The Real Deal: ‘The new manufacturing’ starts delivering jobs, growth

While presidential candidates and others have been railing about the offshoring of manufacturing jobs, something else has happened on the employment front, said Mark Heinrich, general manager of the Microsoft Cloud Supply Chain.
Logistics has become “the new manufacturing,” said Heinrich, the keynote speaker during KC SmartPort’s annual industry briefing earlier this month.
In the global economy, he said, more goods are being moved longer distances, “and the numbers of logistics jobs that are emerging is just gigantic.”
Fortunately, he said, Kansas City is well-positioned for logistics growth due to its central location, from which “a truck can hit almost anyplace in the United States in 48 hours.”
Heinrich pointed to Logistics Park Kansas City in Edgerton as an example of the payoff. Since 2013, when BNSF Railway’s $250 million intermodal freight facility opened, NorthPoint Development has built or started construction of 6.5 million square feet of distribution facilities in the surrounding logistics park, which has capacity for 17 million square feet.
Among the LPKC structures is the soon-to-open 822,104-square-foot fulfillment center that initially will employ 1,000 in the movement of goods.
“Moving data,” Heinrich said, “is also a logistics function.” And interestingly, Kansas City’s rail network has played a role in building the region’s capacity for moving data through the supply chain.
“There are two rights of way that give people who want to lay dark fiber the ability to get their data from one end of the country to the other,” Heinrich explained. “One is the petroleum pipelines. The other is railroads.”
KC SmartPort, a nonprofit dedicated to freight-based economic development in the 18-county region, defines the digital-age supply chain as encompassing all the people, industries, processes and technologies involved in moving a product from supplier to end consumer.
“Our region will receive significant federal funding to implement Smart Transportation in partnership with Google,” KC SmartPort President Chris Gutierrez said, “and Cisco has picked Kansas City to be one of the world’s first Smart Cities. We are proud to carry that innovative thinking into discussions around making our regional supply-chain companies more successful in today’s global marketplace.”
Toward that end, Gutierrez led a panel discussion themed “Disrupt the Supply Chain” during the briefing.
Panelists included a number of national experts on innovations such as wearable technologies, drones, the Internet of Things, 3-D printing and self-driving vehicles — all of which are disrupting how the supply-chain industry does business.
“We are entering an era where things have gone digital,” said Mitch Free, CEO of Cloud DDM, citing one of the more startling new developments. “You can ‘fax’ a product from one place to another and have it produced on site (through 3-D printing) rather than producing a product then shipping it all over the world.”

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