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Back Our Hidden Heroes Story 2 – We achieved things so quickly

It is winter in Frankfurt. With the snow thick on the ground outside, this is a far cry from Silvia Macieira’s hometown of Rio de Janeiro. Silvia smiles as she shares her story. Her attitude is bright and cheery, unaffected by the high stakes environment she works in daily: Silvia is an essential part of the front line of vaccine distribution.

Silvia is a veteran of Kuehne+Nagel who began working for the company in 2002. “It’s been a while,” she laughs. She started with Kuehne+Nagel as a trainee, doing job rotation to get to know the company. After two years on the air freight import team in Rio, she moved to Sao Paulo, Campinas and Buenos Aires, Argentina, before relocating to Germany. For the past seven years living in Frankfurt, Silvia continued her work with a focus on e-touch projects for the perishables and automotive industries.  

Recently, she was promoted to the pharma and healthcare team. Together with two teammates, Silvia supports the European organisation to engage with major pharmaceutical firms. In October 2020, a customer began to engage with Kuehne+Nagel regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. Silvia recalls, “that’s when we knew things were about to get serious.” As the talks with the customer began, Silvia played an integral role in supporting the implementation. Together with the Belgian team, Silvia supervised the process from an air logistics perspective; working on the Standard Operating Procedures, the Statement of Work, even the lane risk assessments.  The importance of the project energised the entire organisation. “We’ve always had an intense focus on the customer,” Silvia says, “and also on the greater good.”

Vaccines are highly specialised cargo, so the shipping process is complicated. A regular shipment wouldn’t require the oversight from government bodies that the vaccines need. The team also had to consider threats to the logistics chain which are not common for the pharma industry. In various countries, police or military escorts accompany the vaccine throughout distribution. High-security standards and a streamlined process are essential, on top of keeping the temperature at minus 20 degrees Celsius. 

For Silvia, this has been a year of intense development: “I am sure 2020 was the biggest learning experience of my life.” Onboarding the customer involved a complex implementation that was achieved in record time. “We achieved things so quickly,” Silvia recalls, “we all knew the priority.” The team expertly handled the entire task, despite it occurring during the usually sleepy period between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. “People made time. A lot of team members had time off planned, yet we still made it happen. It was great to see the cooperation.”

A crucial part of Kuehne+Nagel’s pharma promise is real-time visibility. Silvia works closely with a new team that was designed to support the vaccines’ engagement. Currently the HyperCare team is supporting the accuracy and timeliness of key milestones such as departures, arrivals and proof of delivery. 

As important as the vaccine is, the rest of the world doesn’t stop. People still need cancer treatments and other life-saving medicines, and Silvia and her team have to ensure the same high-quality service for non-vaccine shipments. These tasks require just as much careful attention, on top of their vaccine work. This mix of business as usual and vaccine response keeps Silvia on her toes. “Having streamlined processes helps,” Silvia says. By having guidelines and established protocols, Silvia and her colleagues can be certain that each shipment is safe, secure and ready to save lives. 

Many factors drive the success of the vaccine distribution. Above all, the entire organisation is in harmony. “We are truly working as one team,” Silvia says.  Different departments within Kuehne+Nagel have come together to share their expertise on fundamental topics such as QSHE (Quality, Safety, Health and Environment), customs, finance and security. “No one is afraid to pitch in,” Silvia says, “there’s a poetry behind it, people want to join in and be part of the solution, especially when there is a challenge.” This sentiment is illustrated by a story Silvia shares of a top-level manager spending his Saturday at the pharma facility, preparing the shipments for their important journey. There is a larger purpose here, and everyone can feel it. 

There is a strong sense of belonging shared between those working on this critical task.  Silvia looks forward to finally meeting all the colleagues she has been so closely collaborating with on this project in person. “It will be a fun time when we can finally all meet each other!” On a personal level, she is also excited to visit Brazil and see her family. Every shipment that Silvia and her team manage brings us all closer to this reality.