Handheld wireless communicators, matter replicators and artificial intelligence only existed in the science fictional realm of the first Star Trek TV series back in the 1960s. Yet today, cell phones, 3D printers and Siri all exist most definitely in reality. Similarly, GPS satellites, raw computing power and Big Data enable transportation management in ways that would have certainly seemed like science fiction even as recently as the 1980s. And yet, shippers today have unfettered access to transportation management systems (TMS) and route/freight/network optimization technologies leveraging all these powerful technologies to capture unbelievable efficiency in the management of complicated supply chains.
Aware that the transition from fiction to fact happens at an ever increasing rate, we’ve been having a series of discussions – over pints after work – about the ways current, emerging tech advancements will impact on transportation in the very near future. While the dev team favors microbrews, executive leadership prefers imported ales and the support team swears by PBR in a can, the one thing we all agreed on in our discussion is that the amazing innovation of today’s supply chain software will pale in comparison to the tools we’ll all be using in another 10 years. Here are highlights of the interesting predictions dreamed up over Beer Nuts and the din of the jukebox.
Big Data + Historical Weather Patterns = Proactive Transportation Planning
Imagine you could run historical weather averages and compare them to shipping volumes. You could see how cooler-than-normal spring temps would delay shipping; or how a warmer-than-average summer would increase it. In short, agri-business could prepare for an earlier- or later- than usual produce season and avoid idle capacity or capacity crunches. Fleets moving raw milk from dairy farms to production facilities would be able to adjust to higher or lower production, as temperature greatly affects the milk output of dairy cows. Tying this kind of weather data into your TMS would enable weather alerts, preemptively rerouting your shipments around rains, hailstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods or any other trouble spots.
3D Printing Fundamentally Changes the Nature of the Supply Chain
In the longer term, as this technology progresses, it is safe to assume that more items will be “printed” locally thereby reducing the demand for transportation to carry goods from disparate manufacturing locales and consumer distribution points. Of course, transportation will still be required to ship the “3D ink” and related materials to every corner of the world. In the near term though, we can easily imagine using 3D printers to produce RFID tags at the origin of every shipment, cutting down on the time it takes to get shipments on the road.
What flights of fiction-to-fact fancy can you imagine? Share your predictions for how technology will change the face of transportation in the comments.