How Millennials are Helping Companies Navigate the Digital Supply Chain Disruption / Technology / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

The up-and-coming generation of supply chain professionals is tech-savvy, and they readily embrace technology to improve business processes.

As the Baby Boomers retire and Millennials enter the workforce, industries across the board are seeing a huge shift in technology adoption and integration.

After all, Millennials grew up as digital natives; they don’t know a time without the internet, smartphones, and apps.

The emerging workforce is unique in that it's both a driver of digital disruption those same Millennials are consumers, too and also one of the primary solutions for organizations struggling to navigate the waves of technological change.

Young Professionals and the Value of Software and Technology Solutions

Chief Technology Officers and other members of upper management in logistics and supply chains already are noticing the push to integrate modern technology solutions by the younger workforce.

For instance, Paul Lachance, president and chief technology officer of Smartware Group, Inc., has experience with young logistics professionals asking for new software investments: “Recent grads are immersed in the latest apps and devices, and maintenance software continues to evolve in terms of simplicity, accessibility, and configurability. Millennials are further ahead of the game than any other generation.”

Lachance also points out that technology solutions such as maintenance software were once viewed as a “necessary evil,” especially in terms of cost, but the new generation considers software as an investment that advances organizations and has a worthwhile ROI.

Rodger Howell, a principal with PricewaterhouseCooper’s logistics management division, agrees that Millennials are the driving force behind technology integration throughout the supply chain and beyond: “Digital technology will become increasingly integral to companies. Organizations in every facet of the economy will need to align their operations to compete in a digital world.”

Indeed, as logistics and supply organizations face digital disruption, companies will need to adopt technology and reexamine their cost priorities in order to survive the disruption. And embracing the younger generation in the workforce is one way to make that happen. As Howell explains, “Businesses are counting on new hires to bring fresh insights on how leading edge technologies can be used in their companies… the bar for hiring the new employee is set even higher not only are they expected to know the technology but in many cases, companies want them to know and truly understand the business.”

The Next Generation of Supply Chain Organizations Will Be Driven by Technology 

The digital disruption is impacting every industry and vertical, but companies throughout the supply chain are feeling the pressure to evolve and adapt. Emerging technologies serve as the catalyst for innovative companies introducing completely reinvented approaches to traditional processes such as 3D printing that disrupt the status-quo. Faced with such growing threats, supply chain organizations have no choice but to adapt and evolve.

Steve Banker is the service director of supply chain management at ARC Advisory Group and has been covering logistics and supply chain management for 20 years. In his Forbes article on revolutions in supply chain management, Banker contends that there will be a new emphasis on supply chain risk management, and technologies will be necessary to support it.

As Millennials comprise an increasingly larger portion of the workforce, these younger workers will gravitate towards technologies that provide visibility, including more types of sensor data. Banker also asserts that a new generation of more powerful supply chain applications will become necessary, as will new methods of handling Big Data, real-time analytics, and technologies that are more capable of visualizing data. 

Embracing Change: How Supply Chain Organizations Can Remain at the Forefront

Supply chain organizations desiring to compete in the face of constant change should become early adopters of promising technologies.

In a point-of-view report on next-generation supply chain management for Cisco, Authors Ram Muthukrishnan and Kevin Sullivan agree that technology is a critical tool, as access to advanced data analytics and business intelligence is necessary to make better business decisions.

The ultimate goal of adopting technology and integrating modern technology solutions in the supply chain is to streamline operations. This requires an integrated, transparent system that provides a single data platform that is easily accessed from anywhere, anytime. Don't wait for the latest technology tools to become established, standard practices before integrating them into your toolkit.

It’s also crucial for organizations to have in place a robust, secure information technology infrastructure that used advanced technologies for collaboration and Big Data management.

In order to gain a competitive edge, forward-thinking companies must embrace cloud services and stress the need for partners to adopt collaborative technology and other means to make quicker, more cost effective decisions. Modern solutions that automate workflows and allow for cross-functional interaction and working across silos also are becoming part of the next-generation technology toolkit.

Finally, the supply chain companies that will successfully emerge as strong leaders on the other side of the digital disruption are likely to be the companies embracing the multi-generational workforce today.

Hiring recent graduates offers the benefit of the latest knowledge to emerge from academics, while these younger workers are also adept at quickly learning and adapting to new tools and technologies. These workers can often become the champions for technological change within the organization, selling workers from older generations on the benefits of specific technologies, motivating them to embrace new ideas and solutions, and even making it easier to onboard the entire workforce.

Don't just hire younger workers and purchase technology solutions; actively engage your workforce and adopt the right technology.

As writer Kaitlyn McAvoy points out, Millennials’ “ability to use, apply and understand different technologies quickly sets them apart from other generations in the workforce.” As such, the emerging workforce will embrace only those technologies that measure up to their needs and expectations.

There is a new demand for up-to-date technology, and Millennials will advocate that their companies adopt only advanced technology solutions that are designed to deliver improved efficiency and collaboration in the workplace; they want tech that accommodates them, not tech that forces them to change the way they do things. The expectations of the new generation are driving the technology solutions to become more efficient, user-friendly, and collaborative in nature, and they just might be the key to companies successfully riding this wave of change.

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