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About the Author

Cliff Holste is Supply Chain Digest's Material Handling Editor. With more than 30 years experience in designing and implementing material handling and order picking systems in distribution, Holste has worked with dozens of large and smaller companies to improve distribution performance.

Logistics News

By Cliff Holste

March 26, 2014

The Future Of The Logistics Industry Depends on Attracting & Retaining Young Talent

Understanding Who They Are and What Motivates Them

Holste Says:

The major challenge is to make the industry more attractive to the next generation.
What Do You Say?

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Previous Columns by Cliff Holste

Sorting It Out : Laser & Camera Based Scanning Solutions

Sorting It Out : The Challenge of Incorporating a Business Within a Business

Sorting it Out: Training & Discipline Are Key to a Smooth Running Operation

Sorting It Out: When Looking For A New DC Shippers Must First Develop a Requirements Document

Sorting It Out : Two Factors Drive Decision to Automate – Cost & Justification


While attending MODEX 2014, I notices that there were very few young people touring the exhibits and attending conferences. I mentioned this to Dan Gilmore and he discussed it with Daniel Stanton, MHI VP of Education who referred to it as a “crisis” situation for the Supply Chain Logistics industry.

The major challenge is to make the industry more attractive to the next generation. This is critical because when you’re working with integrated, process flow-based technologies, and trying to execute quick response, continuous order fulfillment strategies that require some ingenuity, you need a workforce that understands and is comfortable with advanced interactive technology.

Industry leaders, providers and users of automated equipment and systems along with the related trade associations, need to ramp-up their efforts to attract young people while they are still considering their career options. Advertising, specifically focused at this generation could expose advanced logistic technologies in an entertaining and educational manner. For example, UPS, USPS, and Amazon are running TV ads that featured their logistics operations. These ads help to expose what is going on in their highly automated DCs to those who have no idea how items they order move through the complex delivery system.

Who are they?

Today’s young people grow up playing with sophisticated animated interactive games. When they are ready to move into the workforce they are naturally looking for opportunities to work with advanced technologies. Unless your business just happens to be located in Silicon Valley, you need to be aware of a few generational imperatives that young people share. The following are a few clues gathered from various public opinion research sources:

Be smart – you are special. They’ve been catered to since they were tiny; get a trophy for just participating.


Leave no one behind. They were taught to be inclusive and tolerant of other races, religions, and sexual orientation.


Connect 24/7. They learned to be interdependent – on family, friends, and teachers. They say they rather live without TV than their smart phone. Most prefer texting rather than talking.


Achieve now! Many of their parents lined-up the right pre-school while their child was still in the womb.

Serve your community. Many of their high schools require community service credit for graduation. When asked the major cause of social problems in the U.S., they answer selfishness

All of this translates into a generation of employees with a different work ethic than any other. The following are considered to be the main components of their work ethic:

Confident - Raised by parents believing in the importance of self-esteem, they characteristically consider themselves ready to overcome challenges and leap tall buildings. Managers who believe in “paying your dues” and coworkers who don’t think opinions are worth listening to unless they come from someone with a prerequisite number of years on the job find this can-do attitude unsettling.


Hopeful - They’re described as optimistic yet practical. They believe in the future and their role in it. They expect a workplace that is challenging, collaborative, creative, fun, and financially rewarding.


Goal and achievement-oriented - Many arrive at their first day of work with their career objectives clearly in mind.


Civic-minded - They were taught to think in terms of the greater good. They have a high rate of volunteerism. They expect companies to contribute to their communities - and to operate in ways that create a sustainable environment.


Inclusive - They are used to being organized in teams - and to making certain no one is left behind. They expect to earn a living in a workplace that is fair to all, where diversity is the norm - and they’ll use their collective power if they feel someone is treated unfairly.

In our rapidly changing society, each generation works differently, thinks differently and communicates differently. So, how can you connect with the generations you work with? MHI has a program that will help you identify your own "generational personality," and give you techniques for understanding and working with other generations. It’s called MHI Young Professionals Network . Their goal is to increase industry retention, education and networking as well as to offer career support. You do not have to be an MHI member to participate.

Final Thoughts

Over the years I have had several opportunities to work on distribution projects with young people. I found their creative energy, thirst for knowledge, quick retention, adaptability and optimism to be uplifting and energizing. No doubt, the future of the logistics industry depends on attracting and retaining talented young people who never seem to stop asking – why not?

Recent Feedback

Great article. I am a little suprised not to see BNSF in the mix while I understand their financial mode/operation is a little different. 

That would only give a complete perspective with all the players in the pool.

Senior Consultant
May, 22 2016

Surprised to see Home Depot fall off the list; thought they were winning with Sync?

Mike O'Brien
Senior editor
Access Intelligence
May, 26 2016

Using the right tool for the right job has always been a best practice and one of the reasons, we feel, that RFID has never taken off in the DC as exponentially as pundits have been forecasting since 2006. While these results may seem surprising to those solely focused on barcode scanning, the adoption of multi-modal technologies in the DC makes perfect sense for greater worker efficiency and productivity.

Julie Leonard
Marketing Director
Jun, 27 2016

The IoT Platform in this year's (2016) Hype Cycle is on the ascending side, entering the "Peak of Inflated Expectation" area. How does this compare to the IoT positions of the previous years, which have already peaked in 2015? Isn't this contradicting in itself?

Editor's Note: 

You are right, Internet of Things (IoT) was at the top of the Garter new technology hype curve not long ago. As you noted, however, this time the placement was for “IoT Platforms,” a category of software tools from a good number of vendors to manage connectivity, data communications and more with IoT-enabled devices in the field.

So, this is different fro IoT generally, though a company deploying connected things obviously needs some kind of platform – hoe grown or acquired – to manage those functions.

Why IoT generically is not on the curve this year I wondered myself.



Carsten Baumann
Strategic Alliance Manager
Schneider Electric
Aug, 19 2016

I agree totally with Mr. Schneider.

I have always lived by "put it in writing" all my work life.  I am a firm believer of the many benefits of putting everything in writing and I try to teach it to as many people as I can.

This "putting in writing" can also be used for almost anything else.  Here are some general benefits (only some) of "putting in writing":

1. Everything is better understood between parties involved.  There are lots of people types who need something visual to improve their understanding.
2. Everyone can read to review and correct anything misunderstood.  This will ensure that all parties concerned confirm the details of the agreements as correct.  This is further enhanced by having all parties involved sign off on a hard copy or confirm via reply email.
3. Everything has a proof.  Not to belittle the element of trust among parties involved, it is always safest to have tangible proof of what was agreed on.
4. There will be a document to refer to at any time by any one who needs clarification.
5. The documentation can be useful historical data for any future endeavor.  It provides inputs for better decisions on related situations in the future.
6. This can also be compiled and used to teach future new team members.  "Learn from the past" it is said.

There are many more benefits.  Mr. Schneider is very correct about his call to "put it in writing".

Jo Ann Tudtud-Navalta
Materials Management Manager
Chong Hua Hospital, Cebu City, Philippines
Aug, 21 2016

U.S. companies are reshoring and foreign companies are investing in U.S. locations to be in close proximity to the U.S. market for customer responsiveness, flexibility, quality control, and for the positive branding of "Made in USA".

Reshoring including FDI balanced offshoring in 2015 as it did in 2014. In comparison, in 2000-2007 the U.S. lost net about 200,000 manufacturing jobs per year to offshoring. That is huge progress to celebrate!

The Reshoring Initiative Can Help. In order to help companies decide objectively to reshore manufacturing back to the U.S. or offshore, the nonprofit Reshoring Initiative's free Total Cost of Ownership Estimator can help corporations calculate the real P&L impact of reshoring or offshoring.

Sandy Montalbano
Reshoring Initiative
Aug, 24 2016

 Good article!  I am sending this to my colleagues who work with me.  We have to keep this in mind.  Thanks!

Transportation Manager
Aug, 30 2016

SCM is all about getting the order delivered to the Customer on date/ time requested because happy Customers = Revenue. Using the right tools to do the right job is important and SCM is heavily dependent on sophisticated ERP systems to get right real data info ASP.

I've worked in a DC with more than 400,000 line items and measured the Productivity of Pickers by how many "picks" per day.

I've learned that one doesn't have to remind Germany about your EDI orders.

Ian Jansen
Sep, 14 2016

Challenge - to build and sustain effective relationships at the level of the organizations that are responsible for effectively coordinating and colaborating in an otherwise highly competitive environment 

Don Benson
Warehouse Coach
Sep, 15 2016

Of course we all need to up our game. We need to move with the times, and always be one step ahead of what the future will bring.

Fulfillment Logistics UK Ltd
Oct, 02 2016

Thanks for the article, but I know there's a lot more to this issue than just the pay rates. Please check out my blogs on the subject at

Mike Dargis
President of asset-based carrier based in the Midwest
Zip Xpress Inc. (at
Oct, 03 2016

Lora, great article! I agree that companies choose the 'safe' solution more often than not. My solution is a bolt-on for legacy ERP's and we even face challeneges of customer adoption. Most like to play it safe and choose an ERP upgrade, which is more costly, time consuming, and has lower ROI across the board. Would love to learn more about your company, we are always looking for partnerships.


Inventory Specialist
Nov, 16 2016

This is a game changer in GE's production and prototyping.  It also has huge implications across the GE global supply chain with regard to the management of their support and spare parts network. 

Bob McIntyre
National Account Executive
DBK Concepts LLC
Nov, 21 2016