Sisters are doing it for themselves!
The transport and logistics industry is typically described as a “non-traditional” employment pathway for women, but this male-dominated sector is changing as logistics evolves into a complex, multi-disciplinary operation. At Dachser SA, four women discuss their contribution to logistics.
Sera Fineberg is the branch manager for Johannesburg, and has been with the company for 26 years. Sarie Hendriks, also based in Johannesburg, is the logistics manager for transport. She has been with the company for 12 years.
Marli Wilson, who has been with the company for 16 years, is the operations manager at the Cape Town branch and Verity Hayters is manager of business, processes and organisation based in Durban. She has been with the company for 13 years.
All four women, who are highly experienced in their fields, have seen first-hand the changing landscape of the logistics sector.
What does your position entail at Dachser SA?
Fineberg: As branch manager I am required to look after the divisions within the branch to ensure that it runs smoothly, that we retain satisfied clients and acquire new business. My overarching objective is to show profit for our shareholders, and this comes with a multitude of tasks which see me working closely with the financial departments, communicating constantly with my managers and operational staff, liaising with human resources, sales and servicing departments, undertaking reporting … and sometimes even pulling a rabbit out of a hat! It is a very challenging position, but extremely rewarding when you see the results.
Hendriks: My position requires me to grow the transport area. In doing so I must develop and manage a strong network for the company throughout South Africa. It is my responsibility to give customers the necessary logistics support, while at the same time ensuring that the division is profitable. The challenge of my position is that I must wear two hats: I need to ensure that good business decisions are made for Dachser SA, while at the same time providing our customers with a cost-efficient service that affords them complete satisfaction.
Wilson: As operations manager, I am responsible for all our departments, from accounts to actual air, sea and road freight consignments. I liaise with clients, overseas offices and agents as well as our staff on a day-to-day basis. I deal with airlines, shipping lines and haulers to make sure we get the best rate for the company and our clients. I am in charge of national dangerous goods and all airfreight rates for import and export. I also handle human resources for our entire Cape Town branch. I oversee all payments for all our service providers and ensure the rates are correct.
Hayters: I oversee Dachser SA’s processes and procedures in software and everyday functions. This is a new area within our industry, and a department that is growing globally. My first task has been to implement our Global Systems Integration (GSI). This includes transitioning to Othello; an innnovative, custom-designed tool developed in Germany and currently being rolled out across Dachser globally.
The requirements of my job challenge me to view everyday functions from an alternative viewpoint and often push me to think “outside the box” to ensure a smooth rollout of the diverse modules required across the various disciplines. After the rollout of this major project, my position will focus more on the service desk, key performance indicators, standard operating procedures, information transfer and software maintenance.
What do you find most rewarding about your position at Dachser SA?
Fineberg: Our industry is constantly changing and one of the greatest challenges is keeping on top of this and feeding information to the staff and clients, as well as ensuring that we remain at the top of our game and one step ahead of our competitors.
I find that the most rewarding aspect is when my teams successfully handle extremely difficult situations and turn these into positive outcomes. Signing on new clients is always a great achievement, as is feedback from existing clients on work well done. This makes everything worthwhile.
Hendriks: There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the business continue to grow in all areas of logistics within the transport sector. It pays testament to the commitment of our people in doing a job well. It is also extremely satisfying to see how our customer base has developed, and how these companies themselves are able to grow through continued use of Dachser SA’s networks and services.
Wilson: Logistics permeates every industry and business sector in the world, from retail, life sciences, fashion, technology and construction, to name just a few. I feel extremely privileged to be part of an industry that literally “moves the world”. It is very rewarding to see staff grow in our company and to see what my assistance and guidance brings to the table when they start running with shipments on their own.
When I started, we only had four staff members, and it is amazing to look back at all the hard work and dedication, which has grown our staff complement 51 in the Cape Town branch. I am proud to say that we have grown into a wonderful team which we view as family.
Hayters: The most rewarding aspects of my position are: being the spearhead for the excitement of change, the opportunity to interact with so many different personalities and to learn along the way. Having spent many years in operations, it is greatly rewarding to introduce tools to make work life easier. I thoroughly enjoy training and problem solving. After months of planning, our go-live for the GSI project is around the corner and I will find it most rewarding to see all the hard work come to fruition.
What are your impressions of the logistics industry?
Fineberg: The freight industry is a very tough, fast and stressful one. It is most definitely not for someone looking for an average nine-to-five job, whether they are male or female. While I would still say that we are operating in a more male-dominated environment, throughout the years I have seen more and more women stepping up to the challenge. Women are playing a vital role in the running of freight companies, with many of them taking up top management positions.
Hendriks: Transport logistics is still very male dominated, which makes it one of the hardest areas to be in as a woman. We have to ensure that we have a strong understanding of the entire business of transportation, which includes having a thorough technical knowledge – such as knowing what capacity vehicles are necessary for a variety of transport requirements.
In my experience, women bring strengths to this area in the logistics sector: we are often able to analyse situations better than our male counterparts, and we’ve also demonstrated good negotiating skills. During my time in the logistics sector, I’ve seen more women coming into the business and working together to make the sector a success.
Wilson: The freight industry plays an important role in everyday life. We therefore deal with a lot of different kinds of factors that include labour unions and strikes, fuel shortages and aircraft on ground (AOG). We also have to deal with the effects of nature, such as ports being wind-bound and flooded. These can make our job extremely challenging, but also very rewarding, as not one day is the same, and even for those who have been in the industry for many years, there is something new to be learnt every day.
Logistics is a fast-paced and stressful industry that keeps you on your toes. Since I started at Dachser, we have always treated all staff, both male and female, with the same kind of respect and have allowed all staff to grow into a successful part of our organisation.
Hayters: Our industry is highly competitive. Many companies have been forced to move from loyalty to economic-based decision-making. Our industry has moved with the times in terms of technology in order to give clients what they expect, which is having accessible information at their finger-tips anytime of the day from anywhere in the world.
With the huge availability of information, some days it seems as though, in our role as freight forwarders, the movement of cargo is almost secondary to the movement of information! This is why Dachser’s global network is so important to us, because it enables us to operate at the leading edge of logistics in an always-on digital world.