ATN sat down with Women in Industry finalist, EES Shipping’s operations manager Amanda Bradfield to talk about her career so far, the legacy of COVID and the future of freight forwarding on our island nation.
Few people can be deservingly called industry veterans these days, Amanda Bradfield though is certainly one of those few. Not only has she worked in the freight and logistics industry for 28 years, but she’s also done it at the one company.
Bradfield has only ever had two jobs her whole life. The first, working at Brumby’s bakery in Bicton – where even there she was able to work her way up to assistant manager – and the second working at EES Shipping.
She started in her second job at the age of 17 as a freight ‘runner’ and now proudly holds the title of operations manager.
Since her arrival at EES Shipping in the late 90s, Bradfield has seen an enormous amount of change in the industry – mostly thanks to advancements in technology which, in an industry such as logistics that requires so much data processing, has led to incredible gains in efficiency.
“We had a lot of autonomy running around back in the 90s with no mobile phones or internet. Nowadays the industry is very highly digitised,” Bradfield says.
Another quality of Bradfield’s career, that contributes to her veteran title, is that she truly worked her way up from the bottom with no prior experience or training, learning everything on the job.
This year Bradfield was nominated for a Women in Industry Award which recognises outstanding women from across a range of industrials sectors for their work and contributions. She was nominated in the Transport sector and will learn if she takes out this year’s title at an awards ceremony to be held next month in Melbourne.
Thinking back on her career Bradfield is quick to recall the last few years dealing with the effects COVID had on global supply chains as one of the most difficult times for the industry.
“I had moments where I was literally crying in my car trying to find solutions for our clients. These are people we have worked with for so long that it really becomes quite personal,” she says.
For the freight and logistics industry, the COVID 19 pandemic meant not only major disruptions to supply chains and freight delivery times, but also a surge in demand for freight as people were locked down and looked to ecommerce.
While the delays and disruptions for their clients were difficult, Bradfield says the pandemic helped to fast-track digital innovations and new processes the company still uses today.
“We hired a young guy whose entire job was to inform clients about freight delays. Of course, they didn’t like to hear the news at first, but in the end, they really valued that open communication. And that’s something we’ve maintained post COVID.
“Maintaining good customer service in this industry really comes down to controlling the flows of information around freight.”
In the competitive world of logistics and freight forwarding Bradfield says a strong point of difference for EES Shipping is the high level of customer service they’re able to provide to their clients.
“We bring a personal touch to the business; it’s a family-run business and that informs everything we do.
“I’ve really grown up with this company and so I can genuinely call all my colleagues’ family.”
When it comes to the industry award nomination Bradfield says she is very grateful to receive the recognition after all her years of hard work. She stresses though, that she doesn’t focus on her being a woman too much.
“I just see myself as a freight forwarder, not necessarily a female freight forwarder.
“Whether the person is capable in the role or not is what’s most important, not what sex they might be,” Bradfield says.
Bradfield says she has always enjoyed problem solving in her industry, and, while she has experienced discrimination, she doesn’t let being a woman hold her back from being the best freight forwarder she can be.
What is more pressing for Bradfield, is the industry’s inability to attract new, younger talent.
“The real problem is young people not joining the industry. Freight and logistics are so important to modern life, particularly in Australia, it’s disappointing that more people coming out of high school don’t want to try it out as a career.”
Bradfield says she will take to her award nomination as an opportunity to promote the freight sector as a viable career for young people and drive more transparency and education for the industry.
In terms of the future of freight in Australia, Bradfield says she looks forward to the industry working to reduce its own carbon emissions and, of course, welcoming and encouraging the next generation of freight forwarders.