Supply Chain Expertise and Technology Blog by TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson

Are You Ready for the Millennial Technology Challenge?

Are You Ready for the Millennial Technology Challenge?


Industry commentators—including this blog—often talk about how technological change drives behavioral change in managers. Another change that is transforming how logistics managers do their jobs is a dramatic shift in the demographic profiles of companies.

The advance of transportation management system (TMS) technology provides a good example of the former trend. As sophisticated analytics have become available, logistics managers have come to expect more detailed analyses of their freight networks that pinpoint opportunities to raise efficiency levels (for more on the analytical capabilities of a TMS, see Micah Heartson’s post, Analytics in Action, and Ryan Pettit’s post, Developing an Analytical Playbook for Your TMS).

The influence of changing demographics on managers’ expectations is perhaps less obvious, but can be just as profound. It is almost certainly visible in your workplace.

You see them everywhere: the informed and hip employees, loaded with the latest hardware from a tech giant. They can often be spotted walking down the aisles of your office wearing headphones while they thumb through the latest social or business updates on their smartphones or tablets.

As the baby boomers move into retirement, decision making in companies is starting to transfer to Generation X or millennial managers, who tend to be early adopters of technology. These tech-savvy decision makers are usually in their late 20s or 30s. They are not shy about using the latest technology to post files on their companies’ shared site, upload items to “cloud” platforms, or maybe post statuses of their recent staff meeting to a social site.

By 2025, millennials will make up almost 75% of the global workforce, according to Bentley University in the United States. Bentley carries out a survey that looks at the impact of this cohort on the workplace. The 2014 survey included responses from 1,031 millennials—aged 18 to 34—in the United States.

“Millennials aren’t just the workforce of the future—more and more, they’re the workforce of today,” says Gloria Larson, president of Bentley University.

The survey findings underline the importance of technology to this generation of workers. They have unprecedented access to technological power that shapes their workplace behavior. For example, 89% of the respondents regularly check email after the work day has ended, reinforcing their “always on” reputation.

Millennials bring new information demands to the workplace in every industry—including logistics.

They don’t just want more information; these individuals want to understand what the data is telling them about the company’s freight networks and how to capture efficiency gains. And they expect 24/7 access to information systems and reports.

As mentioned above, more advanced TMS solutions are already providing this type of information. The logistics industry now has the ability to predict consumer spend shifts and allow for replenishment of cargo, for instance. TMS technology is helping shippers design entire distribution networks, from sourcing to the final delivery of finished product.

But, in many ways, this is only the beginning. As millennials take on more managerial responsibility and climb the career ladder, they will drive the demand for more sophisticated analytics. How will the logistics industry respond to these demands? It’s a fascinating question.

This post was co-written by Shawn Chen, director of Corporate Sales.

[1] “Millennial Mind Goes to Work” survey, September 2014, Bentley University, United States