Julie McCaffery has introduced so many successful improvements to the way our depots in Scotland work she’s just been recognised with a Woman of the Year award.
But she says her secret isn’t coming up with ideas herself – it’s about spending time listening to her colleagues “as all of the great ideas come from the people who do the real work”.
One example: she was listening to colleagues at our Grangemouth depot talking about delays and safety issues in the yard as delivery drivers waited for paperwork to be sorted.
A member of the “goods in” team happened to mention he’d been to a Frankie and Benny’s restaurant and they gave customers a little buzzer to let them know when their table was ready. Could something similar work at Asda depots?
Julie loved the idea and got in touch with the people who supply the buzzers to Frankie and Benny’s.
A completely new buzzer system is now in place – and the yard is a much more efficient and safe place. Drivers say it’s now much quicker to drop off at Asda than other retailers they deliver to.
“When a driver comes through our gate they go to a bay and get all their supplier materials together,” said Julie. “We give them a buzzer and buzz them when the paperwork is ready. In the past we had to go and find them – you’d have lots of drivers and colleagues walking around the yard, but this idea has made it safer as well as faster. The drivers return the buzzers at the barrier on the way out.”
It’s just one of many great initiatives that led to Julie being named Woman of the Year at the Everywoman Transport and Logistics Awards in London.
Julie, 45, who’s Change Manager at Asda Logistics Services, is keen to encourage more young people to think of the industry as a career option.
She said: “When people think of logistics they think of the trucks on the road, trains on the rail and planes in the sky. But there's a whole support mechanism that includes HR, accountancy and design – lots of jobs that people don’t see. We need to be highlighting these. We need the skillsets of young people because it’s a new technology environment.”
Julie lectures part-time at the University of West Scotland to students on the MSc programme in Quality Management, Project Management and Logistics and Distribution. She says she learns as much from the students as they do from her.
“I love teaching and developing people,” she said. “They have different life experiences and backgrounds – we share stories and experiences. Often I’ll bring that back to the workplace as I hear about different organisations and the way they do things.”
When Julie first joined Asda in 2013, Grangemouth general manager Colin Reid encouraged her to spend three months “doing nothing” apart from watching, learning and listening to really get to know the business.
Julie said: “We work in such a fast-paced environment it's so easy to forget to do that! I don't think I would have managed to make such an impact on the business if Colin hadn't given me that time to build relationships, listen and learn. He often tells his team to take an hour 'doing nothing' – we probably do more in that hour than we do the rest of the day!"
Colin said: ”The award couldn’t have gone to a better person. She doesn’t look for any accolades – just seeing a colleague coming up with an idea and seeing it through is enough for her.”
Julie holds regular “improvement circles” where colleagues from different areas can meet and make suggestions.
I'm quite resilient. I don't give up easily.
“My job is to take away the blockers,” she said. “I’m not an ideas person myself. I’m skilled at helping other people implement their own ideas. I know a lot about change management and influence – that’s where I can help get their solutions into place. I'm quite resilient. I don't give up easily."
Julie and her depot colleagues are currently trialling a way to reduce road miles by combining deliveries of chilled and frozen food with non-food deliveries so stores get one daily delivery instead of two. As well as bringing environmental benefits and cost savings to the business, stores also get deliveries earlier so they can fill the shelves quicker. It was an idea from Falkirk transport manager Eddie Bryce, who suggested using insulated freezer chests in lorries to transport frozen food alongside other items.
Another recent improvement involved working with stores to schedule “uplifts”. When drivers make deliveries to stores they make the most of the trip by collecting waste from store and other packages to go back to depot. Drivers used to complain they had to wait while stores got everything ready. With the new schedule stores are clearer on what drivers will be collecting when and drivers are clearer on what they need to do too.
Julie lives in Dunipace with her husband John and their two children, Carly, 19 and Keigan, 13. She's also involved in her local community, helping to organise events for her village.
“I’m constantly thinking how I can do things differently,” said Julie. “My husband says I’m a nightmare to live with – I’m a constant decorator, always changing the wallpaper and decor! But it’s useful for work.”