The 5G game changer
23 Feb 2022
For almost two years, Malaysia was fighting its battle against the Covid-19 pandemic through various movement restrictions.
Industries were either forced to suspend operations or digitise and operate remotely.
With the National Recovery Plan in place, the country has opened up its economic sectors in phases, albeit with caution and restrictions.
Amid all that, Malaysia is preparing for 5G wireless network adoption.
Consumers in selected areas can subscribe to 5G services beginning December last year. Come 2023, all high-density areas would be covered by this high-speed, low-latency wireless network, making Malaysia among the first Asean member countries to have 5G connectivity.
However, infrastructure without efficient utilisation lands the country short of the heralded socioeconomic benefits.
Recognising this, the government rolled out proactive strategies integrating 5G coupled with the migration into a Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) ecosystem.
The national Industry 4.0 policy and the Malaysia Digital Economy blueprint are two initiatives designed to, among others, improve the nation’s all-sector productivity by 30 per cent before the end of 2030.
Under these initiatives, improving Malaysia’s manufacturing industry remains the government’s priority.
Manufacturing saw an 11.6 per cent rise in September last year to RM135.3 billion compared to September 2020.
Where other sectors were impacted by the pandemic, manufacturing remained among the main contributors to economic growth.
Investing in 5G will allow Malaysian firms to connect their manufacturing and distribution operations to the real-time marketplace and compete on a global scale in a post-pandemic stage.
Manufacturing and distribution in the 5G future
Digitising manufacturing and distribution operations was already part of the conversation before 2020. Manufacturers recognise this and have prepared their operations by incorporating new equipment, technology, processes and skills.
These adoptions created new datasets which require continuous data cleaning, compilation, analysis, reporting and presentation.
“Data-driven decision making” later became part of management’s lexicon. What is different within a 5G ecosystem by which the volume, variety and velocity of those datasets are being generated and communicated.
Moving to a commercial and macro-level, Malaysia’s aspiration is also captured in the Industry 4.0 policy: integrating local manufacturing operations with the global value chain through Industry 4.0 technologies.
5G is not merely about the speed of communication. With 5G’s ability to power transformative tech, it opens an abundance of unprecedented opportunities especially for businesses in the manufacturing sector, thus empowering and enhancing the sector’s core capabilities.
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 and increase efficiency while reducing costs. Artificial Intelligence 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 be equipped with the right information, from the right source, at the right time, from anywhere.
Manufacturers and distributors will have essential tools to make fast, smart data-based decisions and effectively navigate disruptions to supply chains and fluctuations in demand through clearer visibility on operations.
In other words, hardware and software need to complement each other seamlessly for companies to compete in this intelligent, integrated data-driven global environment.
Decision-makers need real-time data and reporting where these data are automatically gathered, integrated and displayed. It goes without saying that reactive adoption is a costly option. Digital transformation decisions made today must include future-proofing and scaling considerations to be sustainable.
The outcome is not merely for business monitoring or business insights; it transcends into business optimisation and data monetisation which guides the manufacturer’s product life-cycle management.
Navigating 5G signals and embracing change
The revolutionary capabilities of 5G have faced its fair share of critics. Extraordinary claims have gone mainstream with the next network generation, but have been proven baseless.
With manufacturing hardware and distribution equipment from handheld devices to line components starting to be 5G ready, the transition has already begun.
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.
According to GSMA Intelligence, by 2030, upgrades to 5G and the new services enabled by 5G will add over US$600 billion annually to the global economy. This will represent 2.1 per cent of the income growth expected in the coming decade, across all industries and sectors.
Local businesses need to start prep work in order to capitalise on the vast possibilities.
Vincent Tang: The writer is Epicor Asia regional vice-president with over 30 years of working experience in the Enterprise Resource Planning software industry