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Daniela Marsilli

Daniela Marsilli, CEO of dnata Australia

In February 2015, Toll dnata went through a consolidation of its business and culture to become dnata Australia, a wholly owned subsidiary of the global brand that shares the same name. While this brought about some big change for the business, dnata Australia CEO Daniela Marsilli says it was more exciting than anything else. “Having two bosses can be more complicated than having one, and by being part of dnata, which is a global ground-handling organisation, we could achieve consistency. For example, when it was Toll dnata, we had a combination of uniforms. Anyone working above wing in the airport check-in area wore the dnata uniform, and anyone working below wing, behind the scenes, wore Toll colours. So with the rebrand, the very first thing that happened was that all of our below-wing people were given new uniforms in line with dnata standards. They were quite excited by that.”

The former dnata business in Australia was a culmination of multiple mergers and acquisitions. It started as Ansett Cargo before morphing into Patrick’s, and then it was taken over by Toll. Then, to coincide with all the changes happening in aviation circa 2007, dnata came in as a 50% joint venture partner. Now, as the wholly owned dnata Australia, the business has streamlined its operations in line with global standards.

Daniela Marsilli

Daniela notes that the biggest challenge regarding the rebrand was working out how fast the team could move to get onboard. However, she saw ample opportunities and was confident about the benefits that would come from creating one culture across the entire organisation.

Transformation about implementing a singular dnata culture

“Even during its time as Toll dnata, there were a couple of acquisitions, so the business in Australia was really made up of multiple companies with the two big brands stamped on it,” she explains. “The opportunity to bring synergy to the whole nation was huge. The transformation was and is all about implementing a singular dnata culture.”

There are two defining elements of what this means internally for dnata Australia. The first is having a focused approach to safety. “I have spent the most part of my career in aviation, but haven’t covered airports,” Daniela recalls. “I spent a lot of time in engineering and flight operations, which includes cabin crew and flight safety, and Australia does all of those things very well when it comes to safety. It’s been on a journey for many years, and in the 90s we spent a lot of time getting a very good standard together for these areas. But when it comes to airports, I think there is a whole lot of work to do. I was surprised by how little had been done.

“The company has made it a priority to change that with its ‘one safety’ approach. Instead of reinventing the wheel, we are able to tap into the global program, with its many elements. At the end of the day, it all comes back to leadership; safety is about good leadership. If you get your leadership right, you are going to get your safety right, and that is
why we have rolled out a program from my level through to all my direct reports — all the key managers in every port around Australia and then to all the supervisory levels below that. Everyone goes through different modules that they need to pass, and they have a coach allocated to them. That is an excellent initiative because it really brings home leadership ability as well.”

Daniela Marsilli, CEO	of dnata Australia
“If you get your leadership right, you are going to get your safety right.” – Daniela Marsilli

“If you get your leadership right, you are going to get your safety right.” – Daniela Marsilli

The second aspect is all about excellence. “Our model is about delighting our customers,” Daniela explains. “The company is trusted by airlines to service their customers and passengers, whether it be at check-in, baggage arrival, or while facilitating cargo movements. It is a big call for airlines to entrust their brand to someone else, so being great at what we do is important. We don’t want to be the biggest in our industry; we just want to be the best. It is all about quality, not quantity. We’re driving home the mindset of being performance-driven with service excellence.”

dnata Australia’s core products are ground services and cargo. Embracing technology to assist staff in both of these operations is important, and the business is in the process of transforming some of the products it already uses so they are of even more benefit. “Let me give you an example,” Daniela says. “We have a very good cargo system that captures all the data and load volumes. It is critical we put the right containers on the right aircraft and the right flight, so this technology is very important. We bought a fantastic product in the industry, but we hadn’t actually used it properly yet. So we have spent a lot of time and effort with our project team on that, and it’s going to help significantly with the automation of our operations.

Global brand provides room to grow

Daniela notes that being part of the global dnata brand provides support for the organisation to grow. This international footprint is something she loves about her job as it gives her the opportunity to talk to, and work with, such a diverse range of people. “There are a huge number of different nationalities that we employ within our ranks, and then we have passengers coming from such diverse backgrounds. It’s really lovely tapping into all of those cultures and learning more about them.”

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