• Swisslog ANZ senior solution architect, Sally Renwick
    Swisslog ANZ senior solution architect, Sally Renwick
  • Swisslog Australia and New Zealand’s women attended the 2024 Supply Chain and Logistics Association of Australia (SCLAA) International Women’s Day breakfast, for which the company was a sponsor. Sally Renwick is pictured third from the left.
    Swisslog Australia and New Zealand’s women attended the 2024 Supply Chain and Logistics Association of Australia (SCLAA) International Women’s Day breakfast, for which the company was a sponsor. Sally Renwick is pictured third from the left.
  • In a work context, inspiring inclusion is all about making workplaces safer and more welcoming for women to thrive.
    In a work context, inspiring inclusion is all about making workplaces safer and more welcoming for women to thrive.
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The high achieving world of automation – the side of industry many never see – is opening up a broad range of satisfying careers for women entering STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), automation and robotic fields. Swisslog ANZ senior solution architect, Sally Renwick, explores the opportunities. 

The numbers may show that women are outnumbered by men in STEM industries, with the Australian Academy of Science reporting that “only 16 per cent of Australia’s STEM-skilled workforce are women, whereas the broader Australian workforce has close to 50 per cent female participation,” but women shouldn’t be daunted when seeing these statistics.

Despite what the numbers say, I see lots of high achieving women in warehouse automation, and the numbers are increasing every year. It’s an exciting field, so people who overcome their initial hesitation often find highly rewarding careers.

Seeing the exciting side of automation

The exciting side of working in automation may not be obvious from the outside, but I’d strongly encourage more women to look deeper as they explore STEM career options.

In a work context, inspiring inclusion is all about making workplaces safer and more welcoming for women to thrive.
In a work context, inspiring inclusion is all about making workplaces safer and more welcoming for women to thrive.

This industry is changing all the time – just look at what happened with e-commerce in response to the pandemic. There’s never a dull day, and you’re learning new things all the time.

From the outside, it might look like you are just writing code – which some people enjoy – but when you look at what that code achieves, or the problem solving involved in designing solutions, it becomes a much more fascinating job.

To nurture and grow your career, my advice is to speak up and be clear about the direction you’d like to move into.

It’s important to ask for help and guidance to achieve your career aspirations. Swisslog has been very supportive in this way, and any company with a healthy culture will want to see its employees grow and develop. If you’re new, it’s a great idea to find a mentor who you can learn from as you develop into your role.

Inspiring inclusion

The 2024 theme for International Women’s Day is “inspire inclusion”. To me, in a work context, this is all about making workplaces safer and more welcoming spaces for women to thrive.

Swisslog ANZ senior solution architect, Sally Renwick
Swisslog ANZ senior solution architect, Sally Renwick

I began my career with intralogistics leader, Swisslog, in 1997 as a software engineer, and my first site visit was to a Jaguar automotive facility where automation was storing and retrieving painted car bodies ready for the production line.

I was intrigued by this side of the industry that you never see. You can extend this to things like supermarkets too. We all add products to our trolleys, but the journey it took to get there – and the technology that enabled it – is remarkable.

As a solution architect with Swisslog, I now sit between sales and realisation, and I’m responsible for translating customer requirements into technical solutions that the software development team can implement.

Finding the right solution

As automation evolves, solutions are becoming more complex, with greater numbers of different configurations possible for each technology. This provides greater benefits to the customer, but also creates additional challenges for a solution architect.

One particular challenge I faced recently was a customer site that had two different Swisslog warehouse automation systems in place, of different ages, and running different software systems. Initially we wanted to migrate the whole site to run as one system, but there were complex factors that made the customer reluctant to take that option.

It was such a large and customised site that I could see the customer’s concerns in migrating to a unified system, and instead worked on a solution that would optimise replenishment, while still having the two systems operating separately. I designed a high level solution to keep the systems operating separately, but with Swisslog’s latest SynQ software still replenishing the older system, to gain the benefits of the newer software.

It was a powerful, cost-effective solution that the customer was happy with, and that was a very satisfying moment in my career.

And while I’m particularly proud of this solution, the satisfaction of writing software code and watching a pallet move in a warehouse was equally satisfying in the beginning of my career.

Right from the start, knowing that my input made that technology move – I knew I was in the right industry to build my career.

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