Fearless Predictions For 2016

Yep, it’s that time of year…. time to reflect on how our predictions for 2015 turned out and to look in our crystal ball to guess what may be the compelling stories of 2016. It’s a tough job but somebody’s gotta do it!

2015 was big for supply chains, electronic commerce, and all the technologies ec-bp.com readers follow. Around this time last year, I wrote that we’d see lots of interest in cloud technology, omnichannel consumers, driverless vehicles, robotics, drones, 3D printing and, most importantly, Big Data and IoT. In retrospect, that was like shooting the proverbial fish in a barrell. We indeed witnessed high levels of activity for all those topics, but allow me to make a few quick observations……

During 2015, ‘the cloud‘ seems to have settled into its place as a ‘mainstream’ technology option. It’s no longer ‘out there’, but is now just another option IT professionals consider in architecting systems and applications. Big Data has become so important to so many different endeavors (agriculture, healthcare, manufacturing, etc.) that it’s no longer treated by Gartner as a separate technology and has been eliminated from its ‘Hype Cycle’. Omnichannel customers and ecommerce in general continued to drive changes in many areas, especially those of interest to our readers in the supply chain. From network design, to forecasting, logistics, distribution, and everything in between, if you didn’t have your act together for customers purchasing through multiple channels, you had problems.


Autonomous vehicles, 3D printing (3DP), robotics, and drones were also consistently in the news throughout the year. All made significant progress along the hype cycle and had considerable impacts on the supply chain and IT shops. I have to admit I shortchanged driverless vehicles a bit, yet they’ve already begun to change the thinking on the logistics front for many companies. I also suspected drones in the fulfillment area to be an Amazon marketing ploy, but once I saw the beer delivery to the ice fishermen video (view it HERE) I jumped on board.

The ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) took giant strides in 2015, as more consumer applications became available and industry began to implement projects. There are still security, standards, technology, and cost issues to work out, but the forecast for the number of connected devices has already been raised. Gartner now expects over 6 billion connections in 2016 and over 20 billion by 2020. Hope they get those issues worked out soon!

So, what’ll be important to us in 2016?

Head End Railroad Equipment: Mail Cars

We like to write about Head End Railroad Equipment. We even have a whole WebSite!

Our picture at the top which we bought from noted photographer Charlie Gunn, shows head end cars at New Haven, Connecticut. Now we have some cool notes from The New Haven Railroad Forum.

Like the REA express contracts the USPS had its own rules regarding the transportation of Sealed Cars of bulk mail. On a regular daily basis NH cars ranged far and wide to Dallas Tx. St. Louis Mo. and all points in between. What was available was used. The cars were designated as sealed Pouch cars.

To elaborate a little more, if the USPO in Boston or Providence or New Haven had enough bagged mail for Las Cruces, New Mexico and a New Haven car was available, then that’s what took the trip to the Land of Enchantment.  Specific routing?  That, if it existed, was determined by the USPO, not the railroad.

As for transferring en route, I suppose a sealed car to Omaha, Nebraska partially offloaded there could have its load then transferred to another partially-full car.  Again, that was a USPO determination.  Sealed cars stayed sealed to their destination.  Partially-loaded cars might continue onward until emptied or filled along the way.  As confusing as the mail and express moved over the nation’s railroad, before the age of computerized routing, it worked.

One of the major factors in the wholesale train-off petitions of the ‘60s was the Post Office’s cancellation of all rail contracts for the movement of mail in favor of air and trucks. With the lose of that head end revenue, formerly profitable, or at least break even runs became back breakers for the railroads. There were several proposals to save the national passenger system after that including returning mail to the rails. Amtrak was the worst of the lot, so of course that was the one Nixon chose.