October 2020 | Commentary | Checking In

The World Is Your Warehouse 3.0

Tags: Warehousing, E-commerce, Technology

Keith Biondo is the publisher of Inbound Logistics magazine.

In a column I wrote 20 years ago called "Millennium Musings," I used the phrase "make the world your warehouse." It took two decades, but it appears that we may be on the cusp of that actually happening, not just in developed countries, but across the entire world. How?

Enter Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, an American aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company based in California. Elon Musk founded the company in 2002 with the, ahem, lofty goal of placing a permanent colony on Mars.

Back to Earth—SpaceX runs the Starlink network of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites and has a mission to provide high-speed worldwide internet, especially to remote locations that have no web or cell service. Currently, SpaceX has 700 LEO satellites surrounding our planet, but the company just filed a request to launch and run 30,000 more. What for? Just to provide internet service to remote areas?

First responders tested the system recently in areas completely destroyed by fire in Washington State. "I have never set up any tactical satellite equipment that has been as quick to set up, and anywhere near as reliable," said Richard Hall, emergency telecommunications leader, IT division, Washington State Military Department.

Almost-instant web tone in areas devoid of infrastructure using very small, battery-operated devices? Sweet. Reliable web tone ubiquity has a distinct global supply chain tie-in. It enables e-commerce companies, and not just Amazon, to take orders from everywhere and anywhere, allowing all countries, developed or not, to share what we take for granted.

SpaceX LEO satellites also provide highly accurate and unjammable GPS, resistant to weather interruptions, with signals that can be 1,000 times stronger than the GPS in use today.

Beyond the economic and social impact that will have on billions of people, the question arises: How do we deliver that product to many locations without workable transport infrastructure?

Amazon recently got Federal Aviation Administration clearance to fly delivery drones across the entire United States. Combine that ability with their reported takeover of suburban locations vacated by stressed retailers for distribution center use with drones. Beyond the obvious domestic market expansion, you can imagine a test case for efficient delivery in areas with less population density.

When you consider the reliable global web tone, combined with a new generation of powerful GPS and next-gen, long-range delivery drones, it doesn't take much imagination to envision a world at your demand-driven fingertips for delivery to global buyers of industrial and consumer products.

Any product available from anywhere, to anywhere, with true global visibility and web control at every step? Stated another way, the world is your warehouse.






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