April McMurchy

Operations Planning Leader

April McMurchy How long have you been at Port Otago?
Since Dec 2018. 

What does your role involve?
Managing the empty container supply on-site at Port Otago. Containers come to us by rail, road, and ship, which we process for four different shipping lines. On an average day our depot will process around 250 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units). There are two different types – refrigerated and dry – available for customers to order in 20- and 40-foot lengths. Condition on arrival can vary, so our survey team inspects each empty container to determine the work required to bring it up to the required grade. It may need an internal wash, painting or structural repair. Supplying the correct grade means our customers have no delay in filling the containers with product, such as frozen meat or milk powder, before sending them back to Port Otago for export.

What did you do before you came to Port Otago?
I lived in Canada and worked for a steel mill, managing inventory and scheduling shipments by truck and rail. I first travelled here a few years ago on vacation and loved it. So when my husband's company had a transfer available to Dunedin, we took the opportunity.

Which skills from your steel mill job are most relevant in your port role?
The process for managing inventory is fairly similar, however I am now looking after empty containers instead of steel bundles. You still need to maintain the right level of stock to ensure you can satisfy customer demand, follow first in first out (FIFO) and prioritise pending repairs. Once you learn the new grades, lengths and abbreviations, a lot of the key inventory practices are transferrable.
In my previous role, I also scheduled finished goods to ship by road or rail which required contact with many external and internal parties. The steel shipments could be quite complex (each truck could have on average up to 18 bundles), especially if every steel bundle was a different SKU. Ensuring the inventory stock levels were accurate and located in the correct warehouse location was critical to low truck turnaround times. Having low truck turnaround times built positive relationships with trucking companies to ensure they enjoyed loading at our facility and would continue hauling for us in the future.
In my role at Port Otago communication is also critical, because we deal with many different stakeholders – shipping lines, trucking companies, Kiwi Rail, customers, Port Otago pack sites and internal operations. Regardless of the industry, you want to ensure the customer gets what they ordered on time and of the best possible quality.

What's the best part of your job?
The variety. Every day is different and there are so many opportunities to learn.

How are you finding living in New Zealand, compared to Canada?
New Zealand and Canada are very similar, however the work-life balance in New Zealand is better. In Canada, you start with two weeks annual leave and can eventually earn additional leave based on how long you work for the company. The commute to work is also more enjoyable. Back in Canada – due to traffic – it could be an up to 1.5 hours round trip each day. It’s been lovely having no traffic and watching the sunrise on the peninsula while driving into work.