As the name implies, KPD is an amalgamation of several smaller companies, some of which boast roots as far back as the 1980s. For its Managing Director, Mr. Richard Tee, the official start of KPD was in November of 1999, when the group truly began to take advantage of their scale to engage in jobs with the oil and gas industry.
Of course, the early years were not easy. The biggest challenges were rooted in the lack of organisation back then.
“Not to imply that things are perfect now, but we’ve certainly created some structure. Back then, we had to just take what the customer was asking for and run with it to the best of our abilities. But over the years, we’ve come to understand the safety stewardship and true cost of operating in that way. Nowadays, we ask ourselves about the long term effects of making compromises because the long-term sustainability of the business must always come first.”
Present Day Concerns
The challenge today is in the fine tuning of operations especially with regards to preventative safety measures. To Richard, these concerns must be addressed at the individual level.
“To us, safety has to start with our employees,” he explained. “Malaysia has one of the highest rates of road fatalities in the region with about 22 a day. Given the hazardous nature of the materials we carry, most of us in the company are always in a state of ‘chronic unease’. It reminds us to be proactive with safety, to minimise the risk or even the severity of damage should any incident occur. Yes, we’re realistic about these things being out of our hands sometimes, but we do all we can to ensure that incidents don’t arise out of our own negligence,” he added.
As a leader, he believes that the most important thing is to show respect and care. While it’s impossible to get to know all 400 of his drivers, he makes it a point to understand individuals with problems.
“Just last night I was on a site visit just before the start of the midnight shift. It allowed me to catch up with things on the ground level. But it’s essential to understanding our employees’ concerns,” he explained.
“Giving our employees respect and care allows them to overcome certain issues in their personal lives. It’s impossible to separate work from family life, so we make sure our people are taken care of, and that ensures a safer work environment for all,” said Richard. He even makes it a point to catch up with key staff members over Saturday breakfast to connect with his team.
KPD’s ‘Hearts & Minds’ Approach
The most important thing is to make sure their employees have the right mind-set, KPD uses what they call the ‘Hearts & Minds’ approach. In short, it’s all about aligning people to serve a set of values and to act on them out of the strength of their own character.
According to Richard, this is one of KPD’s most powerful approach, as it has resulted in a team that does things because of their belief rather than out of fear of reprisals.
“Road safety can be a very monotonous and tedious affair, so we get our people to understand the intents of certain procedures and tasks. We make them take ownership over every aspect of their job and that’s also why we call our driver’s ‘Captains.’
Why KPD truck drivers are called Captains
The title of ‘Captain’ bestows the job a certain level of respect, criticality and social status. But beyond that it also forces employees to live up to the title, and to look at themselves as responsible professionals. Captains at KPD dress better and carry themselves and the company name with pride.
KPD also helps facilitate Captain Community Group (CCG) Projects, which are held quarterly. These involve teams of about 30 Captains volunteering for Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives involving road or safety station.
“While the Captains do these projects on their own initiative, they are guided by more senior mentors. This programme helps them build their works confidence, and at the same raise their awareness of their important role in the community at large.”
KPD truly believes in empowering and educating the community towards better road safety. To that end, they often share their own best practices with NGOs and commercial operators in order to make roads safer for all.
What is KPD’s Toughest Challenge?
“The biggest challenge has actually been an on-going one,” explained Richard. “Our largest client, Shell, has extremely high expectations when it comes to safety and we take it upon ourselves to continuously ensure zero incidents during operations. It’s ‘Mission Possible’, but it’s a challenge that we’ve been at for 20 years now even though we still face new problems every once in a while.“
He continued, “Given how tough our contracts are, we know that trucks are very important. The parameters we look at are technical, specifically the technologies and engineering features, the overall cost efficiency as well as comfort and safety. We look for a win-win relationship with the truck companies we work with and it’s really the aftersales service and support that enhances the total value of truck.”
“In business, we always look for better value, and while operating costs have been on the rise, our relationship with Volvo Trucks has been great. On top of having products that benchmark well against their competitors, they are also willing to work out other service cost concerns.”
What’s more, the company has been impressed with the comfort and safety aspects of the vehicles they’ve purchased. Driver feedback has been nothing but positive.
Keeping The Business Exciting
“Life in this business can get monotonous, especially when you’re talking about road safety. So you have to keep yourself motivated by coming up with new ideas and ways to tackle old problems,” says Richard. KPD is always on the lookout for new blood to instil new ideas in the company. At the moment, the company is looking to expand its logistics business into other related areas.
“We’re in the serious phase with regards to warehousing at one of our Westport sites. The future for KPD is exciting and we see this as the next logical step beyond our existing sites around the peninsula.”