Is there a better way to take your groceries home?

A mass-subterranean linear motor based distribution system is something that will transform supply chains (and grocery deliveries) for the next 100 years.
23 August 2018

How can grocery deliveries be simplified? Source: Shutterstock

The supply chain has evolved over the last 50 years, incorporating innovations such as mass manufacturing, inventory management, just in time, and more recently sophisticated supply chain management systems.

Once outside the factory or warehouse, however, the underlying distribution models upon which we largely depend, namely heavy goods vehicles and the road network, have not moved that far from the horse and cart in development terms.

In the face of an increasing global population, urbanization, the explosion of e-commerce, pollution, congestion and changing consumer purchasing patterns, the lack of innovation in ‘transportation’ is alarming.

To address those challenges and help the market thrive, a next-generation, efficient, and sustainable infrastructure needs to be created.

“Drones, autonomous and electric vehicles and novel modes of transport and energy will play an integral part, but a mass-subterranean linear motor based distribution system is something that will transform supply chains for the next 100 years,” said Magway Co-Founder Phill Davies in an exclusive interview with TechHQ.

Whilst we generally think of space being in short supply, there is no shortage of it underground.

Distribution via underground systems is not new and in fact has been used successfully in various guises for over 150 years. The first being the Royal Mail – ‘Mail Rail’ under London which is now part of the Postal Museum.

Underground routes offer numerous advantages including, security, weather-neutrality, and minimal visual and noise impact.

By incorporating modern technology, data systems, and novel linear motor propulsion systems next-generation supply chains can deliver goods in volumes, efficiently, cost-effectively, and in line with the ever increasing demands and expectations of customers.

“The unprecedented pace of change means that it is not enough to think about today’s needs. Businesses need to be progressive and forward thinking with a time horizon of 5, 10, 20 years and beyond. Renewables, better use of data and sustainable infrastructure needs to be part of corporate strategy if not at the forefront of that strategy,” explained Davies.

Taking your supply chain underground

At a basic level, subterranean linear motors present a highly reliable and efficient technological solution.

They operate in extreme environments and with few moving parts, have substantially lower service, maintenance and installation costs than traditional systems.

“They also consume significantly less energy and can be powered via clean energy sources,” suggested Davies, who hopes to speak more about the solution at the Tech. event in London next month.

Prototypes suggest that going underground can help e-commerce companies significantly. Right from cost savings on trunking costs for customer deliveries and returns to significantly reduced carbon footprint, using subterranean linear motors can provide significant benefits.

The technology also allows for peak service flexibility, reduces accidents, and ensures a lower dependency on drivers especially where drivers are in short supply and expose businesses to wage inflation.

There are numerous potential applications for linear motors in the future. The boundaries will continue to grow as new magnetic materials are developed, the cost of high-power electronics decreases and sophisticated motor control technologies comes online.

However, in the near future, it’s most likely to help transform supply chains for e-commerce companies. Imagine picking things on an online platform and receiving your cart minutes later, at the ‘underground pickup terminal’ near your condo. That’s a better way to take home your groceries.


TechHQ is the official media partner to Tech. in London next month. Readers can avail of a 30 percent discount on passes using the code TECHHQ3018.