Snehal Khedkar, Principal Logistics Specialist in Supply Chain-Commercial Strategies Fluor Daniel
The traditional jobs are restructuring as per the new technological requirements; this is a great opportunity to drive gender diversity and to refine and groom fresh graduates to match the changing skill-sets.

I enjoy analytical thinking, acquiring technical knowledge, and providing solutions to technical challenges.

I have over 12 years of experience in the Shipping and Logistics industry, both domestic and international. My area of expertise is Project Logistics - mainly heavy lift transportation and shipping. As a graduate in Mechanical Engineering, I was constantly told that women would always have to work twice as hard to earn respect and gain credibility in a male dominated industry.

My first field assignment was at L&T Hazira Fabrication Yard for the logistics of heavy modules after joining my first job at Lift & Shift (road/barge transport specialized in hydraulic, SPMT trailer). The assignment was part of my three-month training on the field and included supervising the day and night logistics operations as per the tides in the river channel of Hazira, besides working on the ships and handling 3000 MT single piece modules.

It was an extensive learning environment; at times, I was the only woman on the jetty. But I am grateful to my colleagues, clients, and contractors who appreciated my work and supported me.

The scale of projects I worked on gave me an insight on how different and challenging the Logistics industry could be - where every equipment and project item needs to be moved differently every time, and the amount of engineering that goes into heavy operations.

Before joining Fluor, my first 8 years were in the core transportation and logistics area. I worked with Aprile (freight forwarding), Sarjak (ODC container specialist), and Jumbo Shipping (heavy lift). I gained extensive knowledge of end-to-end logistics. My clients were from diverse sectors like Energy, Chemicals, Petroleum, Mining, and Infrastructure. The opportunities that came my way enhanced my potential in the field of logistics and led to my professional growth.

Working with clients like L&T, Essar, IOCL, and KNPC developed my interest in the Oil & Gas sector and led me to enroll in the Executive Petroleum Management Course. I had the flexibility to study while continuing with my job.

I subsequently got a job with Fluor – an EPC company - as a part of their Logistics Competency Centre.

Working at Fluor has been a remarkable experience where I utilize my engineering, logistics, and petroleum management learnings.

At Fluor, I am accountable for Global Project evaluation and estimation, RFQ preparation, and contract finalization, maintaining overall profitability of the project with strategic cost saving solutions. I am also a program manager for the Logistics Supplier Pre-Qualification Program.

I have experience in ODC cargo, heavy engineering equipment, and modular transport with competency in technical as well as commercial aspects of the project. My expertise lies in cost estimation, project management, contractor risk analysis, and project execution. In Fluor, I have managed mining project –Spence – a copper processing facility. I was coordinating all offshore material deliveries from global suppliers to the project location in Altacama desert in Chile.

Currently, I am working on LNG Canada Project, which is a natural gas liquefaction plant and marine terminal export facility near Kitimat, Canada. I am responsible for the logistics of material procured from 102 different suppliers to the project. It is challenging working in this pandemic as most of the resources are working from home.

Fluor Daniel has a culture that fosters a healthy work environment where work life balance is achieved. The company is supportive of women and they are encouraged and empowered to take ownership of their responsibilities - creating a path for them to become future leaders. Fluor gave me very good opportunities: I was assigned to the first mining project and I travelled to Chile to have a better alignment with the head office. I represented Fluor in global platforms like Breakbulk-Middle East Conference in Dubai, where I learnt to deal with global logistics partners. I was the only woman panelist at one of the biggest logistics conferences in Delhi.

Women face discrimination every day and have to prove themselves time and again.

A female co-worker is assumed incompetent or less knowledgeable than her male counterparts. To give an example, if a manager has to assign an employee for an international job, he may not even consider a woman as he will assume that because of her child or her family she will not be able to manage. Such unfounded perceptions kill many opportunities for women workers. Fortunately Fluor has been very good in giving equal opportunity

Conventionally, the supply chain was considered as a heavy lifting and fieldwork job, but this is not the case now. Due to digitization, organizations have a more integrated approach in recruiting women and there are more openings for them in various departments like sales, marketing, operations or in the fabrication yards.

My advice to the next generation of women in the supply chain industry is learn every aspect of the business and not just what is required of your job.

At Fluor Daniel, we have special program named GROW - Growing Representation and Opportunities for Women.

Many organizations have training programs to train entry-level women candidates so that they can progress in their career. Flexible work policies do wonders for women as it gives them a stress-free environment. The contribution of women in the company is celebrated in various forums, meetings, and events, which empowers them and leads to their retention. Demonstration of such inclusion has helped women gain respect and feel valued at their workplace.

Principal Logistics Specialist in Supply Chain-Commercial Strategies Fluor Daniel

GROW’s charter is for women and men to cultivate opportunities to attract, retain and develop women. It helps in getting a qualified and diverse workforce at all levels. We also have a Mentorship program; it makes a huge difference to have a mentor develop and promote you in both your professional and personal fronts.

Fluor leads by example as we have a good mix of both men and women in senior leadership roles. When you have vibrant senior women in the workplace, they become role models for young women, who are then inspired to achieve more in their profession.

To go from “only doing things” to “becoming great assets to the employer” women employees need the opportunities to gain visibility across the organization.

The increasing adoption of intelligent robotic automation is changing the nature of work and affecting the end-to-end supply chain. Today’s machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are a giant leap forward for the supply chain industry. The traditional jobs are restructuring as per new technological requirements. This is a great opportunity to drive gender diversity to refine and groom fresh graduates to match the changing skill sets. The steps I think logistics companies need to involve to attract women in the supply chain industry are:

-Assess and examine the policies, corporate culture companies are providing to employees. Areas they are lagging in terms of equal opportunity, equal pay, incentives, and the support system for women.

-Support scholarship, internship programs in high schools / colleges to encourage women to make a career in the logistics sector.

-Ensure that men are involved in the initiatives and policy making to increase the likelihood of success as they will support and become good team mates to their female colleagues.

-Family friendly policies should be applied to both men and women for better work-life balance.

-Senior leaders need to help young women navigate the path between “only doing things” to “becoming great assets to the employer” and simultaneously gain visibility across the organization.

Technology will be the key driver of growth in supply chain in the next 5 years, and a skilled workforce will play an important role as we implement digitalization.

The Covid-19 crisis has made the industry realize the need for a robust IT infrastructure and to increase focus on implementing technologically advanced digital solutions to streamline operations across the supply chain. All verticals like international supply chain, freight forwarding, contract logistics, container shipping, rail and road transportation, CFS/ICD management, and warehousing are upgrading to technology to improve efficiency.

Blockchain and a connected ecosystem will be another key aspect in the transformation to a digital era.

A skilled workforce will play an important role as we implement digitalization. Conventional experience and the new generation of creative mindset need to work together to match the changing business environment and be sustainable. An increasing number of women employees in this industry will be another major trend in the near future; they will not be limited to support desk jobs but will be seen in leadership positions too.
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