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Logistics & Fulfilment

Delivery to be automated within 20 years?

Australians may have grocery delivered by automated mobile stores within 20 years, according to research conducted by Deakin University.

The team looked at how driverless grocery stores could replace supermarkets, while the traditional mail service could be taken over by drones and ‘RoboPost’ automatic delivery units.

The report identified about 200 future drivers of change which led to the development of four future scenarios imagining the world in 2037.

“This strategy will inform the development of infrastructure that will take several years to implement and then needs to last decades. So it’s critical we look deep into the future,” said project leader Dr. Roberto Perez-Franco, senior research fellow at the Deakin centre.

“But that’s a very difficult thing to do, we really don’t know what will happen in two decades’ time.

“We can look at the issues of today, but where we need to go next requires a lot more analysis, and that’s where scenario work like this comes in.”

The report also outlined possible changes in Australia’s future supply chain, such as freight-only flights and rail, decentralizing farming and manufacturing to ensure goods are closer to consumers in addition to an ‘origins’ app allowing customers to track products from farm to front door.

The report also advises longer government terms and a reduction in the number of governmental tiers, promoting more bipartisan support for long-term infrastructure projects.

Perez-Franco noted that “this is one of the first serious pieces of scenario work in the Australian transport sector”, and builds on a methodology developed by a team at MIT in 2010, which Perez-Franco was also involved in.

According to Perez-Franco, freight is expected to double over the next 20 years, so industry and all levels of government need to work together to ensure that happens smoothly, and results in a net positive for the nation’s prosperity.

“There is [a lot] of anxiety about new automation technologies…which promise to displace thousands of people in their jobs.

“Companies and governments have the responsibility to ensure the displaced workers are retrained so that they can play meaningful roles in this brave new world.

“We can really set ourselves apart as a clean, green and ethical source of agricultural products if we make our supply chain a priority.”

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