CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
October 19, 2018
Forward Thinking

Logistics 2050: Five visions of the future

A new report from the mail and logistics conglomerate forecasts future trends in trade, business, and society—and how supply chains and logistics may fit into those scenarios.

These days, it's hard enough to predict what will happen next month, let alone several decades from now. Yet it behooves logistics and supply chain managers to think about their companies' future. Forward thinkers will find much to consider in Deutsche Post DHL's new report, Delivering Tomorrow: Logistics 2050.

The report examines five possible scenarios of life in the year 2050, outlining how the world might look in terms of globalization, economic and social development, technology, and environmental conditions. To develop those visions, Deutsche Post DHL called on respected experts from around the world, including former director of the U.N. Environmental Program Klaus Töpfer and Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency, as well as representatives of such organizations as the World Economic Forum and the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies.

Herewith a very brief overview of the five scenarios:

Scenario 1: Untamed economy, impending collapse. Unchecked materialism, mass consumption, and tumultuous growth cause demand for logistics and transport services to soar. A global transportation "supergrid" ensures a rapid exchange of goods between centers of consumption. But as climate change advances, supply chains are increasingly disrupted.

Scenario 2: Megaefficiency in "megacities." Megacities have become champions of collaboration, and highly efficient traffic concepts have relieved congestion. A global supergrid of mega transporters and space transporters supports trade between megacities. The logistics industry has been entrusted to run city logistics, utilities, and system services for airports, hospitals, and retail.

Scenario 3: Customized lifestyles. Individualization and personalized consumption are pervasive. Consumers are empowered to design and make their own products. This leads to a rise in regional trade streams, with only raw materials and data still flowing globally. This turns strong regional logistics capabilities and a high-quality last-mile network into important success factors.

Scenario 4: Paralyzing protectionism. Triggered by economic hardship, excessive nationalism and protectionist barriers reverse globalization. High energy prices and scarcity of supply lead to international conflicts over resources. Governments view logistics as a strategic industry. As relations between some blocs and countries become strained, logistics providers act as intermediaries in international trade brokerage.

Scenario 5: Global resilience, local adaptation. Frequent catastrophes caused by climate change disrupt supply chains and lean production structures. A move toward redundant production systems and from global to regionalized supply chains allows the global economy to better weather troubling times. The logistics sector makes supply security a top priority, with backup infrastructure to guarantee transport in unstable and hazardous times.

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