I have no crystal ball, of course, but instead I will tap into my consulting experience, add a dash of research, and fire it all up with some imagination to try get a picture of how the supply chain environment may look in eight years’ time.
Welcome to the Robotic Future
The robotic revolution is upon us! Think of how automation is already changing the face of warehousing (robotic solutions) and transport (autonomous conveyances on the roads, rail, and even in the air).
By 2028, robots could be running warehouses and fully automated facilities will be the norm rather than the exception.
In all likelihood, robots by then will have acquired dexterity almost equivalent to a human’s and will be capable of operating in standard warehouses, with aisles and racks. And they will work in the dark with the aid of lasers and non-visual guidance systems, saving companies the cost of lighting.
The End of Offshore Production
With automation replacing expensive manual labour, operating costs will be slashed and many of the advantages of offshore outsourcing will fall away.
This weaning away from overseas production will take place in parallel with a growing trend towards moving sources closer to domestic markets. By 2028, offshore production could all but be eradicated.
Automation in Logistics
Transport is the key area where we can expect to see significant changes, probably involving significant automation across all modes.
There is little hope that the current shortage of truck drivers will have ended by 2028, but by then we will be seeing autonomous vehicles penetrating the logistics industry.
While we are not likely to see driverless trucks hurtling down the highway for another ten or even 20 years, drivers will become more like attendants, minding trucks that virtually mind themselves, but ready to jump in if things go wrong.
Autonomous rail transport could very well be the answer to highway congestion and the global bid to reduce carbon emissions.
As I noted in a 2017 article on the Supply Chain Leaders Academy blog, a rail system is being developed in Texas that would move transport containers on electric-powered, driverless shuttles. The goal of this project is to make rail-freight viable over distances of less than 1,000 kilometres.
In the Air
Airborne drones are likely to become a common sight in our skies as air-traffic regulations are altered to accommodate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Besides delivery of pizzas and parcels, larger drones may be carrying heavier freight to remote areas by 2028.
How 3D Printing will Shorten Supply Chains
Additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing, has significant potential for the creation of a range of products, especially customized goods. By 2028, many items could be produced on demand at local manufacturing centres, thereby drastically shortening the supply chain.
Predictions are Always Risky
Forecasting the future is risky, especially in the dynamic supply chain environment. The predictions above are nothing more than informed speculation. After all, who knows what disruptions may lie ahead, perhaps changing the course of the entire business world? For now, speculation is all we have.