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Special supplement for edition 4 (234)

October 2018

October 2018
Editorial
The future belongs to us
Nathan North

I remember as a child seeing footage of the inner workings of a Japanese car plant, where robotic arms welded and riveted together each component of a Mazda or Datsun as they came down the conveyer – and with not a single human in sight at any stage of the process. It was a fascinating and yet terrifying vision of the future: precision, efficiency and one where homo sapiens are literally redundant. Our days as useful employees, it seemed, were numbered. And yet, this dystopian vision did not come to pass. For one thing, the footage was very selective, omitting to show the operators required for these robots. Human employment didn’t go out of the window and was actually boosted as hi-tech production thrived across the manufacturing sector. In fact, the worst consequences of it were all those boring people who insisted on doing robot-dances at discos.

Fast-forward several decades and it seems we’re on the brink of another technological revolution, this time populated by algorithms and abbreviations such as AI, AR, IoT and BIM. The latest robots are computer programs that do our book-keeping and other repetitive processing tasks. And all of this could soon be taking place under a drone-filled sky. The way that all this new tech has been embraced by the warehousing and logistics sector has been particularly dramatic – and will continue to be so as it takes quantum leaps towards ever faster delivery to the end-customer. And this, as you will discover as you read on, is a recurring topic in this supplement.

The anxiety we may feel at the rise of these machines appears to be misplaced: according to a recent World Economic Forum report, 75 mln jobs worldwide could be made obsolete by technological progress, but this would be more than compensated by the 133 mln that are set to be created by it. Indeed, as this publication reveals, the historical phenomenon of people moving to where the jobs are is being reversed, as warehouses move closer to population centres – not just for the almost instant deliveries that consumers now expect, but to take advantage of the pools of tech-savvy personnel that cities provide and that are essential for the running of these facilities. So maybe it’s not The Matrix or Minority Report that we should be thinking of, but the brave new world that lies ahead of us. And since in our region the warehousing and logistics sector has been going from strength to strength, it’s our part of the world that is likely to benefit most.

--> Even for those of us who are a bit longer in the tooth, mechanisation and computerisation in the ...
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