The future of the supply chain by Craig Simon, President and CEO of Supply Chain at FEDEX
The supply chain that currently connects the world would have been unimaginable at any other time in history. The access road to the market has become, today, an authentic highway. In operation 24 × 7. Global commerce never sleeps. In fact, not even for a moment to take a nap. Wheels that turn on the road, wings that sail the skies and keels that sail through the seas connect a world economy with virtually no borders.
At the same time, no matter how overloaded the global highway is, no one in the transport industry has any doubt that a faster, cheaper, safer and simpler service remains the key to success for anyone operating in this sector. And it is that global companies and insomniacs demand that same and do not deserve less.
This may suggest that the supply chain of the future should be slightly different. There are even visions of authentic science fiction teletransport options in the style of Star Trek, 3D printing, a super-premium service capable of moving products through cyberspace, such as the spare parts of cars, from a plant in China to a United States factory. It is without a doubt a fascinating possibility.
But perhaps most likely, in 20 years the means to transport products will remain airplanes, ships, trains and trucks. Not so exotic, of course. But with a new level of almost molecular precision. The supply chain of the future will not be so different, but in 2033 its visibility will be extraordinary. It will radiate data.
We are already reaching that level of transparency, but in the future, thanks to a much more omnipresent labeling of each product that is part of a shipment, it will be possible for tiny built-in sensors to reach an unprecedented degree of tracking and location in real time. Currently, FedEx already offers a larger multi-sensor device for high-value shipments, called SenseAware, for use in all modes of transportation, including aircraft, intra-EE. UU and to more than a dozen international destinations. The 2033 sensors will be omnipresent.
It will be an optimized supply chain in all phases and personalized on an individual scale. Each of us will have access to a personalized control tower, a command center for each shipment in the palm of our hand, whether it's a smartphone, a tablet or any other device. Today, many large companies already have teams in charge of managing "control towers" to monitor the problems arising in the supply chain, whether due to weather conditions, mechanical failures or, why not, social disturbances. In 20 years, more advanced algorithms will constantly analyze the speed versus the expenses for each one of us, generating global options to divert a shipment, accelerate it or slow it down.
This level of information will also lead to greater security throughout the entire supply chain. The ability to know the status of a shipment, such as the location of a batch of dishwashing machines or the temperature of a delivery of human tissue, with greater certainty if possible. This simplifies the supply chain in turn. The possibility of having a 360º global vision of a trip paves the way in a certain way, facilitates the visibility of even the most complex routes, generates efficiency, reduces expenses and, basically, generates confidence around the arrival on time and in a way Secure of shipments.
This flexibility will also extend to a venerable aspect of the supply chain: consolidation. In 2013, most shipments are consolidated, placed in containers in the hold of an airplane, the hull of a ship or inside a truck. In 2033, the range of possibilities incorporated in the supply chain will include deconsolidation, allowing the withdrawal of a part, even a single article, of a consolidated shipment. This will allow, in exchange for a price, of course, to speed up the adaptation and delivery of a personal dialysis machine sent from Vietnam to the port of Los Angeles for a patient from Kansas City who needs it urgently. Instead of sending it with dozens of other devices in a truck upon arrival in the United States, there will be more options to remove it from the global shipment and send it separately, for example, by overnight air transport, overnight.