Meet the expert: Karen Radford on our machinery logistics operations in Australia

Recently appointed as a mentor by the National Association for Women in Operations, vice president of our equipment processing operations in Australia Karen Radford is well-versed in delivering quality services. Here she shares more about what makes our equipment processing operations in the country so unique and how our services improve delivery to your end customers.

Karen Radford

Can you tell us a bit about your background and what attracted you to the industry?

I’m a “bean counter” (chartered accountant) by trade, but very quickly found numbers on their own to be boring so I made the switch to a fast-paced operations environment.

I started my career at the Castrol Oil production plant in South Africa, which is where I first fell in love with the thrill of logistics and supply chain intricacies. Then in 2006, I was given the exciting opportunity to join Wallenius Wilhelmsen’s joint venture and start-up in South Africa, before moving to my role in Australia in 2015, where my journey to serving the machinery sector started.

What does your role as VP of equipment processing operations entail?

Essentially, I lead the equipment processing and inland distribution operations in Australia, ensuring that all processes are carried out safely and to the highest possible standards. I work with my teams to uphold operational excellence, executing customer contracts to the agreed standards and delivering on the company’s business plans and strategies.

What makes our equipment processing services in Australia so unique?

I’d have to say it’s the big toys we work with! Our customers entrust us with very complex and expensive machinery and equipment, some of which weighs up to 300 tonnes. Getting this brand-new equipment ready for the local market requires expert technical skills to meet Australia’s strict regulatory standards. For example, all trucks need to meet Australian Design Rules (ADR), which are national standards for vehicle safety, anti-theft and emissions. This might include swapping out smaller tanks fitted to the truck with much larger tanks to accommodate the vast distances across Australia.

Our operational teams are extremely talented. It just amazes me how they unpack large individual pieces of heavy equipment, and in just a couple of days they have assembled these same pieces into something quite spectacular and ready for the market.

In addition to new machinery, we also support customers with second-hand refurbishments of equipment, for example cranes and trucks, which helps to drive our ‘full life cycle logistics’ strategy. We frequently work on second-hand refurbishments for major crane providers as well as truck refurbishments for OEMs’ end of lease vehicles.

What supply chain needs do agricultural, mining and construction OEMs currently have and how do our processing services meet these?

Coming out of the Covid world, the need for seamless, agile and reliable supply chains has never been greater. Supply chains need to be able to withstand the new stress tests of today and become more adaptive. The disruptions Covid has had on the stock levels of agricultural, mining and construction OEMs in Australia, coupled with the country’s geographical distance from the production factories, means supply chains are no longer merely a ‘behind the scenes’ organisation activity, but rather a prime driver of business.

Our speed, proficiency and quality is what our customers depend on for what is essentially the ‘last technical processing mile’ before their product reaches the end customer. To support our customers, the focus of our equipment processing centres is to ensure a quality, quick turnaround of products. We continue to work closely with our customers and business partners in the development of nimble, highly effective digitised tools, which enable us to deliver a faster, more efficient and reliable service.

Our operational teams are extremely talented. It just amazes me how they unpack large individual pieces of heavy equipment, and in just a couple of days they have assembled these same pieces into something quite spectacular and ready for the market

Karen Radford

VP equipment processing operations, Australia

How has the pandemic impacted equipment processing services in Australia?

We’ve seen a few significant shifts. When Covid first hit, our EPC facilities were significantly overstocked and all of our yards were filled with customer products in storage. As the year progressed, inbound units destined for Australia remained low, but customers were able to take advantage of their strong stock levels on the ground. However, after some months these became heavily depleted, leaving our customers’ supply chains extremely lean and in some cases strained. This is why speed to market and visibility are now exceptionally important for our customers; with very limited stocks in the country, they are reliant on a seamless supply chain.

What skills and expertise do you need to help lead processing operations in Australia?

A saying I once heard that rings true for me is: “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”. This, I believe is so relevant to our world. What’s important to me is to be genuine, open minded and continually learn. In our industry we’re engaging with people daily, and as effective leaders, empathy, active listening and the ability to share clear message and make complex ideas easy for everyone to understand is invaluable.

Equally important is to genuinely care: about our customers and what we do for them, as well as about the members of our teams.

How does your involvement with the Tractor and Machinery Association of Australia help you to deliver better services for customers?

The association goes to great lengths to support our all-important agricultural industry in Australia, providing one united voice that represents everyone from manufacturers to importers and sellers of machinery. Being a part of this prestigious industry body has certainly helped me to be better informed of the sector’s overarching challenges and stay up to speed with our customers’ evolving pain points.

Do you engage with other trade or industry associations?

We’re proud to be active members of the National Association for Women in Operations, an association which aims to empower and grow leaders. Recently, I was appointed to lead a mentor circle. It’s my personal purpose to “leave a leadership legacy driven by giving back”, and this enables me to do just that, by sharing experiences and supporting future leaders within our industry, through their own journey within their careers.

What's the best thing about working across multiple processing centres?

It has to be the fact that we have so much depth yet variety across our EPCs, which means no two days are ever the same. We also have a culturally rich and diverse team who all contribute to our success, and the success of our customers. My mantra in life is “making a difference”, and in this industry, there are so many opportunities to do just that.

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