The Future is Bright

Posted: October 9, 2013 by Bill Cunningham in Ecosystem, Planning, Startup, Technology

“The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”

              — 1986 hit song by Timbuk3

bill-cunningham

sunglassessmallSara Specter, editor at Modern Materials Handling, asked me to review and give feedback on a draft of the US Material Handling and Logistics Roadmap, a synthesis of over 200 participants from all facts of industry, academia and government to predict the state of the industry in 2025. Since Material Handling and Logistics touch every facet of our life from what we eat and wear to how we drive and play, it makes sense to think about how our organization would fit into that world.

My first impression: Technology will disrupt the market more than we can imagine. At Promat 2013, a logistics trade show, the futurist, Edie Weiner, talked about the speed of technology change: “It is happening at an exponential exponential rate, and I did mean to repeat myself.”

The roadmap thinkers envision innovations such as “same day” and even “same hour” deliveries. While this seems like a ridiculous notion that we would need something the same hour, look back to the 1970’s where we thought next day delivery was limited to extremely urgent situations. FEDEX changed all that. And the thought of free, two-day delivery for everything seemed like a sure way to lose money, yet Amazon dominates a market where they have set expectation that everything is delivered in two days for free.

As a business owner, how will you fit into this roadmap? Will these technologies enhance or amplify your offering, or will it give a competitive advantage to your adversaries. Can you handle the growth that may come with these solutions, or will it strain your resources to the extent that you will have to retool?

Considering my own company’s plan, the market that we serve will be the last to take advantage of these technologies. This clearly illustrates the need for our strategic plan to act on those opportunities, to enable our customers to stay competitive in the process of a changing world. The roadmap also paints a picture for us to be a part of the roadmap – the document clearly addresses the needs of the GE, Kroger, P&G and Macys – and leaves us wondering how the other 6 million small businesses will embrace this new normal. As an intermediary and trusted source, we can help them transition to the latest technology advances so they do not have to do it alone.

So take a deep breath and take a dive into the future. Discover the futurists in your industry and stand on the shoulders of giants to make great long-term plans that will generate benefits for generations to come.

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If you would like to take a look into the future, a draft of the Roadmap is available at  www.mhlroadmap.org

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