International Women in Engineering Day 2021

For International Women in Engineering Day #INEWED21, we’re celebrating with a case study on Joanne Gantley, voestalpine Metsec’s Transport Manager who has been with the company for 21 years.

“My move into the engineering industry was a total change in career and direction for me, but it happened more by accident than design.

“After four years working as a tax consultant, I had had enough of the constant number-crunching. It lacked the interest and stimulation that I desired and I started looking for other work.

“I joined voestalpine Metsec in January 2000; the start of the new millennium and, as it turned out, the start of a new chapter in my working life!

“At the time, the transport office of the Structures Division needed temporary staff to cover a staff shortage and I was employed mainly to help them catch up on a backlog of filing. After this, I sort of fell into a permanent administrative role within the office.

“With no previous experience of commercial transport, I pretty much learned on the job, talking to colleagues about the processes that affect the transport role and learning from the internet. It was very different to my previous job as a tax consultant, but I suppose I had a little bit of a head start from the fact that both my partner and father were involved in transport and distribution, so they were on hand to give advice when I needed it.

“As I became more and more involved in the transport operations at voestalpine Metsec, the company supported me in gaining an NVQ in Logistics and putting me through the Metskill ‘Managing for Success’ course.

“Whilst my previous career in tax consultancy did not provide any direct experience of transport, what it had given me was an inquisitive mind and an appreciation of how systems and processes could be made more efficient. I combined these skills with my new-found knowledge and experience at voestalpine Metsec to start looking at the division’s transport operations.

“When I started, there was still a fair amount of manual work involved, and a lot of paper shuffling, which did not contribute towards system efficiency. I sat down with our IT department and helped design a new software package from scratch; it was called ‘The Transport Book’.

“The Transport Book made scheduling quicker, easier and more cost-efficient but it was also very user-friendly. Its success has seen its use broaden from the Structures Division to a company-wide solution which is now used by every division at voestalpine Metsec, albeit in a very much updated version.

“My passion for transport grew and I started to take on more and more responsibility. I gained an NVQ Level 4 in Management and Export Documentation in readiness for taking over the role of Structures Transport Manager when the incumbent retired.

“Adopting my new role, I continued to drive for greater efficiency, not only to save time and costs but also to make our operations greener. Paper usage was further reduced by implementing digital transmission of work to the shop floor for loading, offloading, collections and so on.

“After a few years of managing the Structures Transport Office, I was given the additional task of implementing The Transport Book into the Cable Management Division to make their transport systems leaner, greener and more time- and cost-efficient.

“My role is varied, challenging and interesting, requiring a multitude of skills throughout the working day. As well as making sure that the transport operations work smoothly and efficiently, I also need to keep abreast of changes to legislation in a number of areas, from environmental controls to government policies and actions.

“Day to day work involves constant liaison with suppliers, customers and internal departments, planning routes and scheduling delivery times, making sure the transport operation meets its targets and customers’ requirements, giving advice on voestalpine Metsec transport solutions, passing hauliers invoices and compiling end of month transportation costs and management reports.

“Alongside this, I have to keep up to date to any changes regarding the law on transport, the environment, site offloading and export processes – BREXIT has been particularly challenging!

“As with many areas of the engineering industry, my world is constantly changing, which means that I, and my department, need to prepare and adapt with it. I need to be aware of training opportunities and requirements which equip me for this changing world and enhance my skills and knowledge; I am currently working through an online course on Transport and Sustainability with The Open University.

“I make sure we are as cost-effective as possible whilst not compromising our sustainability in the sense of social, environmental and climatic impacts as it’s becoming more and more crucial to cut CO2 emissions created by heavy goods vehicles.

“I continuously review office processes to ensure that we are as lean as possible and deliver an enhanced customer service. We have recently implemented a digital signature capture system for proof of deliveries which also sends automated ETAs to customers if required.

“Every day can pose a new challenge, from operational challenges such as vehicles not being loaded, drivers calling in sick and hold-ups on site, to the more unusual such as an unexploded WW2 bomb being found on site and work halted due to voles being spotted on a site. Naturally, we do our best to rectify any delivery issues in quick time to ensure our customer service is not affected.

“For me, it is this diversity which makes my job so rewarding. It’s not for everyone but I feel a sense of achievement at the end of each day when customers have received their deliveries on time.”