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4 Giant Transportation Trends Shaping the Supply Chain

In logistics, it’s critical to keep abreast of the best tools for deliveries today, while staying ahead of the curve on what will be going on tomorrow. To do that, UPS recently commissioned Routes to the Future, a whitepaper series that examines key trends affecting businesses. The first one explored the dramatic changes transportation will see in the coming decade – poised to be the most revolutionary in more than a century. 

Image courtesy: UPS

Image courtesy: UPS

We’ve always looked ahead: UPS operates one of the largest alternative-fuel and alternative-technology fleets in the world – a “rolling laboratory” of vehicles running on everything from electricity to renewable natural gas made from chicken waste. But what is striking about the future is that density – not distance – is the new challenge. Getting around in a world of density will be more about intelligence.

Here’s what anyone who relies on supply chains should be thinking about:

Mix and match car : In dense urban districts, the multi-car family may become as common as laundry drying in the breeze. Families, as well as businesses who operate fleets of service vehicles, may determine that one vehicle may serve many purposes – and modules will make it easy for one vehicle system to meet a multitude of changing mobility needs.

Think about every car system being entirely configurable – you will be able to choose the number and size of passenger modules and container modules, the appropriate energy system, the chassis and the transformer gear for snapping modules together. You become your own automotive engineer, designing the system that meets your needs – and ordering the components from multiple distributors to get the exact set of modules you want. Maybe you even mix and match brands for different components, plugging a Tesla battery module into a GM system or swapping a Toyota onboard computer for an Apple model.

Domestic/commercial blur : In the U.S. and most industrialized economies, a growing “maker movement,” combined with small-scale fabrication technologies like 3D printing, is bringing production back into garages and home workshops. Home offices are now standard features of many homes as the freelance workforce grows.

Sharing exchanges like Etsy and eBay support a robust economy of home marketers, while the new “maker studios” give garage inventors access to 3D printers and other tools that enable them to build new products in a collaborative environment. The result is a growing blur between domestic and commercial activities, which in turn creates demand for new kinds of pick-up and delivery for everything from artisan foods and furniture to 3D-printing supplies. 

New automobile materials : Driven by demands for fuel efficiency, automobile manufacturers are aggressively seeking more lightweight and flexible materials for vehicles. High-end luxury vehicles increasingly include lightweight materials such as aluminum and carbon fiber in their mix. The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) has launched a Lightweight Automotive Materials Program to develop tools for modeling and digitally testing new materials and designs. Such efforts will be critical to make modular concept cars and trucks commercially viable.

Mobility by the minute : In the future, denizens of the city may invest less in owning individual cars and more in the services they provide. The smart vehicle of the future quite literally becomes a “service” in this scenario, showing up as a refrigerated van one day and a limousine the next. Service providers manage entire fleets, and mix-and-match modules give them the flexibility to optimize those fleets for the logistics of the day. Meanwhile, as a customer, you pay a monthly fee only for the services used.

What are the big trends you are keeping your eyes on? Let us know in the comments section below. 

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