In the latest edition of its highly influential series, Facing the Forces of Change, The National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW) discusses many of the disruptions facing those in the Wholesale and Distribution industries. In a prior post, we took a macro-level view of the whole study. Here, we will look at several developing trends that are not currently changing the landscape. However, they are on the horizon and could soon create major disruption.

Robotics and Industrial Connectivity

What It Is: An offshoot of the Internet of Things is the rise of connected robots in the operations of factory floors, warehouses, and elsewhere. From the plant floor to the customer door, connected robotics could be used in manufacturing in every phase of operation. Retails are also testing the use of robotics in inventory management and customer service.

How It Might Be Used: Distributors could use this technology in their warehouses to help locate missing items, measure inventory, and move items from one part of the warehouse to another.

3D Printing, Also Known As Additive Manufacturing

What It Is: 3D printers print from a computer-aided design software model, or from a 3D scan that makes a 3D digital copy of the item. 3D printing can be used to reproduce, make scale-size models, or even machine components.

How It Might Be Used: 3D printers could be used to cut down on warehouse space, or produce service parts or repair components on demand for customers.

3D Scanning

What It Is: This technology has been used for many years in the medical field through ultrasound and CT scans. An item is scanned and a precise, 3D digital model is made.

How It Might Be Used: One application is creating 3D images of parts and products for your website. This allows customers to investigate precise specifications, rotate images, and get a very clear understanding of your products.

Other Technologies: Driverless Vehicles, Drones, Virtual Reality, and Blockchain

These technologies are all in their very early stages, but their impact could be huge. Driverless vehicles, for example, may never replace all over-the-road freight haulage, but they will eventually play an increasing role. If a competitor can deliver the same goods at a lower cost because they save on fuel consumption and labor costs, you may experience competition disruption. Either look to jump on the bandwagon, or combat these continued disruptions with services like stocking shelves, or pinpoint delivery.

Many of these trends are in the conceptual phases or in the earliest stage of commercial use and application. However, the rate of technological change never ceases to amaze. In only a few years, things that seem like science fiction today may become indispensable. Keeping an eye on these developing technologies could lead your company to pioneer the wave of the future.

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