In a previous blog post by Rebecca Radford, it was argued that more people need to be educated about the supply chain industry, particularly the youth of today. This is a sentiment I happen to agree with. However, I believe the supply chain industry can also benefit from having a look at today’s youth. With September marking the start of another school/college year on the calendar, now is a great time for supply chain managers to learn a thing or two from certain attributes in the behavior of several younger generations. In my opinion, it is never too late to learn something new.
In technical terms, the characteristics of the younger generations can be classified into 3 categories; Generation (Gen) Alpha, Gen Z and Gen Y. Each of these generations can offer some fresh insights and reminders to current supply chain and logistics managers.
Gen Alpha: Notice the little things
Babies, toddlers and children aged 0 to 6 are known as Gen Alpha; they notice everything and want everything. This could have a correlation with the amount of technology and educational aids readily available at their fingertips, steering them to be the most formally educated generation. Due to the iPad being launched the same year as Gen Alpha was established, this generation is also known as ‘Generation Glass’ because of all the screen-based technology they use. Instead of looking through glass, they will be looking at it.
The common phrase of ‘look at the bigger picture’ often springs to mind, but situations can take a turn for the worse from one simple thing going wrong, and as a result, have a knock-on effect on everything else. This is particularly true along a complex supply chain. That is why it is important to examine each individual step and pay attention to the details in each supply chain process. From quality control of products in the manufacturing stages to having the correct transportation documentation, such as the bill of lading, and keeping to the logistics schedule with guaranteed lead times; these can all massively impact customer satisfaction and the reputation of the business. Therefore, additional strict inspections and even tiny improvements in processes can make big differences along the supply chain and provide a company the competitive edge it needs.
Gen Z: Try new things
Gen Z, otherwise known as ‘Post-Millennials’, aged between 7 and 21, are motivated by change, whether that be in terms of fashion and squads, to sports and societies. In addition, Gen Z is considered to be more global than millennials in terms of how they interact, relatability and their thoughts. Gen Z is full of individuals that believe having a more global presence can increase their employment chances. Being from Gen Z, I took this stance myself and moved to a different country to undertake an internship. So far from this experience, I have learned that change can be worrying, but also a good thing; it can open up new opportunities, positive outcomes and identify improvements. Furthermore, this generation has been lucky to grow up with all the emerging technologies, allowing room for innovation to take place.
Innovation is a process, an idea, a method; there may be a few glitches in the development, but that’s just part and parcel of innovation. The problems associated with change shouldn’t discourage it, especially since we live in a world where innovation is at the forefront of our everyday lives and change is a constant.
Now more than ever, things are changing at an exponential rate in the supply chain industry. Take for example the latest supply chain trends of this year; AI (Artificial Intelligence), VR (Virtual Reality) in retail, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and autonomous road transportation, have all developed tremendously in such a short amount of time and are becoming very popular strategies for companies to gain a competitive edge. Another example of the current supply chain trends, taken from one of the weekly wrap-up posts, is the ongoing development of electric vehicles in delivery services. This is a repeated concept that can be individualized in a variety of ways, from design to the technological structure. And with that being said, Gen Z is a big believer in individuality; this generation likes to be unique and customize practically everything it can, in an attempt to be different and stand out. It is now time for the supply chain different to try new things, test new technologies and embrace change.
Gen Y: Be courageous and creative
Gen Y, otherwise known as ‘Millennials,’ is typically born between 1980 and 1995. According to a study by Bentley University, Gen Y is the true entrepreneur generation, with Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, being among this generation. Gen Y is not afraid to fail, while pursuing a life of entrepreneurship and having a creative work life, despite the risks involved. This generation is a lot more focused and committed to tasks than Gen Z.
Nevertheless, it’s time to carry out these creative ideas. Everyone has ideas spinning in their head. But how many people actually test their theories? Courage, or the lack thereof, is the reason for these few actions. As a result, these two things, courage and creativity, work hand in hand to create success stories. Courage and the increased knowledge that has been acquired over the years can be used to transform ideas and innovations, and actually carry out better decisions on systems and routines, to be more efficient overall in supply chain management. You’re not going to lose anything by sharing your ideas and you’re not going to gain anything from keeping them to yourself. In the words of Alfred North Whitehead, “Ideas won’t keep. Something must be done about them.”
With the supply chain industry altering all the time, it is useful to take insight and inspiration from as many sources as possible. From looking at the theory of generations, it is clear that different generations can all learn from each other to change and improve their performance, both personally and professionally. This can provide informative comparisons to help find new ways to operate most efficiently within a supply chain.
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