KD Adamson, Futurenatics CEO, gives readers a précis of her opening address at the Shipping 2030 exhibition held in Singapore earlier this week, an event where she took what is likely to have been shipping’s first conference selfie on the stage.
People feel that the pace of change is accelerating and they’re right. We have a range of global megatrends colliding head on with a bunch of breakthrough technologies growing at an exponential rate. To complicate matters we also have new generational cohorts who have profoundly different attitudes than those which have gone before. Understanding the difference between the linear growth we’re used to and the exponential growth we’re experiencing now is key.
It means we can no longer use the past to predict the future. It also means that the world is likely to change more in the next 50 years than in the last few hundred.
This is going to have massive implications for businesses and shipping’s problem is that it’s still using the past to predict the future. The assumption that if we just sit tight the upturn will come is a dangerous mistake. There is a new ‘seaconomics’ we have to accept – the historic link between global GDP growth and shipping volumes has decoupled, we have a demographic time bomb delivering an ageing population which buys services rather than goods and a younger generation which is the first in memory to be poorer than its parents. On top of that technological impacts for example of 3D printing and the dawn of Industry 4.0 means that methods, volumes and locations of manufacturing will alter markedly.
There is a new landscape for business which is turning traditional vertical markets into far broader arenas, as evidenced by the activities of digital companies like Amazon, Uber, Facebook and Google. Connectivity and mobility are merging and shipping could face very different competitors very soon.
So is shipping just rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic? Absolutely not. The technologies which are disrupting us can be used to our advantage. Intelligent transportation systems are an integral part of industry 4.0 and that where shipping needs to play. We need to become a Blue Logistics channel, integrating seamlessly with our customers and suppliers and adding real value, as opposed to only focusing on reducing cost.
Autonomous vehicles are key in this intelligent transport system and they will be key to shipping because of that. Trying to evaluate them in terms of today’s business models is missing the point.
But more than different vessels and hyperconnectivity shipping needs a digital vision for the industry. And every company needs one too. Something which fundamentally redefines shipping for the digital age. But we need something else that’s very important- and that’s a big, hairy, audacious goal. Something transformative and defining that will attract the millennials and Gen Zs that we desperately need. And making a profit doesn’t qualify.
The place to start is with a question. What value will my business bring when the power of computing doubles, quadruples, or grows by a factor of eight? Because that’s what we’re facing inside the next decade. The way you answer that question and the action you take as a result is sufficiently critical that it will likely determine whether or not your company survives.