A technological storm is brewing, one that has many different names. The Fourth Industrial Revolution. The Cyber Physical Supply Chain. Industry 4.0. The Age of Disruption. The Digital Age.
Whatever name you prefer, the concept behind them all is the same; we are facing a wave of change driven by innovations in robotics, autonomous vehicles, additive manufacturing, smart machines, e-commerce, big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning and cognitive computing. Machines are becoming smarter. Jobs are becoming automated. Management is becoming outdated.
It is poised to affect the entire end-to-end supply chain. It’s impacting every area from digging stuff out of the ground, through to the factory, the warehouse and now the transportation of goods. Your children are unlikely to do the same job you did. In fact, the entire concept of a job for life, even just a career, is something that may soon be a relic of the past.
It’s a winner take all model. For those winners, the spoils will be enormous, concentrating great power into the hands of a small group of technology driven organisations. Unlike the First Industrial Revolution, which benefited people both as participants in the production and consumption of goods, this time round the greatest beneficiaries will be those with capital; the shareholders. The benefits to ordinary people will be limited to that of a consumer.
To demonstrate how big this shift is, according to a 2014 estimate, the three leading companies of Silicon Valley had a combined market capitalisation of $1.09 trillion and employed 137,000. Just twenty-five years earlier, in 1990, the three largest companies in Detroit had a market capitalisation of $36 billion – but they also collectively employed about 1.2 million workers. The trickle down model seems to have stopped trickling.
So while the World Wide Web provides many things for free, such as knowledge, many workers are seeing their traditional skills become redundant by new computer technologies and the new employment opportunities have mainly been created for highly skilled workers. The scary point is, we are only at the very start of this economic and social transformation. By 2025 autonomous vehicles –cars, lorries, drones – will be commonplace, replacing the multitude of driving jobs currently carried out by people. In the US alone there are 8.7 million trucking-related jobs, and approximately 1 million car drivers (180,000 taxi drivers, 160,000 Uber drivers, 500,000 school bus drivers, and 160,000 transit bus drivers). Very few of these will have a job moving forwards.
The transformation will affect more than blue collar workers; the nature of occupations and whole industries is changing. Technology is enabling not just the automation of repetitive tasks but also cognitive tasks involving subtle and non-routine judgment. All the signs indicate that we are entering a period of disruptive change of a scale not seen since we decided to put down our pitchforks, stop living an agricultural existence and head for the cities to become part of an industrial society.
Companies like Amazon, who have a clear vision as to how these technologies can aid their mission to dominate the world of retail, are mercilessly pushing their virtuous cycle of innovation, changing the way we buy goods, and our expectations around when and how they are delivered. They envision an end-to-end value chain dominated by platforms that they are in control of, a model where the consumer only has to say out loud what they want, and behind the scenes a fully automated global supply kicks into gear to provide your goods within hours.
The days of mass production are now over. The future supply chain will be personal, automated and local. The question is – are you ready?
To find out the answer to this, and to learn more about the nature of this new wave of creative destruction, be sure to attend my full day workshop on Disruption in the Supply Chain.
During the day we will explore the nature of the changes currently underway, how they will affect your business, what companies like Amazon are doing with these technologies to ensure they orchestrate the whole international supply chain, and how companies need to change their mindsets and organisational structures in order to adapt to this new world.
Learn how to not just survive, but thrive during this time of disruption.
About our Guest Blogger
Member of the European Leadership Team of the APICS Supply Chain Council SCOR-P, FCILT, is a recognised strategic advisor, business transformation expert, keynote speaker and author focusing on helping companies develop compelling value propositions and strategies that get executed. Previously CEO of SEVEN, Sean has 25 years of global experience across numerous verticals, and is also CMO for an international software company. Sean will be delivering a series of workshops on the impact of disruptive innovations on business across the Asia Pacific region in November 2016, and his first book; Transition Point: Revolution, Evolution or Endgame? is due in 2017.