Women have logistics in their blood

When Barbara Moll sits down at her desk in the emergency department of MBS, Anytime, in Cologne between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., she has already made at least five phone calls and answered at least that many emails.

Frauen haben die Logistik im Blut

She has the day’s orders on her mind. The 63-year-old rarely needs the monitor that is mounted on the wall above the team´s heads and helps to keep track in this fast-moving business. “I’m a control freak. But not in the sense that I want to control, but to keep track of everything. I always know exactly where what is going on and how.”

Barbara Moll is a logistician by passion and fourth generation. “My father was a freight forwarder, as well as my grandfather and great-grandfather, who laid the foundations with horse and cart,” she explains, before an email rushes in and requires a quick rethink: Morocco is closing its doors again because of new covid cases and cancelling flights ex Germany. As this is an important market for Anytime, alternatives must now be sought and checked, for example via France, as fast as possible. “I always wanted to be a forwarding merchant,” she says and has to smile even at the masculine form of the job title, which at that time quite understandably also applied to women. Having started at Kühne und Nagel in 1977, she built up the German office for a French emergency provider in Frankfurt between 2007 and 2017. She has been working for MBS since 2017. “An illness in my family was the reason why I moved back to Cologne in 2017 and the question arose very quickly as to whether I could build up the emergency division for MBS,” Barbara Moll explains. She was quickly very successful. In the meantime, Anytime, as the 24/7 Emergency Department at MBS is called, has seven employees. Barbara Moll’s desk is right in the middle of it. Flat hierarchies are important to her. Vanity does not interest her. “I like to be in the middle of things. My people work in three shifts. The business is tough as nails. You need strong nerves.”

Moll has been demonstrating these for six hours now. It’s 2 p.m. and she hasn’t eaten anything yet. “The emergency business is a face-to-face business. The customers trust us. They know us. We know what makes them tick. Our orders involve huge sums of money for our customers. If a few screws are missing and then there is a threat of a production line standstill, no company wants to risk that. There’s a lot of adrenaline involved in the emergency business.” Barbara Moll is a bundle of energy, while at the same time she seems completely relaxed and at peace with herself. No wonder: she looks back on 44 years of professional experience. She is also happy to pass on her knowledge to the next generation.

Max Sommershof, Felix Kaiser and Dennis Münz are sitting at the desks during this shift. The mood is good – despite the enormously tense business. “I have a really great team here. I prefer working in a team anyway and this one is really the best,” says Moll and looks proudly around. The Anytime team is housed in the air freight department of MBS Logistics Cologne – colleague Manuela Thon is based in Frankfurt. Looking around, it quickly becomes clear: women are clearly underrepresented here.

“I think it’s a shame that there are so few women in management positions in logistics. It would be good for the whole industry if there were more. I can only encourage that myself. But of course, you certainly need stronger nerves and a thicker skin for logistics than elsewhere. The colloquial language is rough and even today it is very difficult to get past the men. On the one hand, that would get better if we became more, on the other hand, I also notice a change in thinking among the young male colleagues in that respect.”

Then she smiles and says: “Some men think they invented logistics. Women are then often denied the ability to think logically. That is still firmly stored in our collective memory. But women think almost more logically. For thousands of years, they have had to manage everything and reconcile complex structures and processes. We need to support each other better. We need mentoring programmes for young women in logistics. Just like men do – though maybe not as institutionalised.” She says all this loud enough for Max and Felix to hear. And they do, smile approvingly and are visibly proud of the boss, who moves so much and is still proactive today in making MBS’s emergency product, Anytime, even better known and more successful.

She did eat a roll in between before Barbara Moll leaves the office at 5 p.m. today. “Today I have to go home early. I have to go to the cinema with my granddaughter. Perhaps the little girl also carries the Kasel logistics gene. Who knows….”