Humans make a supply chain comeback with industry 5.0 technologies

Will Lovatt
18 December, 23

The UK logistics landscape is on the cusp of a transformative era, building upon the digital foundation laid by Industry 4.0. Over the past decade, integration of the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, analytics, and AI has wrought profound changes in the way manufacturing, ecommerce and distribution businesses operate.

Industry 4.0 has been, and remains, a significant growth driver, with the global market size expected to surge from USD 130.90 billion in 2022 to USD 377.30 billion by 2029 according to Fortune Business Insights. It is still expanding, with a projected CAGR of 16.3 per cent. However, the next industrial revolution, Industry 5.0, is already knocking at the door, ready to address the shortcomings of its predecessor by reintroducing the human element into the technological narrative.

Industry 4.0’s weakness – total focus on tech

Despite these positive projections, Industry 4.0’s weakness is its pure focus on advances in technology. It will ultimately be superseded by Industry 5.0 which combines the emphasis on technology with a parallel focus on people and their priorities and concerns. It is a shift which encompasses the integration of human intelligence in automation processes.

This new phase is about collaboration between humans and smart systems, ensuring technology complements rather than replaces the human workforce. For instance, 5G technology is set to revolutionise machine-to-machine communication, enhancing human-machine interactions and reducing the scope for errors. Machines will take on repetitive tasks while humans focus on more creative and strategic work.

In the world of ecommerce, Industry 5.0 is already starting to reshape omnichannel supply chain fulfilment. Today’s consumers demand flexibility in shopping, whether online, in-store, or via mobile devices, and expect seamless service. Industry 5.0 technologies enable logistics firms to rise to this challenge by employing robots to assist human workers in picking and packing orders, and using AI to predict demand, thus improving efficiency, accuracy, and customer satisfaction. Businesses can fulfil orders quickly and accurately, no matter how the customer chooses to purchase.

Greater customisation of experience

Human-centred, Industry 5.0 supply chains will need to be more personalised because consumer habits have changed. Technologies under the Industry 5.0 banner fall in behind this trend and are designed to make logistics operations more consumer-led. The traditional supply chain model, which typically ended at the retail store, is now being replaced by a direct-to-consumer model that requires greater flexibility and personalisation. This is facilitated by modern fulfilment technologies that can handle orders from multiple channels and provide a real-time view of inventory across the entire network. This emphasis on the efficiency of omnichannel fulfilment is critical to  success in an ecommerce context of Industry 5.0.

Simultaneously, the sector is witnessing a surge in human-centric innovation. Augmented Reality (AR) is reshaping customer interactions by enabling product visualisations prior to purchase. Social media platforms like TikTok are becoming significant ecommerce conduits, reshaping the sales landscape in consumer sectors.

For warehouse operations, Industry 5.0 technologies will change the game completely, particularly in direct-to-consumer models. Traditional systems were configured to address a specific warehouse flow. The Industry 5.0 equivalent dynamically adjusts to customer order types and volumes, for example selecting an appropriate wave-picking strategy during peak to optimise performance of both people and robotic automation equipment.  This will not only boost efficiency but also enhance the order fulfilment service for consumers.

As we look ahead, Industry 5.0 is in the vanguard of industrial automation, re-integrating the human element into digital processes. This evolution is set to revolutionise ecommerce, enabling organisations to navigate the complexities of omnichannel supply chain management. With access to the right solutions they can craft customer-centric experiences, and refine operational efficiency.

The ongoing development of this new operating model promises to significantly influence how businesses manage order fulfilment. Those that adopt and adapt to these emerging technologies will find themselves well-equipped to thrive in the increasingly competitive omnichannel marketplace. Industry 5.0 is not just an incremental step forward – it is a comprehensive reimagining of the supply chain ecosystem, placing human collaboration at the heart of technological progress.

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