Not Gen X. Not Gen Y. Generation VMI

By Edward Kuo, Account Manager, Datalliance

A close friend of mine once shared these words of wisdom: "The fastest way to offend a Millennial is to call us 'Millennials.'" He has a point. Is there a subset of America -- in this case, individuals born between 1980 and 2000 (though there are different opinions about the exact range) and once dubbed "Generation Y" -- that gets more negative press? The term itself has negative connotations now. However, the origin of "Millennial" is widely attributed to two authors (William Strauss and Neil Howe) who wrote the book, Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, and so the term certainly did not start out poorly. Perhaps mainstream media has unfairly sensationalized the negative qualities of this generation and not all Millennials are lazy, entitled and narcissistic as we've been led to believe?

In Corporate America, have you noticed the significant growth of Millennials in your work force? According to Pew Research, Millennials now make up the largest generation in the work force. And while some businesses still shudder at the thought, Millennials have now graduated into decision-making and leadership positions. This changing workforce composition has actually helped me in my role at Datalliance - to help our customers grow their VMI programs. Why? Because Millennials love VMI.

Let me point out some characteristics of Millennials that explains why they embrace VMI so quickly and readily:

  • Technology Savvy: This one is obvious. Anyone who feels naked without their "smart phone" can understand that technology connects you to everything (for better or worse) and can make many processes infinitely better. But the great thing about Millennials is that they understand how to configure these technologies to their advantage. Computers are an invaluable extension of the body and they will use it to make life easier - both in their professional and personal lives.
  • Open to Change: To quote the website Lucky Attitude, "Millennials are saying, 'We want to change the world and we know it's not going to be easy, but we are going to have to plan to get there.'" One of the most difficult challenges for companies trying to expand their VMI program are users who can't embrace change. To Millennials, it is obvious that a well-structured computer algorithm can outperform even the best minds over time, so why wouldn't they use it? Visions of John Henry come to mind - strong, admirable character but in the end he was fighting a losing battle.
  • Team Oriented: The secret sauce to VMI is the collaboration. Millennials aren't afraid to ask for help because they believe everyone is on the same team. Suppliers, customers, colleagues, and computers are all resources that they want to use. If a vendor partner can help them do a better job of managing inventory by using Datalliance...Yes, absolutely!
  • Practical and Results Focus: While Millennials are quick to try new things, if they don't work, they are also quick to throw them aside. VMI works. It puts the right parts on the shelf at the right time and the metrics consistently prove it. Millennials understand right away why VMI should work. And after seeing the results in their business world, VMI becomes their preferred way to do business.

In the end, we really shouldn't care about age groups, labels or generations. It's actually a bit lazy of the press to recklessly over-generalize. That said, we should be more cognizant about mindset -- the personality traits that can make your business more profitable and your VMI program grow. I call this larger group "Generation VMI" -- and I love being part of it.

About the Author

Edward Kuo, Account Manager at Datalliance, helps leading suppliers and distributors in industrial markets establish successful VMI relationships that enable them to mutually grow sales, improve service levels, increase inventory turns and reduce administrative costs. Additionally, as the Executive Director of HDeXchange (HDX), he has focused on enabling electronic connectivity between distributors and manufacturers through standard technology platforms and formats, focusing mostly on a commercial suite of electronic solutions for ordering, invoicing, inventory management, price file standards, Web site functionality and other customized services. He can be reached at or on LinkedIn at

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