Supply chain managers make sure that their company keeps its promises
Cindy Mzobe manages a department that services in excess of 900 customers, in a company that boasts a turnover of more than R3billion a year.
She is the supply chain manager of one of the country's major oil industry organisations, Masana Petroleum Solutions. Masana, a BEE subsidiary of BP, supplies bulk petroleum products to large corporate clients such as Transnet, Rio Tinto, Tongaat-Hulett and Imperial.
Cindy is tasked with understanding what drives a customer's business and then customising business solutions to suit their needs.
She plays a major role in linking supply and demand by ensuring that fuel, mainly diesel, is available to commercial customers.
"My role is to ensure that we fulfil the promise that we make to the customer," says Mzobe.
A supply chain manager does literally that, manages the link starting from the refinery where the petroleum products are manufactured, through to the different types of logistics where the product gets moved from the refinery to the depot for storage and handling, up to the end user - the customer who uses the product - with the purpose of satisfying customer needs as efficiently as possible. Supply chain managers need to be versatile and good with people because they can often be confronted with difficult clients.
Mzobe got into the business because she enjoys the challenge of having to show tangible results.
Mzobe has worked in the oil industry for almost 10 years and she now clearly understands what customers require, and is able to deliver on the company's promises.
She also plays a supportive role to the sales force. When sales personnel want to sign up new business, they must first approach the supply chain manager, who will confirm if Masana has the supply capability in the area where the prospective customer is based.
Existing businesses also have to be supported to make sure that they are getting their required quantities on time. To make all of this happen Mzobe must liaise with the logistics department on a daily basis. She checks that whatever should have been delivered the day before was delivered and if it was not she engages the relevant people to try and solve the problem to ensure customer satisfaction.
"My phone is constantly ringing because there will be queries here and there," she says.
The oil industry is extremely volatile and is easily influenced by the rand-dollar exchange rate and crude oil prices. And because of its ever-changing nature it is important that supply chain managers keep up to date with industry trends and should attend monthly forums, such as the Africa Oil Week conference happening in Cape Town this week, where challenges are tackled and solutions are worked out.
Mzobe's greatest challenge has been to ensure the sustainability of the business through this volatile and highly competitive environment that the organisation has no control over.
"Being involved in the heart of what drives the South African economy is what I love the most about my job," says Mzobe. "We move fuel, which touches each and every one of us."