Cattani Characters: Melanie Lawrence

Cattani characters: Melanie Lawrence

First-class worker, first-class person

In a company that imports almost all of its product (from Italy), the Procurement Officer is a VIP. That’s why Cattani Australasia is lucky to have Melanie Lawrence in the role.

Mel had big shoes to fill, replacing Cattani founder, owner and then CEO Bill Clark about three years ago when Bill decided to hand over some of his many responsibilities, one of which was procurement. Mel was already very familiar with the company, having joined us in 2004 to take care of Accounts Payable. Calm, organised and meticulous, Mel is a natural in the role, making the management of Cattani Australasia’s shipping schedule and stock control, including liaison with Cattani Italy, look easy.

So what does she do, exactly? “I’m responsible for making sure that we have enough stock to cover orders – local and from Italy – as well as stock for our pre-delivery area. I am in charge of inventory, right down to the biscuits. The biscuits are very important here: no biscuits, no good.”

Plant room equipment demand is very difficult to predict, so Mel’s biggest challenge is managing stock levels – no company wants to see stock sitting for long. To make planning even harder, shipping from Italy involves lead times of about 12 weeks – even more during the stink bug season.

Keeping the unwanted stink bug out of Australia through extra container inspections and fumigation adds up to a month to lead times for more than half the year now, which can be very frustrating to customers. “Thankfully they are starting to understand that there is nothing we can do.”

“What gives me the greatest satisfaction is when there is enough stock to cover the orders. The goal is to try to keep back orders as low as possible – it’s about providing good service. Our Business Development Managers encourage customers to let us know earlier what products they might need but I can understand them being scared to come up with a number then find they don’t need them.”

Cattani staff members tend to stick around, so Mel’s 14 years with the company is no record, but why does she stay? Simple, she says: “It’s a good company. The people are fantastic, and management is really good – they look after us. It’s close to home, I’m happy. What more could you ask?”

Cattani Australasia is a diverse, multicultural place – half of our team were born outside Australia, and Mel is one of them. Classed as “coloured” in apartheid-era South Africa, Mel grew up in a tense world of segregation and exclusion, denied the right, for example, to go to the school of her choosing, travel on just any bus, swim at any beach. Her family was even forced to live in a particular area.

“We accepted it as normal, being second-class citizens. Of course I saw the injustice because the whites had the best of everything but I never experienced personal abuse – I was lucky in that way.”
When they moved to Australia in 1987, Mel still in her teens, South Africa was still a white-controlled country and they could not have foreseen the changes that have taken place since. They left because her father had a job opportunity in Melbourne and, with a rising crime rate in Durban, the future looked much brighter here. It proved to be the right decision, reinforced by a return visit in 1989. “Going back then was good for me; it set my mind that this was where I wanted to be.”

Family matters most to Mel, but nowadays she can narrow that down even further. “I used to put my son, Aaron, first but now that he’s 20 I’m putting myself first. I’ve told him, I’m number one now because I’ve done what I needed to do, and he’s fine. I’m keeping balance in my life and enjoying myself.”

That also means more time for her other loves: travel, dining out (seafood, thanks), reading and music – favourite singer Luther Vandross.

Mel is a favourite with us and we hope she’s remains with Cattani for many years to come.