Supply Chain Expertise and Technology Blog by TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson

Modern Day Supply Chains, Mega Cities, and the Future

Global expansion and connectivity

Did you know that only 10% of the world is considered to be remote? 

Through the modern day supply chain and expanding infrastructure of roads, railways, airports, and shipping lanes, 90% of the earth’s surface is now defined as accessible. Only 10% is considered remote which is defined as a location 48 hours from a major city. This research is provided by Andy Nelson and the European Commissions Joint Research Center and World Bank.

Here is a map developed by the commission.  The brightest areas represent the most densely populated cities—the darker areas like the Sahara desert quickly jump out. What is the significance of the map?  map

According to Nelson, “The main story of the map is connectivity. It brings home how important it is to manage our resources, lifestyles, and economies, in a sustainable manner, since we are all interdependent; the remote places are left behind.”  

We felt this map was relevant to our readers because it provides a big picture view of what the aggregate supply chains are doing across the world—its not often we view the sum of our work (represented visually like this). We also think this map underscores a larger trend that will affect the future of supply chains—population growth and specifically population growth in cities.

As of 2009, the United States Census Bureau estimates the Earth’s population to be 6.776 billion.  Based upon current rates, they estimate that there will be 9 billion people on the planet in 2040. They have picked February of 2012 as the date we will hit 7 billion.

If you consider those growth statistics relative to the map above, some geographic populations are shrinking, some are growing, but overall not only are populations growing, they are shifting.  Many experts believe that within five years half the world’s population will live in major cities.  According to Nelson, this is because, “a precondition for the satisfaction of almost any economic or social need is accessibility.”

When we talk about major cities, we aren’t just talking about large cities; we are talking about what is called a mega city. These are cities like Manhattan that have over 10 million people. In 1975, there were ten mega cities. In the next five years, experts predict there will be over 23 mega cities.  Think about that in the context of your supply chain or freight network, or in the context of the infrastructure and sustainability discussions we are having on TMC Connect.

23 different mega cities, you say? Yes, that is right. Get on the internet and check it out.

Additionally, it is not just any city, it is cities within developing countries. While the developing world is predominantly rural (24 hours+ from a major city), the world will become more and more urban. This will mean less and less “darker” areas on the map above. People, of course, will live in other places.  However, we are talking about where the growth is predicted to occur. Most of us think lengthier supply chains and infrastructure are a challenge today.  It makes you think about what our profession will look like a bit further down the road. In many ways, this map helps clarify the challenges we are tackling today and how important they are to the future of supply chains and our businesses.

Almost all of our shipper clients are expanding globally—everyone is focused on emerging markets, and an ever increasing reach. Much of this has been about the ability to create core processes to service new markets.  There is also increasing conversation about how to grow our supply chains responsibly.

Have your organizations identified mega cities as a trend? What implications do you see relative to this map and the idea of “remoteness?” Have any of your organizations discussed the dynamics described above? Do you have other thoughts about where these trends could take us? What do you think the future holds?

Add a comment and give us your opinion.

- President, Managed Services
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