In recent times, the business world has become inundated by a growing number of pioneering ideas. Space-age concepts including Google Glass and 3D printing have opened up huge opportunities for organizations, especially in the field of supply chain management. As these futuristic innovations help organizations move forward, many are left questioning; what will be the next big development?
One of the most prominent ideas to emerge in the last few months is Elon Musk’s Hyperloop transportation concept. Presented by the CEO of Tesla Motors and Space X, this fifth mode of transport would use a network of pneumatic steel tubes to connect major cities around the globe. Resembling something out of the hit animated TV series, Futurama, the Hyperloop gives us an intriguing sneak peak at what tomorrow’s supply chains could look like.
According to initial reports, Musk’s idea would massively reduce travel times. Through accelerating passenger capsules to speeds in excess of 700mph, the time required to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco would be slashed from 6 hours to just 30 minutes. Compared to conventional cars, planes, ships and trains, the Hyperloop also presents a safer and less disruptive mode of transport.
While the Hyperloop sounds like an effective alternative to air or rail freight, Musk is not the first to consider pneumatic transit. In 1827, an engineer by the name of George Medhurst released a book about pneumatic propulsion which led to the development of an atmospheric railway. Much like the Hyperloop, this idea suggested using elevated tubes to transport goods as well as people. In more recent times, this concept has been adopted on a smaller scale to move objects around hospitals and post offices.
Given the success of similar technology, the Hyperloop could prove a feasible solution with many tangible benefits for businesses.
At present, transporting materials from distant suppliers could take several weeks. However, thanks to the staggering speeds achieved by the Hyperloop, all necessary components could be delivered in just a matter of hours. As a result of shorter lead times, organizations would be able to access a broader spectrum of suppliers and even explore entirely new markets.
The Hyperloop would have a streamlining effect on supply chain operations, allowing businesses to achieve a whole new level of flexibility. Instead of holding high inventory levels in numerous local distribution centres, stock could be quickly and efficiently transported from a just a handful of central and regional warehouses. This would simplify operations and create a more responsive supply chain.
While the benefits of the Hyperloop are undeniably promising, there are unfortunately no official plans to start building a supply chain network out of pneumatic tubes. However, as mentioned previously, the first steps have been taken by Musk as he revealed his plans for using this technology to cut the travel time from San Francisco to L.A. to just 30 minutes. Furthermore, his proposed budget is significantly lower than the planned high speed rail project, which is budgeted at $70 billion.
This innovative concept is yet another example of how futuristic thinking today could completely change tomorrows supply chain. While it could be some time before the Hyperloop becomes a reality, how do you envisage new technologies will impact your supply chain operations?