12 innovations around Christmas - 9: Transport of goods

Giving gifts at Christmas and events like birthdays in a modern society require us to have effective and efficient transport systems. The ability to have enough supply to meet consumer demands has led to numerous innovations in supply chain and transportation.

We’ve been shipping goods around the world for a very long time. It’s still the most popular way to transport something from one part of the world to another. The scale of modern ships allow for large volumes of goods to be moved on one powerful ship.

One of the costs effective innovations with shipping is the intermodal container, or more commonly referred to shipping container. The first international standardised container was established in the 1930s. Modifications through the 40s and 50s, and later ISO standards for containers were published from the 60s into the early 1970s led to the common shipping containers on our seas today.

These containers have allowed importers and exporters to keep transportation costs down, with consistent means to load goods to containers, from household electronic items to vehicles themselves. These containers provide flexibility for manufacturers and can be loaded onto trucks for transportation to a business by road, or moved to a port for sea travel.

Innovations for transport across the seas have come in the form of Panama and Suez canals. These artificial waterways allow for the passing of cargo ships through land masses rather than travelling around whole continents. The ability to avoid a long trip and deliver goods sooner allows business to operate more effectively.

Some companies (and many customers too!) don’t like the wait associated with shipping goods. Companies such as Apple deliver their goods by plane, which allows for faster delivery time to customers around the world. Of course, the offset of time and convenience can result in more cost for the product. Planes are faster, but more expensive and hold less volume, bringing less to market per trip.

On a smaller scale in our own backyards, Domino’s Pizza Enterprises are currently trialling advancements in pizza deliveries. Plans are afoot to go past just the cars, motorbikes and trikes seen on our roads now. Enhancements to the delivery experience include a self-driving robot - “DRU” and the potential for drone pizza deliveries, with the first delivered in November in New Zealand.

Companies such as Woolworths and Australia Post are providing more flexible “click and collect” options for online purchases, with in-store lockers, giving purchasers more options to receive their parcels.

Considering the shift to smaller and more personal “to the home” deliveries and in store pickups, could we soon be seeing our parcels delivered on time to us, without human intervention at all? What’s the next big shift in transporting goods around the world? Do some of the technologies being considered for moving people take hold?

20 December 2016