Guest Commentary: Millennials and the Supply Chain

Do a quick Google search. Just type ‘Millennials’. You should get a screen like this:


Outside the two definition-type searches, two broad ends of the spectrum are represented: being lazy and the workplace (assumed to be the antithesis of lazy). The world is still trying to figure out how to classify, identify, and ultimately work with the Millennial Generation. With 80 million Millennials vs. 79 million Boomers in the U.S., the corporate world needs to figure it out. The world of supply chain is no different.

The issue is raised very often in today’s media about the dwindling numbers of younger professionals coming into the supply chain space. Mostly, this conversation is regulated to a discussion on trucking alone, yet the supply chain touches all facets of logistics — from load planners to transportation managers to supply chain analysts.

So how do you marry the Millennial Generation with the supply chain? Some say Millennials need to adapt/conform to corporate America; some say that corporations need to restructure in ways that suit Millennials’ needs. Another approach comes in the form of technology. As technological adoption continues to increase in supply chains, so does the opportunity for Millennials to take on an active role in the supply chain world.

Always On
Millennials grew up with technology, and most importantly, computers with Internet access. That means these potential employees are always connected and always on. Because of this inherent trait for technology, the solutions they gravitate toward need to have that same emphasis on connectivity as well as accessibility. For example, most VPs of Supply Chain know their TMS needs to have a high uptime, but Millennials know that installed and hosted software is challenging when it comes to keeping things up and running. Crashes, slow loading times, or constant upgrades are not the way to win over this group. Instead SaaS-based, web-enabled solutions that can be accessed from anywhere will provide Millennials with the right technology to keep your business moving.

In the Cloud
Along the same lines, Millennials are comfortable with having their tweets go across the world, Facebook statuses liked by friends of friends, and following 50 brands on LinkedIn. SaaS-based technology or “the cloud,” allows that level of networking to happen. A Millennial will conduct business across the cloud and complete their transactions with carriers they don’t know or have even heard of without batting an eye. The generation is savvy enough to make informative decisions by leveraging the data in the cloud, such as using the historical performance of a carrier on a specific lane to find a match for their load.

Visibility of data
“Just Google it” has become a common saying in today’s world. Millennials need to have answers instantly, and are quick to find solutions when given access to technology and data. That’s no different in the supply chain world.

With SaaS-based TMS, all transactions flow through one central transportation command center, which allows the monitoring of critical activities in a supply chain. Because partners are all in the same environment, visibility is that much greater. Real-time communication is enhanced – every party knows what is happening, when, and why. Additionally, this type of visibility enables real-time analytics and performance metrics that are significantly more accurate and robust. If you put that Millennial in the driver’s seat of a SaaS-based TMS that has deep data and deep visibility, all in real time, you’ve got yourself a power user.

Naturally collaborative
From LinkedIn to Salesforce to Constant Contact, network collaboration is considered to be one of the most significant benefits of any SaaS-based platform. All members of the network have the opportunity to connect with other network members for additional capacity and collaborative transportation opportunities. The millennial generation can share information faster and more efficiently than any other generation in the supply chain workforce, which naturally facilitates collaborating with other vendors, carriers, and shippers to work across each other’s networks. This allows for sharing transportation assets and creating economies of scale.

There is a lot that the supply chain industry can teach Millennials, but there is a lot that they can teach us. Millennials should be encouraged to be part of the supply chain and organizations that embrace their profile will ultimately benefit. Yes, those organizations need to be open to new styles of thinking and executing, but that is what growing is all about.

If you go back to the 80 Million Millennials vs. 79 Million Boomers statistic, what does your organization look like? Eventually, those Boomers will move on, and we’ll be stuck trying to find answers. The supply chain can be proactive today by adopting technologies that align with Millennials as well as business goals. The Millennial group is a growth engine that, when tapped, will drive major growth in the supply chain.

Dan Dershem, President and CEO of LeanLogistics, is responsible for the overall business strategy and corporate leadership of LeanLogistics. Dan oversees the day-to-day operations of LeanLogistics as well as develops the executive strategy for business growth to drive maximum value for LeanLogistics’ clients. In addition, Dan holds responsibility as Senior Vice President of Global Logistics at CHEP, where he is responsible for the development and implementation of the global logistics strategy for CHEP, including global technology roll-out along with cost and service performance.


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