The Supply Chain of the Future

Part 1

· logistics and systems

The future of work is a hybrid between digital guides and personal approval. So, what does the supply chain of the future look like, how about a story?

Imagine this, you are situated in a remote farming outpost in Northern Australia far away from anything, the farm exists due to fertile lands I suppose how should I know I don’t know anything about farming. Anyway, this farm is really cool, it uses drones to check fences and robots to sow and harvest the land. Satellite images are used to assess the condition of crops and sensors are there to detect predators. You even have robotic deterrents to deal with those threats. This is the largest and most technologically advanced farming operation ever created, one which leverages the very latest in big data, analytics, sensors, and robotic technologies, and you get to be the one that runs it. You are in charge of this large and complicated behemoth.

But let’s face it, having so much technology also means having many points of failure. Machines need to be maintained, the weather needs to be monitored, shipments need to be scheduled. Of course, you have an offsite support team but what about on the ground, helping you? Luckily you have Emily your trusty sidekick who runs everything we’ve mentioned, from the robots to the drones to monitor the weather data, she’s the only one which is capable. Capable of maintaining this mountain of information and real-time feedback which leads into individual tasking – Emily keeps the things running. How is she so capable? That’s because Emily is a computer. Your digital Ai assistant. Your AISS… the AISS up your sleeve. Or indeed Emily could just as easily be a pain in your AISS sometimes.

You might be thinking, why do you even need to be on the farm if Emily can handle everything? Because as much as Emily is the only one capable of operating something so complicated, you are still needed to make decisions, to check that the right things are done and to be the human signatory of responsibility. Together, you and Emily work hand in hand in perfect harmony. Emily manages the tasks and monitors all the parameters. Then informs you of any issues or breakdowns which need a human touch, that’s your job. To fix, monitor, approve and create solutions which machines can’t come up with. You are the chief operator of the system. Plus, you know, would you invest a couple hundred million and then not put a single person there to minor what’s going on? Me neither.

One evening, after you have gone to sleep, a perimeter sensor is triggered. Wildlife is threatening some of your crops. Since this farm is bloody huge you can’t put a fence around the whole thing entirely, but you have sensors and drones help with that. A drone like – let's call him Darren – who is not an “attack drone” that won’t sell very well… but more, a Robotic Ranger-Drone called Darren… you know what it might be easier to call him R2-D1. Yeah, I’m pretty sure I got away with that.

Emily, who obviously monitors every sensor input, despatches Darren to disperse the wildlife – with a high-frequency sound canon. On route, Emily notices the winds are too strong and shortens Darren’s route. Unfortunately, Darren gets damaged anyway, blown off his flight path and sent into the ground. Emily orders a ground recovery robot to be sent out across the terrain to pick up the fallen worker and bring him back to base.

After assessing the damage, Emily works out that a new set of wings are needed. However, this being a remote outpost, how is this situation dealt with? What about the sensor that was triggered?

We continue, next time.