The Science Channel is showing a BBC/Discovery Channel co-production titled "What if: the oil runs out." The program begins with "The scenario you are about to see is fiction. The interviews and the issues raised are real." The program explores the impacts of a severe oil shortage in about ten years. The problems include:
- On a global scale, more people are using more oil
- There is an unsupported hope that the world will muddle through the next oil shortage. There is over-exuberance that 'someone' is planning for these problems. It is hoped that the stress level will not exceed "inconvenience"
- Energy shortages have been a factor in major regional and global conflicts for more than a century
How might this impact trends in product launch? Consider globalization.
One commentator reminded the audience that globalization relies on an abundant energy supply. This is how goods get moved around the world. It is not enough to find a good product (thank you Google!) that is manufactured at a good price (the benefits of outsourcing on a global scale!) and processed through an efficient distribution system (such as Wal-Mart). The product has to reach the customer. Either the customer has to incur the additional costs of getting to the retailer and back or pay final-mile transportation costs (such as FedEx or UPS). Today the transportation costs are reasonable. In an oil shortage scenario, transportation costs are significant.
A successful product launch architecture must incorporate the trends in transportation costs. If you believe that transportation costs will become significant in a few years, what are options?
- Evaluate local production methodologies that that tend to minimize transportation costs
- Minimize transportation costs by designing products that are physically small
- Produce digital, information products (ones and zeros in a data file) such as music or other entertainment or knowledge products
What the extrapolated version of this? Consider the 24th century Star Trek: The Next Generation replicator. These replicators create any inanimate matter - including food, tools, clothes, and spare parts - as long as the recipe is on file.
Currently stereolithography is one form of 3D printing. It is becoming a common method to produce rapid prototypes. Complex parts from polyesters and some metals were easy to produce at least five years ago.
Life scientists can "print" with genetic components.
What new product or service architecture can you imagine that anticipates energy shortages?