Greetings from the Washington, D.C. suburbs.

This week, we are watching carefully to see how Americans respond to supply chain disruptions affecting personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers, but also food.

Some meat processing plants are shutting down, because thousands of workers in the plants have contracted the COVID-19 Coronavirus. And disruption may cause massive shortages of meat sold in grocery stores.

In the past several decades, our food supply chain scaled exponentially. But this insipid virus may break the system that transports huge amounts of food long distances at low prices.

Our supply chain is doomed. What replaces it informs the future of work. 

We think that many supply chains will be replaced, or at the least supported, by local resources. And that is a good thing. More food that we eat will come from local growers. Which means that the food will be fresh, require less chemistry to grow, and provide local farms more revenue and work opportunities for local people.

Fewer growers and processors will ship long distances.

We were warned before the virus hit that driverless trucks would eliminate many trucking jobs. These disruptions in the supply chain may hasten that reduction in workforce.

Change is both a bad and a good thing.

People that have relied on good pay from trucking may need to find other jobs to pay the bills. But new jobs resulting from the destruction of supply chains that broke under the weight of Coronavirus are likely to be numerous. The future of work will include new jobs in these categories:

  1. Regenerative farming. People who grow food locally and replenish the soil responsibly will gain market share and revenue. As local providers, they don’t have to grow as much as the big corporate growers, thus, they won’t create as much food waste. What is more, extra food that they produce but cannot sell may support local food pantries.
  2. Logistics. When the supply chain bends or breaks, logistics experts will redirect resources swiftly and efficiently. And there is no arguing that many military veterans, who developed skills in logistics in service, will benefit with high paying logistics jobs once they reenter the civilian ranks
  3. AI and RFID technology. AI is already impacting supply chains to be more efficient. And RFID can take it a step further, making crop yields more profitable by directing field irrigation and applying nutrients with precision.
  4. Drone and robotic delivery. Already in the Northern Virginia suburbs, companies are impacting the last mile delivery of food and supplies by with robotic vehicles. And drone delivery will scale once it becomes a safe and reliable distribution system. Managing these “fleets” will take specialized skill, but the opportunities to run them may result in a lot of well paying jobs.
  5. Additive manufacturing (3D printing). As Andrew Resnick of America Makes explained recently on The Tightrope Podcast, additive manufacturing is helping to deliver PPE to healthcare workers when and where the supply chain failed. We think that additive manufacturing will be a big winner in the future of work.

Great crises result in great opportunities.

And while we send best thoughts to all in the workforce who have been furloughed, we hope that many of them will pursue the numerous new work opportunities that will soon materialize.

Our best days lie ahead.

DAN SMOLEN is founder of The Dan Smolen Experience, LLC. He is also the executive producer and host of The Tightrope Podcast.  Please comment here to let us know how we are doing, and, to offer suggestions for future guests and topics. Also, please catch up with our past blog posts, like this one and this one.  

Image credits: Egg production, Artem Bali for Canva; Man holding chicken, iStock Photo.