Kennebec Valley Chamber

Serving the Kennebec Valley, Maine Region

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Friday Report ~ May 13, 2016

"The Doctor Is In" - My daughter and I are Whovians. There, I said it. I watch Doctor Who. In fact, I watched it quite a bit when I was much younger (the 4th Doctor), but only recently introduced it to my daughter and we have been catching up on the newer version of this show. My daughter is a geek by most definitions: she's good at math, loves science and has her head in a book most of the time. When you introduce a geek to Doctor Who it often leads to in-depth, scientific questions.

Being the rational businessperson I am, I love to provide the counterpoint to her inquiries.  Not long ago, we talked about the way that our world is changing. This conversation started with "why haven't we developed a teleporter yet". In my counterpoint, I referenced the huge loss of jobs that would result in the transportation and retail industries.  I also mentioned that for years, computer software was created on one computer, transferred to a disc, packaged, wrapped and shipped to a store where consumers bought it and transferred it on to another computer. These computers, of course were connected via the internet the entire time. I did notice recently, that stores are carrying substantially fewer "programs" in boxes these days as a vast majority of these are simply purchased and downloaded on line.

We have seen this same dramatic shift in the music industry. This one is particularly sad, to me, because most music purchases are single songs, versus the traditional album. Soon gone are the days of discovering a hidden gem on an album that you bought for the one hit wonder song.

I am focused on technology and innovation today because I stumbled across an article recently (here) revealing that a convoy of trucks just traveled across Europe arriving at the port of Rotterdam. They came from different countries and, as their paths connected, they formed a convoy. So why is this news? Well, many of the trucks had no drivers. Yep, that's right, driverless trucks.

This is so cool, it boggles my mind. The trucks followed the leader (who did have a driver), connected by wi-fi and achieved amazing fuel efficiencies through drafting at a very close distance. They were fuel efficient as they traveled at 45 mph, the optimum MPG for the truck. The current truck driver is paid by the mile and will drive at the max speed limit. A truly driverless truck has no need for "8 hours rest" and can make a 2,000 mile trip in a fraction of the time (48 straight hours versus 4 days) and dramatically reduced fuel cost. According to the article, a shipment across the country currently costs $4,500 and 75% of that is driver cost. This can dramatically improve our world. 

Wait - this can dramatically impact our world as well. Did you know that there are 1.6 million truckers in America? In addition, there are millions of jobs in the trucking support industry. All of the roadside diners and gas stations that provide rest stops and hotels would be severely and permanently effected. Clearly there are benefits and concerns with changes in technology. What there isn't, is time. New technology is coming, often despite the problems it creates.

So, as a company or an individual, how do you react to change? Are you caught off guard when simple things like the new credit card chip requirement, come into play? Are you reading about new advances in your industry to stay ahead of the changes? Instead of reacting, have you considered driving the change? There are countless ways to improve your systems and industry: are you looking for them? If you designed a new process, could you patent and market the innovation? Can you make investments that move you up the supply chain - as some of our local companies have?  I encourage you to find that passion to innovate.

In fact, the Augusta Board of Trade is holding a Success Symposium on May 24th at the Civic Center.  Part of this day long symposium addresses preparing yourself for change and managing your way through it. There are outstanding national speakers and they are offering a discount to KV Chamber members. Please see the upcoming event section below for details.
So why do I watch Doctor Who? The Doctor represents a dramatic enthusiasm for the exploration of the unknown. A desire to meet the future head on and embrace change. The future is coming. You need to prepare in whatever way that works for you. And, remember, in the words of the Doctor "...The future lies this way"