Bridging the gender gap in engineering

  • Meet Yvette Mabelane, PackSolve’s Industrial Engineer who is transforming the industrial packaging leaders’ operations.
  • After changing her university studies from labour relations, Mabelane discovered that she can apply her intelligence and people skills through industrial engineering.
  • After years of experience in the mining equipment manufacturing industry, she wanted to expand her career and experience, she joined PackSolve in 2018 to help it pursue better operations and improved delivery during its high growth.

Main Story:

PackSolve has appointed its first female engineer and she’s already reshaping the company’s operations for the better.

The image of an engineer tends to conjure that of a man in a practical button-down shirt, tucked into khaki or jean trousers and completed with a set of boots. They are likely to be difficult and more focused on results than the people involved.

It’s a disparaging and unfair image of who engineers are and what they do, especially when you meet Yvette Mabelane, PackSolve’s Industrial Engineer. Appointed a year ago, her role is to improve standards, processes and operations at PackSolve, a multidisciplinary industrial packaging solutions provider.

“PackSolve is on an amazing growth journey, but it recognised that it needs to formalise more of its operations if it wants to sustain that growth,” said Mabelane, explaining her role. “My focus is on improving our processes and introduce new ones, set standards and support the continuous improvement culture we’re establishing.”

Mabelane is a key player in PackSolve’s strategic execution. She is one of several individuals representing ‘super services’ – vital strategic pillars – in the business. The group reports directly to the CEO to ensure a coherent application of Packsolve’s vision. These roles are new and respond to the changes PackSolve is undergoing as it grows.

An engineer with a people’s touch

Adjusting PackSolve’s procedures and standards towards those goals is Mabelane’s responsibility. It may seem like a typical engineering pursuit, chasing arcane measures and indicators hidden inside operations. But her job is actually very people-centric, which is a boon for the outgoing and personable engineer.

“Dealing with people is key,” she explained. “Industrial engineering has the theory, but it’s difficult to implement. You need buy-in from people to make things happen. You need to communicate with them in ways they understand and can contextualise to their roles. You have to be very hands-on. That requires the right personality.”

Mabelane certainly has the people touch – and nearly didn’t end up in engineering as a result. Her bubbly and warm manner seemed like a good fit for labour relations. But the course soon bored her at university:

“It’s so much reading and theory “cut and paste”. I discovered I prefer to calculate things, to create solutions out of the elements in front of me. After considering my options, I changed to industrial engineering and loved it from the first week. I have a real passion for it.”

Hailing from the Vaal, she completed her degree and then interned at a mining business. After several promotions resulting from her incredible drive, she had established her pedigree as a top engineer. But staying in one place was not a long-term option. Mabelane knew that her career needs wider exposure to different industries, hence the shift to PackSolve.

A place where everything happens

Industrial packaging seems like an unlikely place for the rising star of a talented engineer. But Mabelane could see the opportunities. PackSolve is a fast-growing business that encompasses a variety of solutions, ranging from mining equipment to train wrapping to drums for the food industry. It provides exposure to a wide range of clients and scenarios, encapsulated in tightly-run operations that also pursue R&D and staff development.

JoiningPackSolve provided an opportunity for Mabelane to shift her training and experience into the next gear: “PackSolve is much larger and more complex than it was a few years ago, so there is a lot for me to work with. These include minor changes through to looking at line balancing and changing the layout of certain lines. I also look at how we keep our stakeholders in the loop, including suppliers and customers. Do we communicate with them enough? How can those engagements be more systematic?”

PackSolve’s solutions cater to the B2B market and its operations have a direct impact on customers meeting their own delivery schedules. Mabelane works to enhance those relationships through several improvements, including the deployment of a business-wide ERP platform.

Her ambitions aim high, but Mabelane is not someone who settles for second-best. She almost can’t afford to in the male-dominated world of engineering. As a black female industrial engineer, she’s met more than her share of opposition and attitude. But these don’t slow her down:

“I can admit that being a female engineer is a challenge. There can be barriers to engagement and being taken seriously. But I push through those challenges because I’m here for the job. We have things to accomplish at PackSolve and those who can’t move with the change will be left behind.”

She added that coming in left-of-field as a female engineer can be useful as it prompts people to think outside of the box. Lineworkers also look up to her status as a successful black professional, considering her an example of what can be accomplished in today’s workplace.

As Mabelane helps improve PackSolve’s processes and operations, she’s setting the tone and direction for others to follow: not just other women or engineers, but for every professional at PackSolve. She learns a lot from them as well, revealing why PackSolve is one of the most dynamic and fast-growing leaders in the industrial packaging space. It looks after its people and its people look after it.

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About Packsolve

PackSolve (Pty) Ltd is the leading industrial packaging solutions provider in Southern Africa, we service the manufacturing, power generation, steel processing and freight & logistics sectors.

Our products and services include;

  • A range of crating and shrink-wrapping solutions with no limits to size or mass.
  • We provide packaging materials,
  • Onsite packing solutions, 
  • Securing of cargo in shipping containers
  • As well corrosion protection solutions.

We continue to develop new and improved products and solutions through our R&D division helping to improve the packaging standards in South Africa. Our main aim is to be the service provider of choice, by delivering innovative packaging solutions which protect our clients’ products & interests, while delivering sustainable benefits to our stakeholders.