Futuristic Technology and Procurement: Google Glass, iWatch, 3D Manufacturing, and Driverless Cars

Spend Matters welcomes another guest post from Santosh Nair of GEP.

Bill Gates once said, “Never before in history has innovation offered promise of so much to so many in so short a time.” His comment reflects the dramatic pace of human technological progress and its game-changing impact on our society, business, and economy. Most of these exponential changes appear to impact the B2C space, whereas the B2B segment seems more focused on linear incremental improvements in productivity and automation. But this need not be the case. In the next few years, some futuristic technologies have the potential to change the face of procurement.

3D Printing: The hottest buzzword in manufacturing technology, 3D printing is an additive process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. It is moving quickly from a niche segment into the commercial space, with an estimated industry size of $3 billion. This has profound implications for the economics of manufacturing and supply chains. The instantaneous production capability could eliminate the need for warehouses, multi-point shipping, and several steps between producers and consumers. The mass manufacturing model that made China the production hub of the world could shift in favor of a distributed, customized, small-scale manufacturing model. Some procurement leaders have already begun creating internal strategies to leverage this technology trend. Others would do well to begin thinking of its potential.

Google Glass and iWatch: Google Glass is a wearable computer that displays on-demand information in a hands-free format. It is part of the Augmented Reality development that attempts to free data from desktop computers and portable devices like phones and tablets, and place it right in front of your eyes (or on your hands). The implications are profound – intuitive directions as you turn, real-time translations of what is being said, scroll through and reply to messages - all on the fly. The procurement implications can be even more significant, providing constant access to real-time relevant data. Imagine sitting in a supplier negotiation and having the ability to bring up instantaneous data on any negotiation point being discussed or having an update meeting with the CFO and responding to unanticipated questions with data-driven answers. The technology makes big data accessible for your instant use.

Driverless cars: As a technology, driverless cars are as amazing as they are scary. While the technology has huge implications for cities and commuters, the bigger impact is on the nature of transportation. For travel managers who have recently adopted the concept of green procurement in their fleet, driverless cars will be even more disruptive. Smaller versions of these changes have already begun to alter the landscape of travel procurement, such as telematics to track driver safety and productivity, web meetings to reduce travel budgets, automated reservation systems with built-in controls, etc. Driverless cars will take this innovation continuum several steps forward.

The pace of technological change opens up new opportunities for procurement professionals. Visionary leaders will see beyond current trends and instead plan to leverage these innovative technologies effectively.

For more interesting thinking on procurement, visit the GEP Knowledge Portal.

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First Voice

  1. James:

    Driver less cars could increase average MPG substantially over conventional cars given the same technology and standards. The engine would only need to be a fraction of the HP due to being able to merge with other driver less cars appropriately and not use the HP to get out of the way or to overcome frequent stops.

    We’ve reached the point where mass transit systems continue to be more and more inefficient. Most run empty off hours and require massive infrastructure that cannot be re purposed. Many run less than 20 and as bad as 10 passenger miles per gallon. Even SUVs are beating that.

    We need new approaches.

    Of course, nega-miles is best (figure out how to avoid the trip in the first place)

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