5 Findings in the Transformation Age: Shaping Your Future Roadmap that Will Surprise You

Perhaps it’s safe to say that after a tumultuous year like 2020, we’re all thoroughly sick of surprises. After all, the unprecedented and unexpected global fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to drag on as new variants of the virus emerge and areas with low rates of vaccinations suffer the ravages of the illness.

Which is all the more reason to spend some time exploring MHI’s most recent edition of its future-looking Roadmap publications: “Transformation Age: Shaping Your Future.” Produced in a three-year cycle, these reports examine the societal, corporate, global, economic, and technological shifts that will impact the success of material handling, logistics, and supply chain organizations over the next 10 to 20 years. They also offer strategies to help organizations prepare to meet this dynamic era at all levels — from C-suite to operations.

The most recent report is web-based, allowing readers to take a deeper dive into the topics that that are of particular interest or value to them, relative to where their business is currently and their vision of it for the future.

Three Key Themes

The Transformation Age report examines the future from a strategic planning point of view. Across the findings, three themes resound:

1. The era will be marked by constant, rapid change. Status quo operating strategies will not be successful going forward. More than a need for new technology, business success will require completely new operational approaches.

2. Digital technologies and tools are table stakes. Many of the innovations highlighted in MHI’s Annual Industry Reports will reach a new level of commercial viability. Further, the days of siloed technologies are over; value will come from applying and integrating multiple sets of solutions.

3. Transformation requires change. While it can be unsettling and difficult to enact, change also delivers opportunity. Companies that adopt this new digital course will be best positioned to take advantage of the coming opportunities.

Five Unexpected Findings

Although the entire report is packed with revelations about the coming changes in The Transformation Age, these five stood out.

1. Smart technologies will be mainstream in supply chains. Warehousing, manufacturing and distribution centers will leverage automation paired with sensors that feed smart platforms to inform and enable more precise scheduling, maintenance, training and more in near real-time.

2. Maritime shipping will automate. Vessels will deploy artificial intelligence (AI) and enhanced digital technology for performance optimization and monitoring. They will also be built with innovative, lighter-weight materials for faster, more efficient delivery of goods. Ports will invest in deeper channels, automated cargo loading and unloading, and specialized warehousing to expand trade capacities.

3. Neurotechnology will become embedded in the industrial workplace. Enabled by a growing range of wearable devices and cognitive engineering, the science of measuring brain function will be leveraged to translate data into meaningful insights. By adjusting the work environment to employees, these advances will bring greater safety, productivity and learning to the workplace.

4. A new space race will emerge. As seen in Richard Branson’s and Jeff Bezos’ July orbital flights, there is renewed interest and investment in space-related activities. Spurred by recent advances in technology, the industry is poised to make significant strides in lunar and planetary exploration, and inspire new capabilities in telecommunications, manufacturing and healthcare.

5.The United States’ global dominance will wane over the next five years. It will be replaced by an emerging network of more powerful nations — especially those in Asia. In China in particular, government policies and growing infrastructure are driving domestic manufacturing and logistics to serve an increasing number of people and domestic markets while reducing dependence on the West.


Want to learn more about the coming Transformation Age? Register to attend the MHI Annual Conference, “Accelerating Innovation: Respond, Recover & Thrive.” Held October 3-6, 2021 at the JW Marriott in Phoenix, these topics and more will be featured in a series of three separate focus tracks: Technology, Future Trends, and Workforce. Sessions will include experts on digital transformation, talent recruitment and development, automation, artificial intelligence and emerging technologies, Industry 4.0, and more.