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A-List Insights: Petra Åkerblom (Part 1)

Welcome to A-List Insights!

A-List Insights is an interview series where we talk with industry thought leaders and experts about different topics surrounding logistics and supply chain – gathering their insights and experience firsthand.

Thought Leader: Petra Åkerblom

Part 1 of 5

In this segment we feature Petra Åkerblom, Senior Customer Service & Logistics Manager at The Absolut Company, part of Pernod Ricard, a leading global wine & spirits manufacturer. Petra has been with the company for 20 years, holding several positions across the logistics and procurement functions.

Petra leads the logistics customer service team and is responsible for freight procurement for Absolut and Malibu (another Pernod Ricard brand). She is also a core member of the company’s Freight Board Council, which handles freight procurement for the whole Pernod Ricard group.

This is the first of a 5-part series interview with Petra. To provide context to the current climate, the entire interview was conducted in September 2020, during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

Part 1: Women in Logistics

You are a woman in an industry where there aren’t many – in the logistics industry in general. Have you found it challenging?

I wouldn’t say it has been challenging, but maybe that’s because in the role I have, I always try to treat others with respect, and I expect it in return. That’s the message I give and I’m very clear on that. I think I am pretty secure in the position I’m in as I’ve been doing it for a long time. As a woman, you need to own the space you’ve earned.

Has being a woman been an impediment to your ability to build relationships with your carrier partners, which tends to be male dominated?

In dealing with carriers, Absolut is a very strong brand, and as such, people tend to be very interested in the brand. I think that’s helpful. We do try to build a relationship with them [carriers], as we see them as a partner. For some years now, every second year, we invite them to a “Transport Academy” in Åhus where we show them our production and warehouse and give them the opportunity to meet the whole team. It really helps in relationship building.

You are one of the Core members of the company’s Freight Board Council. What purpose does it serve?

Pernod Ricard is a decentralized company. We have brand companies that are producing for the global market, and then we have market companies that are responsible for distribution on the local market. There are some market companies that also are producing, but it’s not for the global market.

Before the Freight Board Council, we had all these brand companies and Market Companies within Pernod Ricard handling their own freight procurements. Everybody was of course only focusing on their business and we therefore not able to see where the synergies were, you know… say I use one carrier for going to Australia [for Absolut], and then we have that same carrier going from Australia to UK [for another brand], then we can use the same containers. So, they decided to centralize freight procurement. And now we have this freight council that is handling the freight procurement at the group level for Pernod Ricard.

So, the council is made up of people in your position across the brands of the Pernod Ricard group?

Yes. We have one core team, and then a support team providing us with information. So, we are doing it for the Group.

We are still a decentralized company, and we are of course looking after our own brands, but I’m also looking after some other brands for the Group. I do all the negotiations for them [Freight Board Council] and then give them the recommendations that are best from a Group perspective, for example, ‘here are the carriers I think you should use on your lanes.’

As we are a decentralized company, they still have the final say, but the Core Team requirements have been communicated to HQ so I would say that the recommendation is pretty strong.

Our role [Freight Board Council] is to find the best solutions for the Group, both from a brand company point of view, and a market company point of view – making sure that no brand company ends up with too many carriers, and also the receiving companies should not end up with too many carriers. All doing so while looking at cost, CO2, transit times, etc. So, our role is to try to do this [freight procurement] in a more centralized way within this decentralized company.

Look for Part 2 of our “A-List Insights” Series interview with Petra Åkerblom where we discuss the impact of the pandemic.

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