NEWS & INSIGHTS

Interview on the Ground: A Glimpse into the Life of a Romco Employee

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Interview on the Ground: A Glimpse into the Life of a Romco Employee

Feb 01, 2024: Lagos, Nigeria. The ‘Interview on the Ground’ is a self-published series designed to give insight into what life as a Romco employee is really like, including all the intricacies and challenges working for a recycling operation in the emerging markets of Africa. Our first interview subject is the super talented Blessing Onuegbu, Romco’s Head of Logistics.

In the gritty world of non-ferrous metal recycling, the experience of a Romco employee is as multifaceted as it is challenging. Romco, known for transforming post-consumer scrap metal into usable ingots, operates in a dynamic environment where meticulous coordination and a keen understanding of logistics are crucial. To provide a unique insight into this world, we delve into the experiences of Romco’s Head of Logistics, Blessing Onuegbu.

At the heart of Romco’s operations is a commitment to precise and timely delivery. Blessing, who oversees the management of over 30,000 tons (both inbound and outbound) of materials annually, emphasizes the importance of this. She notes, “The successful management of over 2500 container loads necessitates an exacting level of planning and coordination to ensure the timely and precise delivery of products that meet the diverse specifications of our global clientele.” This statement underscores the scale and complexity of the logistics involved in Romco’s operations.

 

But First: A little background about Blessing Onuegbo:

Blessing grew up in Onitsha, Nigeria, a lively town in Anambra State on the eastern side of the country. When asked what makes it special, Blessing said, “the warmth of the people and the lively energy that fills the streets make Onitsha truly special.”

She continues, “Onitsha isn’t just a town; it’s a spirited, vibrant home that stays with you long after you’ve left its shores. Onitsha is a unique blend of tradition and modernity, a mix of old and new, making it a memorable and very interesting place to grow up.”

And in answer to the best thing about Lagos, now she’s working there? “Lively Entertainment and an innovative Spirit. Lagos offers a vibrant and inclusive entertainment scene, ensuring everyone finds something to enjoy, and it buzzes with an innovative and forward-thinking energy, fostering lots of creativity and growth.”

Blessing joined Romco in 2021, a part of a logistics team that helped usher in double digit growth. Blessing says, “Joining Romco was a thoughtful decision, aligning myself with a company that not only stands as an indigenous industry leader but is also globally focused, reshaping the metals industry in Africa. It’s a company where ethical sourcing and responsible recycling aren’t just buzzwords but form the very core of their operations.”

 

Romco’s Head of Logistics, Blessing Onuegbu, working in Lagos, Nigeria.

 

Where Logistics Sits in the Romco Production Process

For context, Romco’s non-ferrous metal recycling process encompasses several key stages, transforming scrap metal into reusable materials. Here’s a simplified overview:

 

Summarising the role as Head of Logistics within that process, Blessing noted, “My daily role involves strategic planning, operational coordination, technological integration, compliance, risk management, and a steadfast commitment to sustainability within the metal recycling industry across Nigeria, Ghana, and our extensive global network spanning over 40+ ports worldwide. Overall, my role demands a proactive approach, effective communication, and the ability to adapt to the dynamic nature of logistics. Operating across multiple facilities in Nigeria and Ghana requires a holistic view of operations while maintaining a keen focus on the specific logistical needs and challenges of each location.”

 

Romco’s Head of Logistics, Blessing Onuegbu, finalising a shipment of aluminium alloy ingots.

 

Blessing’s role extends beyond mere management. She is instrumental in ensuring that production timelines are seamlessly integrated with financial forecasting. She explains, “Beyond meticulous tracking of production and finished products, my focus on the production timeline allows for accurate forecasting of the entire product lifecycle – from loading to gate-in and eventual sailing.” This strategic integration is fundamental to Romco’s operational efficiency, highlighting the importance of foresight in the recycling industry.

 

The Cog Between Production and Trade

Blessing is responsible for navigating the complexities of coordinating between the recycling production facility and the trade division. It’s a unique role, and pivotal to the whole operation succeeding. About this, Blessing comments, “This comprehensive understanding not only empowers the trading division with essential information on stock availability, alloy types, quantities, freight costs, and transit times but also enables precise forecasts of payment collection timelines. By aligning these forecasts with production and shipment schedules, we ensure timely payments, safeguarding cash flow liquidity, all key elements to the overall smooth operation.”

A significant aspect of Blessing’s job also involves navigating unexpected challenges, such as delays at transhipment ports. Recalling a particular incident, Blessing shares, “One instance that stands out is when we encountered a sudden delay in a critical client shipment at a transhipment port. The supplier faced an unforeseen issue that threatened to disrupt our production timelines. In response, I immediately initiated a conference call with both the transhipment port and the shipping line to understand the nature of the problem. Simultaneously, I coordinated with our logistics teams at both the origin and destination ports to assess the situation and explore alternative transportation options.”

“Thinking on my feet, we quickly devised a contingency plan, rerouting the shipment through an alternative port with faster clearance processes. I also proactively communicated with our Client, keeping them informed about the situation and adjusting our schedules accordingly.”

“This agile response not only averted a potential Client relationship setback but also showcased the resilience of our logistics network. It emphasised the importance of maintaining open lines of communication, having contingency plans in place, and being ready to adapt swiftly to unforeseen challenges in the dynamic landscape of metal recycling logistics.”

This anecdote illustrates the unpredictable nature of the industry and the need for quick problem-solving skills, something Blessing has gained the experience to handle.

 

Blessing Onuegbu overseeing a shipment.

 

Blessing discusses the infrastructural challenges in Nigeria, particularly the road networks, which play a vital role in transportation logistics. This can look dauting from an outsider, but from the locals’ point of view it’s all a part of the challenges to overcome. She states, “The quality and capacity of road networks in Nigeria influence the ease of transporting materials between our recycling facilities and shipping ports. Urban areas, particularly around Lagos, experience high levels of traffic congestion. This can impact the timely movement of goods to and from our facilities, requiring meticulous planning to optimise delivery schedules. We are well adapted to these conditions though and have great networks and operators that help us mitigate these bottlenecks.”

Blessing also discussed other local logistical challenges, including general infrastructure limitations. All of this emphasises the need for what Blessing calls ‘Local Stakeholder Engagement’, which she stresses can only be built over time with experience. Blessing states, “The success of our operations in Nigeria relies on strong relationships with local stakeholders, including government authorities, transport providers, and community representatives. Building and maintaining these relationships are essential for navigating the intricacies of the local infrastructure.” This highlights the external factors that can impact logistics and the need for adaptive strategies when working in emerging markets.

Risk assessment is another critical aspect of logistics at Romco. Blessing explains, “We conduct constant risk assessments identifying potential disruptions such as geopolitical events, natural disasters, or global economic shifts. They are rarely needed, but developing a range of risk mitigation strategies allows us to respond swiftly to unforeseen events if they occur. Whether it’s alternative sourcing, emergency logistics routes, or inventory adjustments, these strategies enhance our ability to navigate uncertainties.” This proactive approach to risk management ensures that Romco can anticipate and mitigate potential issues before they escalate.

 

Blessing Onuegbu, Head of Logistics, at the Romco Recycling Facility in Lagos, Nigeria.

 

Environment is Number 2 — Behind Safety

Blessing’s passion for environmental responsibility is evident when she talks about Romco standards, and how the benchmark is much higher than the rules stipulate. “Our approach towards recycling extends beyond conventional norms. For example, the utilisation of advanced chimney and scrubber technologies, alongside low carbon LNG installation, serves as a cornerstone in our commitment to emission control. We also systematically address waste streams, with tire waste as one key component. By implementing tire recycling initiatives, we not only reduce the environmental impact associated with tire disposal but also contribute to resource conservation and sustainability. Every waste stream within our operations is meticulously evaluated. Our strategy revolves around the maximisation of recycling and scrap sales potential for every waste collected. This involves a systematic approach to segregating and processing waste materials, minimising landfill contributions and maximising the economic and environmental benefits of recycling.

Blessing continues, “Our commitment to environmental responsibility is underscored by a continuous monitoring system. This system assesses the environmental impact of our recycling processes, through our quarterly monitoring report on both air emissions and wastewater quality, enabling us to identify areas for improvement and promptly implement measures to enhance environmental sustainability. It’s a non-stop job. Below safety of course, environmental impact is top priority.”

This comprehensive approach reflects Romco’s dedication to sustainability and environmental stewardship. Through this process, Blessing also pointed to community engagement as a vital element of Romco’s ethos. She notes, “We actively engage with our host communities and stakeholders to foster a shared understanding of our environmental initiatives so no one perspective is left unattended. This collaboration ensures that our strategies align with community expectations and contribute to the broader goal of sustainable and responsible metal recycling practices.” This approach underscores the importance Romco places on building a symbiotic relationship with the communities in which it operates.

Blessing added, talking about community initiatives Romco take part in, “Romco have recruited and trained over 150 members of the local community in various job roles ranging from furnace operators to metal sorting experts. Romco also built an important bridge, linking communities that needed it. We also clean up the local environment monthly while engaging with the local leaders to make sure that the residents’ children are all in education. I think things like this go a long way.”

 

Head of Logistics, Blessing Onuegbu, at the entrance to the feedstock intake at the Romco Lagos, Nigeria facility.

 

Looking Ahead

Looking to the future, Blessing is excited about the prospects of technological advancements, especially in warehousing. “Our intent is to introduce cutting-edge technology that will revolutionise how we manage inventory, fulfil orders, and provide real-time tracking with advanced inspection systems. We are exploring the integration of visual inspection with smart technology, real-time defect recognition, statistical data analysis, and blockchain for traceability. Our aspiration is to create a system that continually learns, ensuring that each product consistently meets the highest quality standards. We’re hopeful that initiatives like these won’t just streamline our processes but will also inject a new level of transparency and adaptability to meet the dynamic demands of our industry.” This forward-thinking mindset is indicative of Romco’s drive towards innovation and efficiency.

“This strategic integration of production timelines with financial forecasting is fundamental to Romco’s operational efficiency,” Blessing says, highlighting the importance of aligning various aspects of the business for optimal performance. “It not only equips the trading division to negotiate customer contracts with precision but also contributes significantly to the overall financial health and stability of our operations, ensuring seamless processes and fostering sustained success.”

 

Blessing Onuegbu, discussing logistics at Romco Recycling Nigeria.

 

Regarding efficiency, Blessing reflects on what her specific job entails: “In addition, my role involves meticulous tracking of production and finished products. By closely monitoring production timelines and inventory levels, I am able to provide the trading division with crucial information such as stock availability, alloy types, quantities, and accurate estimates for freight costs and transit times. This real-time data empowers our trading division to negotiate customer contracts with precision, ensuring they secure the best prices while considering all relevant factors. By facilitating informed decision-making, we guarantee on-time delivery, fostering strong customer relationships and contributing to the overall success of Romco’s operations.”

Managing the scale and diversity of Romco’s operations is clearly a significant challenge. Blessing remarks, “Foremost among these challenges is the sheer scale and diversity of our operations.” It’s a testament to the complexity and breadth of the company’s activities across multiple geographies and market segments.

Blessing’s role at Romco Group Ltd. is a testament to the intricacies and challenges of the recycling industry. Her insights provide a unique perspective on the day-to-day operations and strategic planning that go into making Romco an upcoming leader in non-ferrous metal recycling. From managing extensive logistics to engaging with local communities and embracing technological advancements, the role of a Romco employee is as dynamic as it is crucial to the company’s success. This interview with Blessing serves as a window into the world of Romco, showcasing the dedication and expertise that drive the company forward.

 

Blessing Onuegbu, Romco Head of Logistics, working at the office in Lagos, Nigeria.

Blessing Onuegbu, in front of the non-ferrous metals loading area at the Romco Recycling facility in Lagos, Nigeria.

Head of Logistics, Blessing Onuegbu, in front of a ready shipment with production staff.

 

 

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