Reviewing predictions from 2004 on Operations Management in 2020 : My Opinions

I found a copy of the magazine Business 2.0 in my stash of books and magazines this morning. The magazine is not published anymore but it was one of my favorite magazines. This magazine had a forward looking approach on Tech, Business etc. (much like MIT Tech Review). Whenever there was any article that I really liked, I used to keep that issue.

One such issue was the April 2004 issue (2 months before I was to start my MBA). It had an article -“The World of Business in 2020”. This was essentially a prediction about how new Economy will look like 15 years from now (actually then – in 2004). There were many predictions regarding Operations Management as well and in this article, I have selected five of them and intend to review those predictions and see how close they were.

Prediction 1: Outsourcing everywhere

“A firm will focus on its core competencies and nothing more. Ex: An electronic firm may focus on product management and Marketing while design and manufacturing are framed out to a constellation of partner firms.”

Opinion: Holds true, mostly. Though with the trend of Globalization reversing, this may end up changing but for electronics companies, the focus indeed has been on R&D, Product Management , Marketing AND Distribution.

Prediction 2: Smart Factories

“Contract manufacturers around the world work from web based computer aided design drawings, adaptive injection molding tools and self re configuring assembly machines.”

Opinion: We are definitely beyond this as far as Smart Factories go. We are on the cusp of having factories that will take care of themselves most of the time. Much have been written on  my blogs about Smart factories so I will not elaborate further.

Prediction 3: Talking Inventory

” Tiny RFID tags attached to parts and components ensure that suppliers have just enough inventory to fill orders. Each tag emits a faint radio signal that provides the network with real time information about inventory status and location.”

Opinion: As I mentioned in one of my articles as well, we never leveraged RFID technology to its full potential. In the context of this opinion, we have indeed leveraged RFID for tracking inventory but rarely for Inventory planning. Will we eventually use it for Inventory planning ? Probably not – we have IoT now- the new shiny thing !

Prediction 4: What’s in the box ?

“Smart tags and a special container satellite transmitter allow every item to be monitored by buyers with detailed information about the location of containers and the condition of each product inside.”

Opinion: We are close, in terms of leveraging IoT sensors to monitor products in transit. Since it is not 2020 yet, I can say that this prediction also kind of was dead on.

Prediction 5: The Lonely Road

“Long haul trucks travel in pods, with a single human driver commanding a column of automated drone trucks linked by wireless remote controls.”

Opinion: In my mind, I believe we have the technology in place, a step ahead of the prediction in the form of self driving trucks. Test runs have already started so I will say we are close here as well.


Views my own.

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