Having studied for a Masters Degree in International Trade, Julie ‘fell’ into logistics almost by accident: “In my studies we looked at all elements of international trade including logistics, customs, marketing and sales and for part of my course I gained experience at a Freight Forwarding business,” she explains.

“I joined Airbus and found myself as part of a team responsible for shipping spare parts from Toulouse to Hamburg for its A330 and A340 long-range aircraft and found I rather enjoyed it.”

Moving from Toulouse into the French countryside to work for Mapaero 11 years ago, prior to its acquisition by AkzoNobel, her skills as an expert logistician were quickly realized and put to good use: “It ended up being a perfect match,” she laughs.

 

“I helped to create an entirely new process to comprise operational practices, workflows, quality, customs, and selecting the suppliers and freight forwarding partners with whom we wanted to work. In 2015, we were awarded Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) status, the only AkzoNobel site to have this customs label.”

Achieving AEO status puts the AkzoNobel team at Pamiers in the vanguard of global manufacturers: “Having this label gives us and our customers a real competitive advantage,” she explains. “It means our products are prioritized through customs, ensuring our products are delivered on time and in the right place, wherever they are required. It is important not only in supporting our existing customers, but also in securing new contracts, for some of the world’s biggest manufacturers – including Airbus – require AEO status as part of their tender process.”

Julie recalls a number of occasions when her skills have been pushed to the limit. On one occasion, she had to deliver five liters of paint to a customer in the remote north of Alaska which was inaccessible by road, and required the services of a helicopter to cover the last few kilometers. On another, a specialist interior coating was needed in Arizona within 24-hours of the instruction being received: “It was for a potential new contract and the customer was trialing our product against a competitor.

Julie sitting at her desk

“We were able to anticipate the customs requirements in advance and in effect organized what practically amounted to a ‘hand-carry’ exercise, even though the paint was classified as ‘dangerous goods’ as many of our products are for shipping purposes. Despite the challenges, we got the paint delivered on time and won the contract.”

Julie is keen for others within the wider AkzoNobel family to know of the support her team can provide, especially as new systems and processes become even more integrated: “We recently helped our colleagues in the Marine, Protective and Yacht business in releasing a product from customs in France that had been stuck there for months because of documentation issues, and we managed to sort in days.”

She is also keen to show that logistics is a team effort: “We ship to more than 140 different countries which means we have to keep up-to-date with 140 different customs regulations, and that can be a challenge,” she concludes. “We’re always learning.”