Passion and vision

Keabetswe “Kea” Mpane is doing her bit to ensure more qualified industrial engineers become supply chain professionals. She is a finalist for the 2014 Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government award.

Keabetswe Mpane, head of logistics and long-term plant development at Transnet Engineering, has received many accolades in the supply chain industry. CLAIRE RENCKEN spends some time with Mpane to find out what drives her.

Mpane is a Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) – one of only 180 countrywide. She is also a prominent member of various organisations, including the South African Production and Inventory Control Society (SAPICS) and the South African Institute of Industrial Engineers (SAIIE) – to name just a couple.

When asked whether she feels hers is still a male-dominated industry, she admits: “Most definitely! I have had to learn to overcome various prejudices based on my gender – I come to work every day ready to do battle. It’s not for the faint-hearted. I would advise any young women wishing to get involved in this industry to prepare for hard work – nothing will be handed to them on a silver platter.”

Passion and visionHowever, this has not deterred Mpane in any way. “I firmly believe that the world will be a better place with more women in this environment. We also desperately need more skilled, trained professionals in the supply chain industry. One of the challenges we face at Transnet, is that a number of our staff members in the logistics function are employees who started out as technicians or unskilled workers. They were then pushed into the warehouse environment due to some lack of production capability. They are, therefore, not necessarily proficient in the field of logistics or materials management.”

It’s one of Mpane’s dreams to change that. “That is why, in my capacity as the head of the Tshwane branch of the SAIIE, I started the ‘adopt an industrial engineer’ programme four years ago. This enables me to take young professionals, many of them women, who are about to qualify as industrial engineers, under my wing. I help them realise that their qualification is not the only skill they need to succeed. I take them through a workplace readiness campaign and even offer coaching in financial and property management, so that they don’t get into debt by rushing out and buying new cars as soon as they become salary earners.”

Mpane also founded the Transnet School of Supply Chain Management – the only one of its kind in South Africa. She hopes to see more industrial engineers and proficient individuals brought into supply chain management training, so that they, too, can become experts within various areas of the supply chain process.

It is safe to say that skills development is one of Mpane’s passions. Her drive and selfless leadership in trying to make sure this happens are probably two of the reasons why this woman of substance received the nomination as a finalist in the 2014 Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government awards. We can only hope there are more women like Mpane moving their way up through the ranks to inspire future generations.

About Transnet Engineering

An operating division of Transnet SOC Ltd, Transnet Engineering is the backbone of South Africa’s railway industry with eight product-focused businesses, 150 depots, seven factories and 15 000 employees countrywide.

About Transnet EngineeringThe organisation is dedicated to in-service maintenance, repair, upgrade, conversion and manufacture of freight wagons, mainline and suburban coaches, diesel and electric locomotives as well as wheels, rotating machines, rolling stock equipment, castings, auxiliary equipment and services.

With origins dating back more than a century, to the mechanical engineering department of the former South African Railways and Harbours, this engineering organisation has actively supported railways in the expansion of the country’s economy and, over the decades, has developed some highly innovative bogies and wagons.

Transnet Engineering has become the key supplier of customised rolling stock for the coal, iron-ore, agricultural, fuel, cement and intermodal industries.

While the focus is mainly on the South African market, investment in research and development to service the specific requirements of Africa and the rest of the world has led to an ever-expanding range of rolling stock products and a comprehensive list of satisfied customers, further enhancing the organisation’s international reputation.

The proximity of the coastal plants to major ports facilitates the movement of products to and from overseas markets.

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