projects that platooning could reduce the CO2 emissions of vehicles by up to 10% and offer safety benefits. 

Asset Tracking 

In 2019, T-Mobile estimated that 77% of firms had limited to zero visibility into their supply chains. Receiving shipping updates at only a few key checkpoints can lead to unforeseen delays that can hurt delivery times, customer satisfaction and budgets. Attaching a low-cost asset tracker to shipments, pallets or individual assets can provide precise location and temperature data. Connecting asset trackers over a cellular network provides superior security over proprietary and other IoT standards. 

For container shipments from overseas, the assets can even be tracked at the seaport. Several ports around the world, including one in Seattle, are now employing private 5G networks that allow fully autonomous movement of cargo within the confines of the port. 

Intelligent tagging of products and components allows logistics companies to continuously update factories on the progress of deliveries. Any gaps in supply chain visibility can readily be identified and mitigated before they cause a problem. For example, if certain parts are delayed, the 5G factory could be forewarned and may be able to automatically adapt its schedules and priorities to compensate. 

Last-Mile Delivery 

Not all logistics are on such a large scale. Local deliveries could be coordinated using 5G-enabled drones. For example, a company that graduated from the T-Mobile Accelerator program is able to deploy drones to deliver medical supplies over short distances from pharmacies to patients. 

With e-commerce sales having risen dramatically during the pandemic, from 13% to 17% of all retail over the past year, according to McKinsey, tracking and delivering goods to end customers has become more granular. This provides yet another opportunity for 5G to step in and make the process more efficient. McKinsey is forecasting that this Supply Chain 4.0 for consumer goods will incorporate a flexible transport capability, modeled on ride-sharing technology, that can potentially increase agility in distribution and introduce new direct-to-consumer and dropshipping opportunities. Supply Chain 4.0 could become more efficient and flexible than existing systems if it is able to take advantage of the 5G-enabled Internet of Things and what it has to offer. 

Adding Up To Better Customer Service 

Using artificial intelligence and 5G to aggregate and analyze data from production, logistics and sales channels will allow increased levels of automation to be introduced across all stages of a cloud-based supply network. Predictive planning could reduce lead times by allowing finished goods to move to the next stage in the supply chain even before an order has been placed. Looking at the bigger picture, a transformed supply chain using smart product tags could also use 5G to help ensure security, quality control, customer follow-up and after-sales service-and perhaps also facilitate environmentally friendly disposal at the very end of the product's journey. 

Regardless of industry, nationwide 5G lays the foundation for businesses to build what's next. From more efficient field operations to smarter cities, see what the 5G future could look like-and why choosing the right network provider matters. 

T-Mobile's SG network: Capable device required; coverage not available in some areas. While 5G access won't require a certain plan or feature, some uses/services might. See Coverage details, Terms and Conditions, and Open Internet information for network management details (like video optimization) at T-Mobile.com.

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