Project Logistics 2030 (Part 4 of a 6-part series)

5G and IoT: Is Everything Going Remote in Breakbulk Business?

By Joerg Breker and Sven Hermann
After we learned in the last months how fast COVID-19 upended our office jobs and how the world of work may change forever we should already look ahead to the next possible disruptions. Remote work seems here to stay but how about remote operations? Will 5G and internet of things (IoT) allow us teleoperation of vehicles and vessels? Is it possible that they have the ability to change everything and increase productivity, efficiency and sustainability by letting us steer and control autonomous packaging, handling and transport—even for breakbulk remotely? It may a be long road but we say yes.
In the next years, 5G and IoT will improve the flow of information, increase supply chain visibility and lead to better and anticipatory risk management. In the mid-term, both will enable automation and the usage of autonomous vehicles such as in ports and make operations more efficient and safer by eliminating manual processes. In the foreseeable future we won`t see complete autonomous vehicle solutions but we will see their human operators controlling them remotely. And in the long term, but maybe beyond 2030, remote operations will be the next new normal in project logistics.
But what are the next steps? As an example, thyssenkrupp founded in 2019 the subsidiary company thyssenkrupp Materials IoT GmbH. The aim of this spin-off is on one side to advise other companies, customers and suppliers on the way of digitizing their production and supply chain, and on the other side to connect their own global production and storage sites as well as their installed machines. The goal is to automate processes across the entire supply chain and make them more efficient.
The first central, self-developed product is the IIoT platform. It creates the prerequisite for machines of different types and generations to communicate worldwide. Besides enormous advantages in connected production facilities and warehouses further IoT implementations in packaging and transportation processes will increase massively transparency, traceability, reliability and integrity in supply chains. Automated decision making in complex environments, transparency in customs activities and real-time monitoring of items will improve service quality, asset utilization and goods prevention. Furthermore, the creation of more dynamic and customized execution services for customers globally and the reduction of non-conformity-costs will be possible and convertible end-to-end.
We already outlined in our previous articles the development how project logistics and our breakbulk business will become more and more transparent for all parties involved. 5G and IoT will support this extensively but are together also the basis for interesting thoughts about operating projects logistics remotely with more autonomous in the future.
In two weeks the 5th part of our series will give an outlook how virtual and augmented reality may beam us up to the next level of project logistics.
About the authors:
Dr. Joerg Breker is senior executive expert logistics for thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions.
Prof. Dr. Sven Hermann is managing director of ProLog Innovation and professor for logistics and supply chain management at NBS Northern Business School.

Catch up with parts 1, 2 and 3:
Project Logistics 2030 - Part 1
Project Logistics 2030 - Part 2
Project Logistics 2030 - Part 3

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