For our final Women’s History Month interview, we spoke with Akilah F., Transportation Analyst at Coca-Cola. Akilah is a great example of the hard work being done by women in non-traditional roles, come rain or shine. Her ingenuity and sheer love for her work and company come across loud and clear. Akilah is breaking barriers and doing her part to take other women along with her.
Question: Can you describe what you do?
Akilah: My title is Transportation Analyst. Or Transportation Specialist. I work at our plant in Atlanta, Georgia. I control the inbound ingredients (needed) for our plants to produce (the products). We have to procure the ingredients from our suppliers across the world. We have international and domestic suppliers, so I control the ingredients inbound to the plant. And once they are produced into a finished concentrate, I then control the outbound portion from the CDC’s in Fort Worth and Atlanta and manage the transportation to make sure they get to the bottlers on time - just in time - for production so (products) can get to the stores in time.
Question: How long have you been in this position?
Akilah: I’ve been in this position for about a year-and-a-half. Going on two years.
Question: So what did you do before?
Akilah: I was also in the logistics and transportation industry. I was an Account Executive for another company – a 3PL logistics company. I managed customer accounts for freight, ocean, rail; over-the-road freight. I built the supply chain solution according to what my customers needed. I was there for four years.
Question: How did you end up in logistics?
Akilah: It’s a funny story. I didn’t purposely choose logistics. My degree is actually in Marketing and that’s the direction I wanted to go (after) college. However, my first role out of college was a Marketing/Logistics role. (It was) in the logistics industry, but it still involved sales and marketing as far as getting customers. From there I just never left. I guess you can say I found my niche.
Question: In your opinion, what is the biggest supply chain issue today?
Akilah: The biggest supply chain issue is definitely due to tight capacity due to COVID. We’ve been struggling for the last year. A lot of the drivers were not working because they had COVID or were afraid to get COVID and bring it home to their families. There were a lot of (people) who were not working, because they were being paid more by unemployment. A lot of companies are doing lay-offs. It’s just very tight capacity. Not enough trucks. And that (drastically) affects our supply chain. Especially when everything first happened in China. We get a lot of our ingredients for both plants from China. When (COVID) first happened, everyone was trying to rush and get their freight out. They had priority. Now that the vaccines are going out, they have priority, as far as getting shipped overseas. So there are a lot of capacity constraints which have impacted our supply chain. We try to realign everything as much as possible but there’s a lot of ambiguity due to COVID. Hopefully next year we can get back to normal. It’s impacting our sales as well because of lack of volume. We supply amusement parks that weren’t open, (as well as) a lot of restaurants and movie theaters. All of these companies that we supply coke products to just weren’t open, or not selling as much when they did open. Production (has been impacted) as far as getting ingredients in time and shipping (products) out in time. It’s been a (tough) year.
Question: What is the biggest challenge facing your industry and what do you think are some solutions to overcome the challenges? You already talked about your supply chain issue. Are there any others?
Akilah: There were always capacity constraints in general. Fluctuating rates; finding drivers in certain seasons. Weather definitely dramatically impacts us. We had a winter storm in Fort Worth a few weeks ago and it shut down the whole operation out of our Fort Worth CDC. We had to re-direct everything out of Atlanta. When we’re shipping from our CDC’s going to those colder states like Washington and Chicago - any of those states that get heavy (weather), where the highways are shut down, that impacts our supply chain. We can’t get (product) there. That’s just one of the things we have to learn to get around and plan accordingly. (We) make accommodations. If we have to ship from a different CDC, we do that. (Weather) is big problem, but unfortunately we cannot control it.
Question: How have DeltaTrak products helped you to manage the cold chain?
Akilah: I think DeltaTrak has done a great job as far as providing the resources to make sure that, in this difficult time, our products do get to the destinations in time and at the quality they are supposed to arrive in. I use DeltaTrak products for all of the outbound CDC shipments. All outbound Atlanta and Fort Worth shipments. All across the US to the bottlers locations. We need to make sure the finished concentrate is there, in spec, the quality is not interrupted and it does arrive at the desired temperature. Like I said, we ship Just in Time. Our bottlers are not sitting on product for weeks and months. They get it and they are producing the same day, so it needs to be in spec, the proper quality, and the proper temperature. So you guys do a great job assisting us there.
Question: The International Women’s Day theme for 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge, which highlights the importance of challenging biases and misconceptions in the interest of creating a more inclusive and gender-equal world. In what ways do you think you challenge biases and misconceptions?
Akilah: As you know, the manufacturing industry is very male-dominated at the plant. Also, the logistics industry in general. There are a lot of gender biases, of course, as far as women handling things and knowing things in the logistics industry because it is so male-dominated. However, I think my (company) does a very good job of making it more inclusive. When my manager hired me, he also hired a slew of other women because he wanted to get more women in (the company), and make it more inclusive. He wanted to disprove the (perception) that this is a male-dominated industry and something only males can be great at. I’ve been in the industry a little over five years now and I’m just as great as the next. We’ve done a few things to celebrate the women at Coca-Cola. We just spoke about this on a women’s panel that we had a few weeks ago to also celebrate Women’s History Month. I and two other women were on a panel. We spoke to what we can do to make it more inclusive for women, to celebrate any small achievement that happens. To make sure we’re celebrating our women out loud and recognizing them for their achievements and accomplishments to make (the workplace) a more inclusive environment. We’re (participating in) women’s (organizations) that are specifically for networking within our culture and company to help us grow. I’ve been involved in mentoring programs, as both a mentor and a mentee to learn and grow from people who have been in the company longer than I have. (We have) mentoring and networking events to love and celebrate our women. I think Coca-Cola does a very good job of that. It’s important to be in a company that is inclusive and celebrates women.
Question: What do you think is the biggest issue facing women professionals today?
Akilah: I feel like because of the perception that women get married and have to take a certain amount of time off to start a family, and then (raise) children, the pay grade may be different than it is for a man. A woman can work in the same position but the company will pay the man more. That’s one of the most difficult things. Fighting for your worth, knowing your worth and not accepting anything less compared to a man.
It’s been a great Women’s History Month! We’ve truly enjoyed the wonderful conversations we’ve had with our awesome customers. Although the month is coming to a close, we hope the celebration of women continues and that the insights shared will continue to resonate with you. The video below shows us why the fight for gender equality (and all equality) is so important. (Shared by DeltaTrak customer, Ruby Wang.)