Laura Ensell’s introduction to supply chain happened about eight years ago, when she signed on for an international customer service position with Dow. In that role, she was managing a heavy trade lane between EMEA and North America for a variety of different Dow businesses. “That’s when I became fully immersed in marine packed cargo shipments,” says Ensell, Logistics Transportation Visibility Leader at Dow. “It was a very challenging role, but also fun and tangible, meaning we can see the vessels of transportation in our everyday lives.”
Two years later, Ensell moved into an Integrated Supply Chain Team Leader position at Dow, where she oversaw a 40-person team that managed the company’s leveraged rail logistics, road logistics, supply chain event management, and order handling. “It was an exciting role in that I helped define work process and conduct cost avoidance within supply chain, while also supporting employee development” says Ensell, who moved into a Business Process Manager role in 2017.
“At that point in time, Dow was completing the Dow Corning integration into Dow as a fully owned business, in addition to the Orion project,” recalls Ensell. “That was the merger of equals with DuPont, and it required extensive integration work and coordinating with functional counterparts in the logistics space, in order to maintain suitable work processes, good systems integration, and a positive spin afterwards.”
Keeping Up with the Speed of Digitization
Currently the Logistics Transportation Visibility Leader and Global Magnet Team Leader, Ensell provides subject matter leadership across a variety of different sub-processes within supply chain, while also supporting visibility efforts across all modes and geographies. She’s also responsible for end-to-end solution strategies and manages a team of 9 associates that create the end-to-end structure needed to support any type of project that comes up and/or meet any of Dow’s business needs.
As part of that mission, Ensell and her team help the chemical manufacturer keep up with the speed of supply chain digitization. She says the chemical sector as a whole made significant advancements on this front during the pandemic in 2020, and that it’s continuing down that path in 2021. For Ensell, this means finding ways to increase efficiencies within Dow’s supply chain while also integrating technologies that help further the company’s supply chain and logistics operations.
“It’s also about ensuring that our workforce is prepared for that digitization, so change management is a large part of what we do,” Ensell explains. Working within an Improve and Scale organization, her department works to find the right technology solution to support Dow’s overall supply chain digitization efforts. The technology behind those efforts include those focused on supply chain automation, optimization, integration, and visibility. She says supply chain visibility platforms like IntelliTrans have produced a wide range of benefits for the company. Reflecting on her first position in supply chain, she says tracking a marine packed cargo shipment meant sifting through various different websites, emails, and other platforms to figure out where the cargo was at any given point.
“Today, a user can click a button and know exactly where a shipment is,” says Ensell. “Dow has made significant improvements in partnering with not only IntelliTrans, but other vendors across the different modes of transportation that we ship with, to ensure that both our internal stakeholders and external stakeholders are getting real-time information.”
Inspiring Future Female Leaders
When this Amazing Woman in Supply Chain first started at Dow, she remembers there being a fairly good mix of senior women leaders, but not as many as there are in the industry today. “I've seen that shift and I've also seen more women being promoted to provide that diverse panel of thinking at the senior level,” says Ensell, who sees these shifts as good drivers of diversity and inclusion. They also help create good mentoring resources and pave a career path for young women who may be just getting into the field.
To those aspiring supply chain leaders, Ensell says her best piece of advice is not to be afraid of what you don’t know. There's always something new to learn, something that’s evolving, and new knowledge to acquire. “When I first started at Dow, I didn't know what marine packed cargo was,” Ensell recalls, “but I went ahead and learned it inside and out and became an expert in that arena.”
As companies began investing in more technology to help them run their supply chains, Ensell also had to master IntelliTrans’ Global Visibility Platform (GVP). Today she’s a super user who shares her knowledge of the platform with other team members and leaders from within her organization. “I went ahead and became a subject matter expert on GVP, among other things,” she says.
“This is just one example of why you should never be afraid of what you don't know in supply chain,” Ensell emphasizes. “It’ a fun, challenging, and dynamic field that more people should take an interest in because there are vast opportunities waiting for them.”