Changes yet to come
Plato said: “Our need will be the real creator.” Over time this became the cliché ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’. There is little doubt that it is true. In the last 18 months we have seen a flurry of lateral thinking that has led to innovations through necessity. Some have been to ‘jury rig’ a process to stumble through until the more tried methods can resume; some are here to stay.
Will we ever, for example, return to the telephone when video calling is so much better, and cheaper? Will mainstream surveys again require harassed representatives to sit for hours in traffic jams? Will the constant stream of meetings, and endless international travelling, again replace the conference call? Will packers ever feel comfortable again working without a mask in a customer’s home?
I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but I do know that some of what we learned throughout 2020 will stick, and that year will be forever known as a watershed of innovation.
I believe that this clear demonstration of the impossible becoming possible will have a profound effect on the industry. People will continue to think differently. They will consider what can and should be done in favour of what has been done in the past and what is easy. As Nelson Mandela said: “It always seems impossible, until it’s done.”
One area in which I think this will play out will be related to Standards. The industry has been talking for some time about improving efficiency by getting automatic systems to talk to each other more easily. The Moving Mobility Standards Alliance (MMSA) was set up in 2019 for this very purpose. How far it’s got I don’t know. But take a look at our FIDI webinar report on page 20. Paul Bernardt makes an important point. He said that when the US military contract is finally awarded, the level of standardisation required of the participants to work with the single controlling contractor, might be a game changer. I suspect he’s right. With companies worldwide being forced to operate to a common system to take part in a contract worth $billions, it is inconceivable that there will not be an overspill into the mainstream industry. Companies faced with ‘comply or die’ will fall into line quickly. Ten years of voluntary development could easily be concentrated into a few transformative months.