Commentary | Smart Moves

Turn to Technology to Attract the Next Generation of Workers

Tags: Logistics I.T., Supply Chain Management, Logistics, Technology , Supply Chain

Samuel Mueller is CEO, Scandit, 415-528-5050

Supply chain stakeholders have to acknowledge the shortage of workers in the supply chain sector. An estimated 600,000 manufacturing positions in the United States are going unfulfilled due to a lack of qualified workers, according to the 2016 MHI Annual Industry Report. Additionally the survey showed that 58 percent of respondents face a significant challenge in hiring and retaining a skilled supply chain workforce.

Yes, the supply chain is creating more jobs than it can fill. Exacerbating the talent drain is the lack of engagement of many employees. Workers aren’t fully engaged, and they’re quitting their jobs to look for other opportunities. And it’s only going to get worse unless something changes.

In order to try and reverse the situation, employers could cast a wide net and attempt to hire as many people as possible. A more strategic move, however, would be to focus on cultivating the next generation of young workers who have completed their undergraduate studies and are ready to enter the workforce. If you want to attract these individuals, then you need to appeal to what they’re interested in. What exactly is that? By and large, this generation is interested in technology and creating things.

Unfortunately, when they look at the supply chain, they see an outdated and uncool environment. Young people don’t want to be involved in a staid and unexciting sector. We need to change the perception of the supply chain to attract these workers.

Changing Perceptions

The good news is that the supply chain is all about using technology to create solutions, and as employers, we should highlight opportunities for creativity and ingenuity. Instead of continuing to use outdated technology, supply chain leaders should find ways to make use of new technology that captures the interest and imagination of the younger generation, whether it’s related to mobile technology, wearables, robotics, drones, augmented reality, etc.

For example, data capture is one category where these new technologies can help to streamline a variety of supply chain workflows. Today’s data capture technology is no longer chained to clunky barcode scanners; the latest software can now be accessed via smart devices like the iPhone. Young employees don’t just want to perform repetitive tasks with technology; they also want to manage and use it to grow the business.

When you help this younger generation appreciate that they can use technology to create and deliver products that help people, then you start to give them a sense of purpose and reason to commit to this line of work. While supply chain leaders also need to investigate what can be done to increase salaries and flexibility for young workers, embracing the latest technology is a great way to get their attention and improve their perception of the supply chain sector.

Many companies have been too slow in doing this, and they’ve paid the price for it. In the report mentioned earlier, 38 percent of respondents said they have a lack of talent to utilize technology effectively. Any investments made in new technology are also investments in cutting costs by making things more efficient and attracting the next generation of young employees who can use that innovation. No one in the supply chain can afford to miss out on that.