How Will 5G Power New Levels of Innovation and Efficiency In Fashion’s Supply Chain?

Although it is early days, there has been quite a buzz in the last 12 months about the capabilities that 5G will bring to various industries, including fashion. Providing at least 10x faster data transfer compared to 4G cellular networks, those with authority in this space believe that 5G connectivity will have not only a noticeable impact on the fashion industry’s supply chain but also its services, retail operations, and sales executions. 

Currently, supply chains are experiencing a lot of technology-based changes. Taking a closer look at how 5G will affect the supply chain, Stepan Chernovetskyi, head of Ukrainian-based investment firm, Chernovetskyi Investment Group, told Forbes, “We’ll see the full digitization of the supply chain from start to finish including the monitoring of production and visual tracking of samples. Product life cycle management systems are also going to be incredibly intelligent and efficient because of the high upload speeds and download of data.” 

With operational efficiency identified as one of the key benefits of a 5G connected supply chain, a Nielsen study says “Brands and retailers who win the 2020s will succeed not based on their front-end pricing and promotion analytics, but the granularity and end-to-end depth of their data science.” Nielsen’s study also stated that smart supply chains need to anticipate consumer demands. Research companies are not the only ones throwing their findings into the pit of why we should adopt 5G. There are thought leaders in this space like Michael Meizer, Area VP, EMEA Solutions & Professional Services, E2open who believe that “5G will provide the engine to power the IoT revolution”. So does this mean that now is the time for businesses to leverage this technology?

How To Avoid Being Behind the Curve

To avoid being behind the curve, you need first to understand how adopting this next-gen wireless technology could equal a more intelligent supply chain. Knowledge of how this solution could transform your business when it comes to increasing production, streamlining logistical processes and reducing costs is crucial. Andre Fuetsch, Chief Technology Officer of AT&T Communications, said in a press release: “We’re at the dawn of something that will define the next decade and generation of connectivity.” 

Promising to shape and transform the fashion industry’s supply chain, many forward-thinking companies, at the moment, are already putting a strategy in place. Gartner, a global research and advisory firm, predicts that 66% of organizations are planning to adopt the technology in 2020. Therefore, there is no denying that 5G technology, when networked through IoT, has the potential to add value to a fashion business supply chain operations by giving companies access to more reliable data and efficient and trustworthy communications.

That all being said 5G is considered, by some, to be a developing technology still. A point that hasn’t stopped experts like Balika Sonthalia, vice president and consultant at A.T. Kearney believes that “for any company that is not thinking about it, it’s too late.” It is a sentiment also shared by Meizer, who told Supply Chain Times; it is better to “ride the wave of innovation rather than drown beneath it”.

5G Increasing Adoption of Augmented Reality

There has been a lot of chatter about how 5G would increase the adoption of Augmented Reality (AR). How might you ask? Well, 5G networks offer the high bandwidth and low latency required for sustained augmented image quality. This is why factories, like Ericsson factory in Tallinn, Estonia, have adopted AR and seen a boost of productivity go up by 50%. 

David Roe, a journalist, based in Paris, wrote an article published by CMS Wire that explored how 5G will impact augmented and virtual reality use. He explained: “5G should make AR and VR technologies much faster, with much more data flow. With easier and more accessible use, for a variety of different functions (besides video gaming), widespread adoption seems likely”. Adding: “However, 5G will take a while to actually benefit the consumer”.

Challenges, Challenges, Challenges

Like any other technology, 5G is far from perfect. Some argue that it is not a “cure-all” as some people might hope. Yes, 5G could potentially be the solution that takes industries into the next phase of supply chain management, but we still have quite a bit to overcome. In an article by Supply Chain contributor Gary Wollenhaupt, Sonthalia forewarns, “You have to put the safeguards and controls in place to make sure that any new launch or any innovation is being built with the right guardrails.” 

The message from Sonthalia is preparation. Fashion businesses need to take the time to prep for 5G by doing things like putting in place a data infrastructure before adoption. But Sonthalia still believes that 5G has the unrestricted capacity and advises companies to “just  jump in and try it out and see if it works for you.”

It is exciting to be headed towards a future that brings about an imaginative world where businesses are empowered to “think differently and achieve new levels of execution”. Reaching the next level of supply chain transformation seems to be the goal of many forward-thinking companies who want to reap the benefits of the 5G-fueled fashion supply chain that will help businesses not only defeat challenges faced today but also build a foundation for the future.

Written by Muchaneta Kapfunde

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