Supply Chain City

↳ A speculative future for the coffee supply chain focused on community, environment and shared value(1). Written from the year 2050.

What is Supply Chain City? (SSC)
Supply Chain City is a fully autonomous socioeconomic entity with no fixed geographic borders. It behaves as a community, centred around common economic and social goals that are decided by all its citizens. The city’s operations take place across many territories and nations but SCC itself asserts no claim to any region wether land or sea. As a self governing entity SCC designs its own legislation and judiciary systems, similar to the Silicon Valley ‘City States’(2) of the early 21st Century. When setting up operations in a new nation or territory co-designed systems are created to ensure relations with said region are balanced for the total environment. Its economic goals refer to the sustainable management of its environmental resources. Economics being defined as the rules that govern interaction with the total environment. Its social goals relate to the development of balanced cultural dynamics that help the citizens to co-exist in relative peace with each other and nearby nations.

The early days
It is worth noting that Supply Chain City was started around one commodity in particular, coffee, which has contributed to its development. When the city was first founded there were many legal and political barriers to efficient and balanced global trade. One specific example overcome by SCC, and the spark to its formation, were the various regulation systems imposed on producing countries by consuming countries. They made it impossible for producing countries to receive a fair cut of the profits of coffee trade. Ways around regulation existed, for example the ‘blue labelling’ system which meant a producing country company could sell their product processed for consumption under the brand of another company in the importing country. But profits were still unfair. In the end the only option was for the Micro Business Alliance, that made up a loose community along the chain, to officially declare themselves an autonomous socioeconomic entity (3). That action is now recognised by over 90% of the worlds nations, but it took several decades to reach this point. The distinction also ended decades of restrictions placed upon the Micro Business Alliance by various national governments, for example the use of a government controlled auction system (4) to buy and sell coffee.

Living in Supply Chain City today
Today the entirety of SCC’s constitutional system is stored digitally. Each device found in the city is connected to the Supply(Block)Chain, an online file of every economic action that takes place within the system. From the weighing of a kilo of green coffee beans to the temperature of a espresso shot. The Supply(Block)Chain (5) is also used to deliver credits to the citizens based on their contributions to total production. The SupCred digital currency is exchangeable with any currency worldwide. Citizens are also able to exist in one or multiple other social systems, for example a sovereign nation, the ideology of SCC is highly compatible with most popular forms. You can become a citizen of SCC through an economic merger, and with your unique Supply(Block)Chain number are afforded rights that can be called upon anywhere on the Earth. Many citizens joined in the early days through a mass merger of the initial founding micro businesses but nowadays individuals drift in one by one.

The city is organised into links, each one with its own economic function which contributes to the chain as a whole. For example the roasting link is responsible for ensuring coffee is processed for consumption at a rate that balances with demand and to taste specification. The communal focus on economic activity is inspired by the knowledge of tribes in Kenya, each having a unique craft related to their local environment or bioregion (6). Another example of this sort of social organisation could be found in the urban villages (7) of many East Asian countries where manufacture was a huge industry. There are some links that are easier to join based on your own geographic location but none are out of reach for any citizen through migration. The links of SCC are: Producers, Processors, Transporters, Consumers, Stewards and the City Council. One link which does not have a conventional laborious job is the City Council. They are a rotating assembly of representatives and are responsible for monitoring the SCC system and researching improvements. The representatives that make up the council come from the other links and are rotated every 6 months at random. They have no political function and are solely concerned with the efficient and sustainable management of resources. In this way SCC cannot interact with nations on a political level, purely an economic one.

The city limits extend to where ever one or more of its citizens are at any moment in time. Its streets are long and winding, its homes are diverse and separated, its community spaces are primarily portable. The city is connected through digital space, but also maintains a strong physical network through a culture of sending physical objects along the length of the city. Digital connections are used in real time rather than being prerecorded to prevent citizens from getting lost in a mess of online content. Primarily this manifests as audio visual information on the popular Supply Chain Broadcast network (8), which is aired daily to each citizen. SCB is run by a link of it’s own and much like the city council is reshuffled every month to ensure unbiased media.



The people of Supply Chain City

Each community in Supply Chain City is called a link, they exist around a certain part of the production process. They all work to balance their relationships with the environment they inhabit as well as other local communities.

Producers

Farmers
The most important people in Supply Chain City. They work the fertile Kenyan soil to grow the coffee cherries that form its basis. They are paid monthly to ensure a stable economic situation at origin. Agronomists monitor ecosystem health ensure that production is sustainable, encouraging the use of permaculture techniques such as crop rotation (9).

A healthy coffee tree fruiting

Millers
Coffee cherries are processed under specific conditions to ensure the end product is fit for consumption. They are pulped, washed, fermented and dried to develop the flavours of the coffee. Digital scales weigh the farmers crop to ensure no price fixing can take place. The excess water, which carries waste, is cleaned by a wetland planted near to the Wet Mill (10).

Digital scales weighing coffee cherries

Processors

Roasters
They receive raw product from Producers via the Transporters, and process in line with Consumers orders. They use a variety of techniques to cater for diverse markets from extra dark roasts to green bean health crazes. The roasting takes place mostly in the producing country to balance income (11). Excess heat from processing is used to power" the installation.

A fully programable digital drum roaster

Recyclers
These Producers are located in the same region as Consumers. They are responsible for turning the systems waste coffee grounds into biofuel (12) which can be used to power the network.

Coffee grounds are turned to fuel in the lab

Transporters

Global couriers
They are responsible for moving product through the city. Different groups of Transporters exist in separate regions, they mostly stick to one section of the city but sometimes exchange positions with their counterparts or even members of other links. Some travel long stretches between Northern Europe and Southern Africa but others operate locally in major cities where Consumers and Producers are located. Their cargo bikes are powered by solar and biofuel (13). They have been known to modify their bikes to carry out tasks unique to the environments they work in, for example a bean grading attachment for Producing areas and a freezer system for Consuming areas. A plane is used on the longer stretches of the trip to ensure freshness.

Electric cargo bikes are the most efficient local transportation solution

Planes running on bio fuel and solar carry product over larger distances

Consumers

Baristas
They order coffee via the city which they sell for a profit to citizens of different nation states and territories. To do this they run spaces where people can drink coffee and relax or work, they also serve as education stations (14). Some Consumers are also individuals with a strong passion (15) for SCCs products. These locations are key in sustaining SCC because they serve as a connection between the city and other nations. Information about consumption is recorded in the Supply(Block)Chain. Used coffee grounds are collected by local Processors to be turned into biofuel and Consumers receive a discount for each kilo returned.

Espresso machines with highly sophisticated time and temperature sensors mean the extraction of the coffee is always at its best. Information on consumption is sent to the city council

Stewards

Information conduits
Supply Chain Broadcast is how citizens stay up to date on what is happening along the city, it is a digital content network with daily programming. The Stewards travel to each link to create content for Supply Chain Broadcast. They are, like the City Council, composed of people from different links to reduce bias in media coverage, the rotation is on a monthly basis. They make sure that each link along the chain is aware of how they are all effecting each other (16). All of the information they collect is archived in the City Council’s forecasting machines via the Supply(Block)Chain. They have a research and development department which designed the Containerscope every citizen is given upon onboarding to the city.

Stewards are equipped with state of the art media production equipment

City Council

Strategic development
The city council have expertise in all areas of the city due to the fact that they are made up of representatives from each link. They are well placed to suggest innovative improvements to complex issues along the city. For example creating systems that allow Producers and Consumers to exchange product directly without the complications of middle men and logistical inefficiency (17). They work in two departments, economics and logistics, each concerned with a specific aspect of running the city. The economic branch focuses on balancing resources fairly (18), whilst the logistic branch is concerned with increasing efficiency of the system.



The city council forecasting machines are designed to interpret diverse data sources



References

(1) Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer: ‘the purpose of the corporation must be redefined as creating shared value, not just profit. This will drive the next wave of innovation and productivity growth in the global economy. It will also reshape capitalism and its relationship to society’.

(2) Silicon Valley companies have been criticised for pushing the boundaries of state legislation (in America and abroad). Airbnb and Uber being two prime examples.

(3) Micronations are entities that claim to be independent states but which are not acknowledged.

(4) The Nairobi Coffee Exchange is considered unfair because it does not allow farmers to trade directly, only through a marketing agent who is often employed by the buyer.

(5) A list of records that detail actions taken in a network, they are linked to increase transparency.

(6) Kikuyu are known for their skill with the land and run much of the coffee industry in Kenya.

(7) Socioeconomic ecosystems in which businesses each contribute to total production.

(8) Using digital broadcasting to emphatically connect the communities of the supply chain.

(9) Permaculture is a set of design principles centred around systems thinking, simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and resilient features observed in natural ecosystems.

(10_ Water Wise Coffee redesigned the Wet Mill process to be more sustainable.

(11) Roasting coffee is the most profitable link in the chain, doing so at origin keeps profit there.

(12) Biofuel is created by from waste coffee grounds and can be used in existing energy systems.

(13) A research group aiming to balance the needs of economy, society and environment.

(14) A cafe in Nairobi with strong links to local farmers of the region.

(15) A direct order coffee subscription service.

(16) Vava is a coffee exporter, roaster, farmer, taste expert and educator all rolled into one.

(17) A system for Kenyan farmers that allows them to connect directly with vendors in cities.

(18) Paved the way for speciality coffee innovation in Ethiopia.