Canadian Shipper Magazine explores how shifts in technology, geography, demand, and trade negotiations will affect an industry that employs over 120,000 Canadians.
Caroly Gruske interviewed Rodrigo Simones, head of automotive and industrial vertical markets for the Americas, DB Schenker, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Although Simones says the North American automotive market seems strong and healthy right now-and-nicely recovered from the last recession, he has to wonder what the future holds for those who produce cars, make parts and offer automotive logistics services. In particular changing technologies and manufacturing processes will require the entire industry to evolve, and it’s an evolution that has already started to happen. “The sector is changing right now. In the near future the autonomous car is coming. I think right now on the logistics side, the way we move parts is going to change,” he says.
“In the next few years, the automotive supply chain is going to increase the complexity in terms of the material we are handling. For sure there are going to be more batteries because more and more technology in cars is going to be demanded by customers.”
Adapting to the movement of batteries and an ever-increasing amount of electronics is something Simones says will take some adjustment.
“Right now we move steel, we move heavy parts from A to B. But more and more they are requiring us to move batteries and batteries are challenging from a logistics point of view because it’s harder, it’s a dangerous good, and we have to avoid damage by water and damage by handling because they’re more sensitive.”
Besides wondering about the type of parts that will be shipped in the future, Simones also wonders about how much need there will be to move other kinds of parts. He suspects advances in 3D printing will mean companies will be able to centralize their design operations, in Germany, for example, and then just print out parts in their production facilities in North America, thereby eliminating the need for transportation.
It’s not only just the cars and the technology that operates them that is changing. Simones says the entire attitude toward automotive ownership is undergoing a shift, and that shift will affect those who provide logistics to the automotive supply chain.
“I wonder about how the young generation sees the automotive product. For past generations, cars used to be status symbol. Right now if you go to the big cities people don’t even care about cars. I try to look to the market 20 or 30 years from now. The younger generation doesn’t value cars the way they did even 10 years ago. I don’t have the exact number but I think 60-70 percent of the lifetime of a car is spent parked, not moving. And I think with autonomous technology in the future, we are going to see fewer cars because you can just take a car and use it when you want and then drop it off. The entire market is changing. Even OEMs don’t know how the next generation will see cars as a product.
“A lot can change, but we just have to keep thinking about it. From a logistics point of view it’s going to be tough, not easy to follow those changes, but we just have to stay connected.”
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