Ten years after the impact it's a new business order

In 2010 the impact of the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud created surprising turmoil. But, in no way did it prepare us for the New Year asteroid impact of 2013.

With millions of times the dust and ash concentration of 2010, it visibly darkened the skies for more than a year and abruptly ended the use of all jets.

Business changed, if not forever, then at least for a decade. We can now look back on this period and appreciate the new world of business that we already take for granted.

Trains and boats have been the beneficiaries as logistics value chains have had to adapt. Shipbuilding is an industry in ascendency once again as industrial wastelands in the north of England are being re-born.

Most changed have been the manufacturing, retail and logistics industries. With the movement of goods having returned to marine vessels and rail, everything takes far longer to arrive, flexibility has largely been lost and the consumer obsession with speed of delivery and service has been muted by day-to-day realities.

We have become more modest in our demands for year-round ripe fruit and fresh flowers from far-flung suppliers. Our groceries, weekends-away and annual holidays have become more local. Demand for foreign holiday homes has plummeted together with any hope of higher resale values.

Skype, Facebook and YouTube (in fact all of telecomms) have boomed. The 20th century mantra “Why make a phone call, when a plane-ride will do?” has all but been forgotten.

The impact on jobs in far-flung factories and farms has been profound. African countries estimate that up to half the jobs on farms have been lost, leaving poor families surrounded by rotting flowers and vegetables. China’s highly automated factories now employ just 20% of the 2010 workforce.

Sports tours now regularly take an additional 20 days to allow for travel half-way around the world.

The aircraft industry too has changed. Propeller planes are being rushed to market and Bombardier has a new range of personal planes due for delivery next year that promise to provide point-to-point air travel – no pilots, no air traffic control, no hubs – just new alternate-fuel pseudo-jets that are not susceptible to ‘dirty air’.

All in all the world has become a more patient and understanding place. We might even have progressed to a kinder world.

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

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