Indiana is known as the Crossroads of America—imagine if some of those crossroads were populated by driverless semi-trucks.
Implementing automated vehicles is just one recommendation in a strategic plan issued by Conexus Indiana, the state’s advanced manufacturing and logistics initiative. It marks the group’s second statewide strategic plan for Indiana’s logistics industry; while the first report focused on the short-term needs, Conexus says “Delivering Indiana’s Future” is a roadmap to increase the state’s logistics might for the next 20 to 30 years. Source: Inside INdiana Business
The plan, created by the 50-member Conexus Indiana Logistics Council (CILC), emphasizes the need to focus on long-term innovations. The council wants Indiana to lead the charge for implementing automated vehicles—including planes, trucks, trains and barges—and weigh the possibility of high-speed freight rail moving cargo more efficiently.
“Can you imagine if we could have high-speed freight rail, going a couple hundred miles per hour, that would go between Chicago and Indianapolis?” says Conexus Vice President of Operations and Business Development David Holt. “We need a feasibility study to see if it makes economic sense. Maybe we could do that on I-65 in the middle of the median. Or could you do that from Fort Wayne to Indy along I-69?”
The plan suggests updating Indiana’s waterways with “integrated ports of entry,” where automated systems could move freight from a barge to a railcar, as well as high-tech truck lanes that communicate with driverless semis.
“It sounds like something from ‘The Jetsons’ in the far, far future, but in fact, the technology is here,” says Chip Edgington, executive vice president of operations at OSP Group in Indianapolis and CILC chair. “Indiana needs to be among the first states to deploy this kind of technology, particularly with logistics being such an asset here.”
The plan identifies federal and state funding recommendations for sustaining Indiana’s logistics strength in all four modes of transportation: air, rail, roads and waterways. Many of these financing recommendations were included in a report the state’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Transportation Infrastructure recently gave to Governor Mike Pence.
Much like the first plan issued in 2010, “Delivering Indiana’s Future” emphasizes the critical need for work force development. While there has been a heavy focus on increasing the number of middle skill workers, Edgington believes there’s a “gross shortage of talent at all levels.” He says the conversation at council meetings repeatedly centers on the difficulty of finding front-line supervisors, for example.
“It’s something I’m very concerned about,” says Edgington. “There’s just not quite enough coming out of schools right now. [The four-year programs] continue to grow, but they’re still relatively small. We felt like we needed to make it part of our strategic plan because it’s such a concern.”
The plan aims to intensify the focus on four-year logistics degrees by collaborating with universities. While a handful of such programs exist, Edgington says “they’re largely unknown,” and students aren’t familiar enough with logistics to declare it as a major instead of a minor.
“We’d like to make sure the graduates coming out of the state universities with logistics programs align properly with what employers need, and that’s not the case today,” says Edgington. “There are certain skillsets we need graduates to have as they enter the work force as supply chain managers, and they don’t have those.”
By working to be on the cutting-edge of logistics technology, identifying funding strategies and swelling the pipeline of logistics workers, Conexus leaders believe Indiana can execute the plan, ultimately preparing the Crossroads of America for the road ahead.