The global supply chain suffered back-to-back heart attacks with near-fatal results. On the heels of a global pandemic, the clogging of a single canal is all it took. Like a health issue, these symptoms shouldn’t be ignored. Technology is the cure, which is why lawmakers should exercise caution when regulating AI and Automation.
For my clients in emerging tech and advanced manufacturing, the morbid obesity of the global supply chain isn’t a surprise. Many know how fragile it is. It may look functional from the outside, but as we’ve seen, a small amount of strain on a single clogged artery stops everything, requiring years to fully recover. (I still can’t find my favorite toilet paper!)
How the supply chain works
Many are unaware of how fragile the supply chain is. There are only two major options: air and sea—and both within one year alone were completely shut down without much notice. Tom Murphy, head of supply management for my client Accumold, a manufacturer of microscopic components for large OEMs, explained the problems.
Air is a cost-effective option but was disrupted by the pandemic not because planes couldn’t be flown, but because travelers vanished. Most international travelers are unaware, just underneath their feet is shipping space purchased by freight companies. When the entire world stops traveling internationally, shipping space almost completely disappeared. Transitioning planes isn’t a quick option.
Shipping space via the ocean is also an option but has challenges as well. It requires larger orders, is expensive, and there’s currently an overweight shipping container problem (did this contribute to the Suez Canal blockage?) These difficulties make it hard for companies to acquire shipping space, not to mention small companies.
AI and Automation Lessen Overseas Reliance
The USA will continue to be a good global partner, but our companies should move their supply chains domestically to ensure lean operations and a healthy economy. It may sound like an expensive proposition, but the technology that some have feared may be the savior we need. AI and Automation.
As an emerging tech PR and communications guy, I’ve seen throughout history how often new technology to build for tomorrow is feared. Sometimes labeled as economic boogyman, AI and Automation improvements are the healthy options we need to shed the pounds from years of gluttonous supply chain choices. Not to mention, advances here are likely to add jobs to the American economy. Regulating AI and Automation could hurt our future.
AI and Automation Add Jobs
AMP Robotics is using AI / Automation, to address supply chain disruptions stemming from China’s refusal to accept US recyclables. CEO Matanya Horowitz spoke to me about the difficulty recyclers even before the pandemic, finding help due to the negative aspects of sorting. Their AI-fueld robots have likely saved a dying industry that would have cost thousands of jobs, creating new growth.
Companies like Nebullum are advancing local supply chain options within the organic produce space. Calling themselves “the John Deere of indoor farming” this small company located in Ames, Iowa sits next to agriculturally-focused Iowa State University. Founder Clayton Mooney explained how they aeroponically grow a head of lettuce, inside, pesticide-free, in just 3 weeks. AI and Automation will allow Nebullum to grow at a fast rate without feeling the pinch of staffing margins. They are hardly the first to venture into this space.
It would also be foolish to leave out Tesla in this conversation. Often thought of only as “that EV company” many are unaware they are the only American car company that makes their cars 100% in the USA. Regulating AI and Automation would’ve prevented this reality. Tesla is able to stay competitive because of these efforts, which is important to note do not replace people, but empower them.
Regulating AI and Automation requires caution
Entrepreneurs, owners, shareholders need to stop fearing the future. Most importantly, our politicians need to be extremely cautious, when regulating AI and Automationtion or considering taxation on the very tech that will free us from our next economic heart attack.
Photo by Arno Senoner on Unsplash