Disruptive technologies are transforming all end-to-end steps in production and business models in most sectors of the economy. The products that consumers demand, factory processes and footprints, and the management of global supply chains are being re-shaped to an unprecedented degree and at unprecedented pace. Industry leaders who were consulted believe that new technological solutions heralded by the Fourth Industrial Revolution – such as advanced robotics, autonomous systems and additive manufacturing – will revolutionize traditional ways of creating value. As the costs of deploying technology continue to fall, international differentials in labour costs will no longer be a decisive factor in choosing the location of production.
The resulting greater spatial and temporal flexibility brought about by technology will bring locations of production and sale closer together, and drive major changes in the design of future value and supply chains. These trends will change the shape and form of globalization, and thereby impact the trajectory of goods. Regional and local flows will become more important, to the detriment of intercontinental trade.