Amanda O’Brien of SCLAA shares her wisdom in logistics and supply chain management
The Supply Chain and Logistics Association of Australia (SCLAA) is Australia’s largest association for supply chain and logistics practitioners, with over 5,500 members and industry contacts. Having served the profession for over five decades, we’re thrilled to share that SCLAA has partnered with AIB to enhance the logistics and supply chain practical learning experience for students. SCLAA’s Chairwoman Amanda O’Brien will be sharing her powerful knowledge and experience in the field as an AIB Industry Guest Lecturer.
In addition to Amanda’s work with the key industry association, she is also the Director & CEO of Australian Worldwide Logistics Pty Ltd, trading as Xtreme Freight. Xtreme Freight began in 1988 as a privately owned company servicing the freight forwarder industry. When Amanda stepped into the role in 2007, she did not have a freight background. Undaunted, she drew on her twenty years of involvement in project management and statistical analysis to turn Xtreme Freight’s fortunes around in just 18 months. As Amanda points out, logistics and freight are all around us in our everyday lives. “It touches everything we do. It is a global platform, and it should be seen as an exciting and challenging career path,” explains Amanda.
In transforming the company, Amanda made it a rule to accept every contract, no matter how small, taking inspiration from Xtreme Freight’s motto – We never say no to our customers. That still rings true now, as the company prides itself on its ability to customise solutions to each client’s needs.
Today, Xtreme Freight’s reach is wide. Amanda explains, “We are everywhere and we have seen rapid progression over the years. We do regional, interstate, (3PL) pick and pack, LCL, Airfreight, specialist project work and run small to large specialised vehicles. We have multinationals, freight forwarders, retail customers, SME’s, medium enterprizes and end to end supplier companies that we provide services to. We also have New Zealand and American customers that use us for warehousing and third-party services.”
On what supply chain means to Amanda, she shares, “I see it as a holistic process – a process that needs to work seamlessly in bringing a lot of complex sets of systems into closer relationships between suppliers and customers, from beginning to end. If there is a breakdown in any part of that supply chain, from manufacturing to the end delivery process, it jeopardises the value chain. I like to call it the value chain because it’s so essential that all those complex parts work seamlessly together.”
One challenge that never goes away in the industry is balancing supply and demand in a global economy. “The global supply chain is always changing,” says Amanda. There are also overseas competitors snapping at Xtreme Freight’s heels. “There are a myriad of other businesses that will go and explore international markets, develop those markets, and use it to their advantage, particularly in Australia.” In response, Amanda spends a lot of time in Asia, in particular in India and China, checking out the competition and learning how to shave costs and boost efficiency wherever possible.
Another challenge is social media, which provides an instantaneous feedback loop that can sometimes present problems. Amanda embraces technological change, which she says makes the industry as fascinating as it is demanding. But she also admits that it exposes the company a lot more. If the company falls short in its delivery time-frames or customer service goals, bad feedback goes up on the internet almost immediately. “Our reputation, our processes, everything we do is becoming so much more important because the world [of technology] is not only fast but by nature creating transparency,” says Amanda. That has its upside as well, of course. “It’s exciting, it’s evolving, it’s moving: no two days are the same.”
Amanda admits that she’s always felt like a square peg in a round hole, so it’s perhaps no surprise that the male-dominated transportation industry holds no fear for her. Not only has she transformed Xtreme Freight’s fortunes, she’s thrived personally. It may not have been her original plan, but Amanda’s not going anywhere. Sharing her vision for the company, she indicated, “I see the company going global in the not too distant future.”
Amanda’s enthusiasm for her industry is palpable, and we’re looking forward to her sharing it with our logistics and supply chain students.
Get to know AIB’s Industry Partners and growing team of exceptional Industry Guest Lecturers here.