A female leadership success story in logistics


Prysmian Group Logistics expert Kateryna Schmid is responsible for the delivery and interim storage as well as later delivery to the construction site of 470 km of underground cables for the Nothern part of SuedLink project, which is crucial for Germany’s successful energy transition


Prysmian Group is helping Germany and Europe achieve energy transition goals through three record-setting HVDC energy infrastructure projects: SuedLink, SuedOstlink and A-Nord. The company will oversee implementation of an underground, HVDC state-of-the-art cables link running across Germany, from the Northern shores where wind power is captured by the offshore wind farms to the mainland where the clean power is needed by households and industries. This massive infrastructure effort calls for tens of thousands of tons of HVDC cables to be produced and installed underground for hundreds of kilometres, with thousands of people at work all across the country.

Kateryna Schmid is responsible for the complete logistics of the SuedLink’s 470 km of underground cables, as well as for the cable accessories (e.g. joints and terminations) required for the subsequent laying of the cables. For a 580-kilometer section of SuedLink, Prysmian Group develops, produces, transports, stores and installs 1.200 kilometres of cable. The cable systems have a transmission capacity of 2 gigawatts, currently the strongest capacity on the market. The cables have a diameter of 152 mm and a weight of 41 kg/m. They are transported on steel cable drums that comprise up to two kilometres of cable and, depending on their size, can weigh in total up to 95 tons. Kateryna and her project partners oversee transport and logistics, which is a complex multi-modal process on ships and then oversized and heavy-duty transports travelling across Europe to intermediate cable storage facilities. They remain there until they are transported on to the cable route for installation.

On a typical day in spring 2023 in the Port of Hamburg, Kateryna was responsible for overseeing the loading of an 85-ton blue cable drum hanging from an almost forty-meter-high port crane. Several workers eased it onto a heavy-duty transporter that was over forty meters long. One of two cable drums was being prepared for transport to the intermediate cable storage facility in Zeven, Lower Saxony. The crane then positioned the second and last cable drum above the heavy-duty transporter. Bit by bit, the cargo weighing several tons was lowered, and the cable drums on both transporters were adjusted and fixed by the workers. While everything was being prepared at the port site for the departure in the evening, Kateryna was already one step ahead in her mind.

"As a female newcomer without any logistics experience and with my strong accent at the time, I naturally stood out. I had to chase colleagues for every piece of information, keep asking questions or admit that I didn't know something yet," she said.

Kateryna Schmid

Responsible for logistics of 470 km of underground cables for SuedLink project

Nevertheless, Kateryna persevered, acquired the necessary expertise and constantly improved her skills. Previously, she had confirmed the trust placed in her by successfully managing the logistics for the installation of the "Mittelachse," a high-voltage overhead line in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.

After successfully completing that project, she sought out new challenges, and found exactly what she was looking for at Prysmian. She joined Prysmian in 2020, moving to Würzburg, where Prysmian had set up one of the three project offices needed for the job (the other two are in Bayreuth and Wuppertal). She now has a leadership role for cable logistics for SuedLink.

Kateryna, as a logistics specialist, is completely absorbed in her job. She says enjoys the work, and it gives her self-confidence.

"I think it's great to own a central function in the project as a knowledge carrier. The daily exchange with so many partners involved is an exciting challenge. The technical topics also excite me. I'm constantly improving my knowledge about how the cables are created and how they are further developed,” Kateryna said.

Kateryna Schmid

Responsible for logistics of 470 km of underground cables for SuedLink project

In addition, she never gets bored in her job: "There's always something going on at my desk, the wheel is always turning. That's important to me, that's what drives me."

Her story is an inspirational example in an industry that is still very male-dominated. In order to change that and get more women into similar positions, Kateryna believes that one thing is needed above all: "Courage! Women need to develop the necessary self-confidence and shall not be intimidated by the size of the projects. They must be given a chance and firmly believe themselves to be up to the tasks."

The production of the second tranche of underground cables for SuedLink has already started at Prysmian's plants. More than 60 additional cable drums will then be sent through Europe starting in the fall of 2023 and are to be delivered by the beginning of 2024, as contractually agreed between the cable supplier and the TenneT TSO.

The logistics expert is not worried about this deadline: "The processes have long since become established; the main task now is to optimize and refine them."

Always thinking ahead, she is already making the necessary arrangements. Together with her team, she will drive the project forward until the cables are commissioned – making a significant contribution to the implementation of the German energy transition.