Supply Chains on the Edge - Beyond Cloud Computing
Martin Pahulje - May 06, 2021
Edge computing is the new hot topic in terms of cloud technology. It is well known that the keys to a successful supply chain are visibility, resiliency, and efficiency. For many companies, this has been achieved to some extent. As the industry demands more speed and insight into the supply chain, manufacturers are looking to optimize this process further. For an even more optimized supply chain, companies are looking to edge computing. Edge computing lies under the overarching umbrella of cloud computing – with a few enhancements. Computing on the edge enables the cloud to be distributed closer to its users. By bringing the cloud closer to devices located far from the cloud and on-premises servers, companies are able to collect and analyze larger volumes of information at a faster speed. This can be done in real-time and be processed through automated applications, providing companies with the enhanced visibility they have been searching for. Even better, 5G combined with edge computing can provide the necessary bandwidth to improve the connectivity of devices and sensors that are far removed from centralized servers. Using edge computing and 5G, you will optimize your supply chain - delivering faster, smarter, and better results.
Optimizing the Supply Chain
Traditionally, supply chains were merely about implementing a series of small supply chain processes that connect together to create the entire supply chain network. This seems fairly obvious, but it overlooks a range of technical shortcomings and gaps that are not always evident. Until these gaps are identified and addressed, a supply chain cannot reach its full potential – any supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Accelerating the development and deployment of edge computing can strengthen the weaknesses in your supply chain and optimize it overall. The most basic features of edge computing, rapid data processing, increased data accessing, and better insights, can help companies better predict and manage the various components of their supply chain. We will discuss how edge computing and 5G can provide you the supply chain trifecta: speed, visibility, and connectivity.
Connectivity is crucial to managing an efficient supply chain. For each component of the network to work cohesively, they must be able to connect in a timely manner, and the larger the supply chain, the more difficult this is to achieve. Without connectivity, it is incredibly challenging to achieve other essential features of a successful supply chain like visibility and speed. Furthermore, the supply chain works as a domino effect, so if different components cannot connect or communicate, it will slow down the entire network. So, how can edge computing and 5G combat this? The power of 5G will shrink your supply chain in a sense, making it easier to monitor and manage. With more agile supply chain processes, companies can make more measure and focused decisions to address specific issues, filling in the gaps we mentioned. Even better, 5G technology will automate these decisions, taking a lot of the tedious manual tasks off your plate to make even faster decision-making.
Whether you are on the factory floor or out of the office, companies can remotely automate time-critical supply chain processes. Supported by machine learning and AI, these processes can predict, simulate, and optimize outcomes, lessening the need for central management and eliminating human error. While humans will still ultimately control the processes, an automated supply chain could use the decisions that have been set and tweak them if there are necessary changes to be made, such as a delay. The ability to self-adapt will considerably increase the resiliency of your supply chain, allowing you to adapt to changes faster than ever before. Back to connectivity, the automation will alert all systems in your supply chain of these changes, so there is no delay – meaning no time or money lost during a transition of processes.
Another crucial element to your supply chain is visibility. Edge computing and 5G allow for wider adoption of blockchain. Blockchain can create a higher level of visibility between every partner of a supply chain, whether in a peer-to-peer or one-source-to-many network, in addition to holding every party accountable for their end of the production bargain. Blockchain is the process of digitizing physical assets to create a decentralized record of all transactions, making it possible to track assets from production to delivery or use by end-users. This capability also allows companies to understand the origin of goods and materials simply by scanning an item and seeing where its many parts were made. Companies can then place this product on the shelf knowing that they can stand by their claim of ethical trade and origin. With 5G and edge computing, companies can connect all partners of the supply chain network through a shared record of transaction data and processing details, ensuring that you are aware of your products and materials from start to finish. Your company and reputation are being held to a standard of quality so having holistic visibility over your entire supply chain is crucial to maintaining this.
Latency is a challenge that all supply chains face. It is vital to reduce the delay between requesting data and the start of transmission to achieve a fast and efficient supply chain, and edge computing can help you achieve this. We all know that time is money, so it is imperative that you can reduce the latency in your supply chain as much as possible. It is reported that the latency of edge computing technology is more than 15 times less than that of a 4G LTE network – that is a considerable difference. Some companies are still operating on 3G, which is twice as slow as 4G LTE. Implementing edge computing with 5G will revolutionize the speed of your supply chain, processing greater volumes of data at a faster pace, with countless other benefits.
Latency can appear in various ways, often through security risks and transmission errors which can significantly slow down your supply chain operations. Fortunately, edge computing can reduce these as well. In terms of security risks, because edge computing works can work in several systems simultaneously, an attacker would have to attack all at the same time for a significant breach to occur. Additionally, properly designed edge computing applications are fully redundant, meaning that all data must be validated before entering the record database system. As a result, the likelihood of transmission errors is greatly reduced as well.
According to Gartner, only 10% of enterprise systems are currently utilizing edge computing, but it is predicted to grow to 75% by 2025. The next generation of supply chain management systems is already offering edge computing, and it is clear why. With increased connectivity and visibility, and reduced latency, edge computing is the obvious solution to an optimized supply chain. Not long ago, cloud computing was the software of the future, and now it is time to give your systems an update. By implementing edge computing and 5G in your supply chain network, you equip your company with low-cost yet high-yielding software to make for a more resilient and efficient supply chain.