Monday, February 4, 2013

Robots and Other Supply Chain Trends - Kevin O'Marah

Believe it or not there is a Kevin O'Marah out there (yes, he spells his name differently than I do) and he is in the supply chain field.  Actually, a very accomplished person in this field.  I have been in a few meetings with him and it is fun to see who the moderator really means to call on (hint: it is usually him).

I write this because I wrote a piece over the weekend entitled "A Drone Delivers Your Package". The article discusses how the use of drones may come to package delivery.  Kevin retweeted this and made a reference to an article he wrote just last week about 5 big supply chain trends.  One of these trends was "Robotics takes off".  While he does not reference drones he clearly articulates, rightfully so, that robotics will take off in the logistics field and the trade off of capital versus labor is starting to favor capital in a big way.

Robots, like the drones I mentioned, are becoming incredibly cheaper at the same time they are also becoming more dexterous and mobile.  Here are the 5 predictions:

  1. Amazon stumbles - A bold but insightful prediction and one which is not so much predicated on them failing but on the brick and mortar guys learning to compete very quickly. 
  2. Africa Becomes Your Most Important Growth Partner -  It is essentially the "final frontier".
  3. The Carbon Tax Happens -  I could not agree more.  A tax, cap and trade or whatever form it takes, we will soon pay for destroying the environment. 
  4. Robotics Takes Off - Enough said.
  5. CSCO becomes the CEO - While this has already happened the rise of logistics and supply chain as the core differentiator makes those who hold this important position more likely to take over the company (see my article: Logistics Eats Strategy for Lunch).
So, we agree... Great predictions here and they are refreshing because they are bold and not the same old thing just warmed over.  Kevin is someone I have followed from back in his AMR days and I highly encourage you all to do the same.  You can read his writings at his blog: Beyond Supply Chain. 

Kevin's tweet is below:
As a side note this is also why people are guarded about all the optimism on the return of manufacturing to the United States.  One has to ask if it is because labor is getting expensive in China relative to labor in the US (when accounting for transportation costs) or is it because robotics have become so good and cheap that you reshore manufacturing in the US to save logistics costs AND you do not employ many people due to automation.

Paul Krugman is even weighing in on this

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