The world of logistics – the management of the flow of things between the point of origin and the point of consumption by customers and corporations – has changed and changed fast. The ins and outs of logistics – accessing shipping costs, freight quotations, ocean freight and air freighting – have been radically transformed.
Many reasons are cited for the fast-paced change. Social factors, industry needs, historical events.
All these factors are true. But we can also look at change through the lens of generations. There’s a new generation – a new species, if you will – of logistics providers and freight forwarders in town.
The New Generation of Freight Forwarders
The new generation of freight forwarders is young. Typified by the founders, visionaries, back-end developers, biz dev and logistics experts. They are a mix of students, recent graduates, twenty and thirty-somethings.
Before we go into more details on how the new generations are changing the industry, let’s take a closer look at who they are.
The oldest of the “new generation” in logistics tech are the “Xennials.” Xennials are a newly-discovered “micro-generation,” sandwiched between Generation X and Millenials. A recent spate of articles on the term “Xennial” – including this Business Insider piece -has caused many analysts to take a new look at the attributes of this generation – and the changes they are bringing forth.
Famous Xennials in the tech sphere are Twitter co-founder and CEO, Jack Dorsey and AirBnB co-founder, Brian Chesky.
Born between 1977 and 1983 – aged 35 to 41 – this cohort shares certain characteristics with Generation X and certain characteristics with the next-in-line Millennials.
“The term is a solution to recent complaints by ‘mature millennials’ that they [Xennials] don’t feel as though they fit the avocado-eating, Snapchat-loving mold of the endlessly dissected generation — but also don’t really remember the first Star Wars movies,” states one blog.
“It follows,” states Marleen Stollen and Gisela Wolf in Business Insider, “that the psychological makeup of the typical Xennial should lie somewhere between the typical millennial and the members of Gen X.”
Professor Woodman of the University of Melbourne describes Xennials as having some of the characteristics of the Gen X group who were “depressed flannelette-shirt wearing, grunge-listening children that came after the Baby Boomers, and the millennials — who get described as optimistic, tech-savvy and maybe a little bit too sure of themselves and too confident.“
Together with Millenials (Approximately aged 24 to 34), dreamers, inventors of the “Selfie”, and Generation Z (18 to 23), with whom they share workspaces, certain patterns are emerging.
We don’t know that much about Generation Z yet as they are so new to adulthood. Trends point to a studious, private group (preferring Snapchat over Facebook as it does not leave a permanent trace of their lives, for example).
Zennials, Millenials, and Generation Z are changing everything in the supply chain. They are not like the old guard of freight forwarders (who were typically Boomers or older Gen-Xers).
Here’s Why and Here’s How
The new generation of freight forwarders share a common language and goals: Air freight rates at your fingertips. Easily optimized shipment costs. Digital shipping companies. For them, the end game is digitalization without compromising on customer service (which has also grown in importance).
We at FreightHub are at the helm of this change. To stay at the front, the founders of FreightHub understand one must be both grounded in the basics of freight forwarding and forward-thinking, explains CEO Ferry Heilemann in a 2017 interview with WHU Business Insider:
“So we’re basically a normal freight forwarding company. We’re moving boxes from A to B, and in those terms, we are very similar [to other business models]. Also, our business model in terms of how we earn money is very similar [to standard freight forwarders]. We take a cost-plus pricing. The big difference is that we are approaching freight forwarding from a completely digital perspective. So that means we are doing the customer acquisition in a digital way. We build a data warehouse with more than five million price points that allows us to create real-time quotes for our customers on an online platform which can be booked right away within a couple of minutes. And this is unseen so far in the industry.”
The co-founders and employees are young movers-and-shakers – like their fellow digital cohorts in the industry. European venture capital firm Northzone has recently led a $20 million Series A round financing of Freight Hub with Calvary Ventures, Cherry Ventures, and Global Founders Capital. Michiel Lotting, a partner at Northzone, called investing in FreightHub a “no-brainer.”
Optimistic But Realistic
The new generation of freight forwarders are optimistic but realistic.
For example, last May, FreightHub opened a new office in Hamburg. The opening of a new office one year in the market shows a boldness and a verve typical of the new generation. Established players in Hamburg have welcomed the addition of a European leader in digital freight forwarding to the city, resulting in many new successful partnerships.
It is also realistic and well thought-out. After all, the move “gives the company a presence at the very heart of the German logistic sector.” Some 8.9 million containers (TEU) were handled in Hamburg in 2016, and over 330,000 people work in logistics in Hamburg.
Millenials are sometimes criticized for being overly optimistic. In truth, they simply believe things can get done and act upon it! (Their self-assurance is said to stem from being lovingly cared for by child-focused younger baby boomer parents). Quite possibly, too, they are evened out by the slightly grounded Xennials and serious-minded Generation Z. In fact, a distinguishing feature of Xennials is the quality of being optimistic but realistic.
Flexible: Work-Life Balance on the Go
The new generations are very interested in flexible work-life balances and their tech products and services reflect this.
Why is this?
Xennials in America were called “latchkey kids”. When they grew up, both parents had hit the workforce. Few were around to care for them after school, so they let themselves in with a key. Divorce rates were high at the time. The feeling of being slightly overlooked and a bit disenfranchised led Xennials to pursue a work-life balance in their own young adulthood. Often left to their own devices, and a small demographic cohort, many Xennials have an indie and innovative sensibility that considers creative options. Millenials favor work-life balance tech solutions as they are idealistic in their life.
The Xennial and Millenial presence in the digital logistics sector has contributed to features that cater to those pursuing a flexible work-life balance that affords time for exercise, family, friends, and livelihood. FreightHub’s digital dashboard is on the go. E-commerce and selling on Amazon FBA are real possibilities, serious economic pathways for this cohort. Digital business is a way of doing business on the train, at home, at the office or even at the beach.
Xennials and many millenials had an analog childhood but digital young adulthood. They played outside, wrote postcards, and did not text their friends. Their childhood “firsts” were not recorded on Facebook – rather on large videotapes. Cell phones came in high school or a bit later. Xennials experienced loud modems and the slow dial-up Internet, still remember landlines and owned some of the first Hotmail accounts. They saw and experienced tech as it unfolded, complete with triumphs and obstacles (they remember worried nights of losing data on the computer, they watched floppy and hard disks become extinct) and do not take technology for granted. This has made them perfectly suited for the digital age. They have proven themselves to be logistics tech pioneers! Combining this power with Generation Z, who are digital natives, the success rate is high.
Thrifty Entrepreneurs: Startup Central
All of the younger generations have experienced their share of downturns and recessions. Thus, we see thriftiness built into logistics tech developments. Shipment costs are important. Shipping cost calculators are essential.
FreightHub is truly a Xennial-Millenial-Generation X force to be reckoned with. After a three month test period, the company began operation less than two years ago (read The digital freight forwarder for the 21st century) Since then, it has shown fast and steady growth.
Like the new, exciting advances in logistics tech and supply chain? You can thank Millennials, Xennials and Generation Z!