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A-List Insights: Petra Åkerblom (Part 5)

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 5 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 last 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 5: Shipper/Carrier Collaboration and Absolut’s Motto

How important is shipper and carrier collaboration?

It’s everything. They are an important part of the chain. It doesn’t matter how good we are in producing vodka or how good we are at marketing. If we can’t get it out of Åhus, it doesn’t matter. If we don’t get it out on the shelf, it will not sell. So, they [carriers] are an important part of us.

We’ve always worked a lot at carrier relationships. Considering that we are shipping out from Åhus, this small port in Sweden, it is crucial that we have carriers supporting us. We strive for long-term relationships and to achieve that you need to be fair and honest. We do 2-years contracts only and we stick to our word. If we do a deal, we stick to it even if the market is dropping. We treat our carriers as partners and in return we get carriers that really walk the extra mile for us when needed. That is so important, now more than ever so this is something we will continue building on.

What keeps you up at night?

When we have container shortages or when we cannot meet the customer demands. For example, we can see now from the pandemic, that sales have shifted from the restaurants and clubs to the shops. People invite friends to their house when bars and restaurants are closed down. Due to this, the demand in bottle sizes has shifted from bigger bottles to small sizes. This happened more or less overnight and it is always a bit challenging to adjust production. That can keep me up at night.

Also, we can see some markets opening up again and want Absolut, and they are ordering much more than forecasted. This is sometimes a problem for us, and I hate not being able to provide them what they need.

So, what keeps you up is that fluctuation in consumer buying behavior, and how it impacts your production and distribution?

Yes, and then also, how it affects our carriers because it’s not easy for them to handle the fluctuation in volumes. For example, one week 5 containers to the UK, and the week after we have 23. It is our responsibility to find solutions and make sure we have everything on the shelves. That can keep me up at night. But I tend to sleep very well, to be honest. I love logistics. I love my job. I love the carriers. And I love the company I work for, so I feel very fortunate.

“Creators of Conviviality” is at the heart of Absolut and Pernod Ricard. How do you carry that into your work each day?

Being convivial is part of our DNA and part of our values. We believe in mutual trust and a strong sense of ethics and this is something that I carry with me every day. I am always trying to be very fair, honest, open-minded and welcoming. We treat everybody with respect, and it should be fun working with us. We try to be the best customer and the best host ever.

I think I read on the website “Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.”

Yes. And if you’re looking at the company, it’s everything from giving away alcohol for hand sanitizers, to every second year we host a Carrier Appreciation Day, where we invite all the carriers to Åhus and show them the production, tell them what we do, the heritage, where we come from…and then we have a nice dinner together. That’s convivial. And like I said, if we do a deal with someone, we stick to our word. Mutual trust, integrity and of course a lot of fun.


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