Cool head

Paul Ka­mande has built a thriv­ing re­frig­er­ated trans­port busi­ness on es­sen­tial virtues

Australian Transport News - - Contents - WORDS RICKY FRENCH

Paul Ka­mande is build­ing PK Re­frig­er­ated Lo­gis­tics on a strict set of ethics and cus­tomer fo­cus

L oy­alty, dili­gence to stan­dards and an un­com­pro­mis­ing ad­her­ence to cus­tomer ser­vice are the holy grail of busi­ness ac­cord­ing to Paul Ka­mande, di­rec­tor of Mel­bourne’s PK Re­frig­er­ated Lo­gis­tics. Those strict ethics have con­trib­uted to the busi­ness’s soar­ing growth and rep­u­ta­tion in the com­pet­i­tive world of re­frig­er­ated trans­port.

Ka­mande grew up in Kenya, work­ing in the tourism in­dus­try be­fore mov­ing to the UK where he got his first taste for truck driv­ing. While liv­ing there he met his wife, an Aus­tralian, and the cou­ple em­i­grated down un­der. That was 17 years ago.

He founded PKRL as an owner-driver with one van in 2007, and on its 10-year an­niver­sary the busi­ness is now record­ing multi-mil­lion dol­lar turnover.

But Ka­mande has no plans to stop there. “The sky’s the limit,” he says. COLD NIGHTS IN THE WARE­HOUSE PKRL prides it­self on be­ing a great place to work, ex­cept per­haps if you like spend­ing time at home on Christ­mas Eve. It’s the busiest night of the year for the Dan­de­nong-based com­pany as it loads never-end­ing bags of ice for Christ­mas day de­liv­ery to ser­vos all around Mel­bourne and re­gional Vic­to­ria.

“We did 1083 pal­lets of ice out the door in one night last year,” op­er­a­tions man­ager Mark Bat­tersby says. “I left here at seven in the morn­ing.”

This year’s Christ­mas ice sup­ply is al­ready wrapped and ready to go, stored in one of their four high-rack freez­ers that open onto the cen­tral load­ing dock. They also have a chiller and an am­bi­ent store.

But the core busi­ness is car­ton de­liv­er­ies

to food ser­vice out­lets, restau­rants or mar­kets. PKRL cov­ers all of metropoli­tan Mel­bourne and most re­gional Vic­to­rian towns, in­clud­ing War­rnam­bool, Bal­larat, Bendigo, Al­bury, Echuca, Shep­par­ton and Gipp­s­land.

“We’ll have trucks do­ing lo­cal work, and the trucks that do the coun­try work ro­tate the re­gion we ser­vice, so we spread it out over five days,” Bat­tersby says. “We also have a night shift team work­ing on be­half of one of our clients, ser­vic­ing 7-11 stores seven nights a week.”


Af­ter de­cid­ing to leave the cor­po­rate life be­hind him in 2007, Ka­mande looked at re­frig­er­ated trans­port and saw a sta­ble in­dus­try: “I had al­ways to do some­thing for my­self.”

He bought his first van, a 2006 Iveco Daily, on 100 per cent fi­nance and set about build­ing a busi­ness. The orig­i­nal van is still in the 13-strong fleet and is the only non-Hino rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

Ka­mande says he sticks with Hino – mostly 12-pal­let 500s – not just be­cause they’re great trucks but be­cause of a com­mit­ment he made to a Hino dealer nine years ago to re­main loyal. He’s fol­lowed through, with an added ad­van­tage now be­ing that the com­pany’s 19 driv­ers can eas­ily jump out of one truck and into an­other.

PKRL still runs pri­mar­ily stan­dard cus­tomde­signed bod­ies built with spec­i­fi­ca­tions de­signed by Ka­mande him­self. All the trucks have rearand side-door ac­cess, which means they can be di­vided up in to dif­fer­ent tem­per­a­ture zones, us­ing spe­cialised bulk­heads.

The frozen goods are put at the front near the fridge mo­tor, and the side door al­lows the driver ac­cess to the frozen goods at any point on the run. All PKRL’s fridge units are Thermo King, pow­ered by three-phase overnight if freight has been loaded the day be­fore.


Un­cov­er­ing the se­cret to PKRL’s rapidly ex­pand­ing cus­tomer base could be a sim­ple as read­ing its three-word motto: ‘Be­cause we care’.

Ka­mande says a key to suc­cess in run­ning a 3PL is of­fer­ing value to cus­tomers, and that doesn’t just mean monetary value.

“We’re very proac­tive to­wards our clients. We take own­er­ship of their needs and try to add value to their busi­ness from a lo­gis­ti­cal con­sul­tancy point of view,” he says. “We deal with man­u­fac­tur­ers who are good at man­u­fac­tur­ing but might strug­gle with lo­gis­tics. So we can of­fer that sup­port to them.”

Hav­ing an over­seas back­ground may have helped Ka­mande gain an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of what makes the Aus­tralian mar­ket unique.

“Aus­tralia has al­ways been known as a cus­tomer ser­vice coun­try, but I be­lieve that level of cus­tomer ser­vice has di­min­ished across the board,” he says. “So I’ve de­signed and struc­tured my busi­ness around cus­tomer ser­vice and cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion.”

The chal­lenges come in man­ag­ing in­creased op­er­a­tional costs: “Fuel prices go up, wear and tear goes up, elec­tric­ity goes up. When you’re run­ning a ware­house that needs to be pow­ered 24 hours a day, the two elec­tric­ity price rises we’ve had this year alone can hurt. Mar­gins con­tin­u­ously shrink.

“When sup­pli­ers look at re­view­ing their busi­nesses they gen­er­ally look at two things they can re­duce: raw ma­te­rial sup­ply and trans­port.”

De­spite the con­tract­ing mar­gins, Ka­mande says their di­verse cus­tomer base gives them a good spring­board to con­tinue to grow.

“We held sta­ble dur­ing the GFC be­cause what we lost on de­liv­er­ies to restau­rants we gained in de­liv­er­ies to su­per­mar­kets. Peo­ple will al­ways need to eat,” he says.

One of the largest grow­ing mar­kets is or­ganic food, Ka­mande says, which he’s seen in­crease 30 per cent in the last five years.

Adding the ware­hous­ing com­po­nent to the busi­ness was also a big leap for­ward. It’s now a 60/40 split with trans­port and ware­hous­ing.

“They com­ple­ment each other. We of­fer a one-stop so­lu­tion to our clients. The ma­jor­ity of our ware­hous­ing cus­tomers are in­ter­state. They want a 3PL who will look af­ter their cus­tomer base down in Vic­to­ria, and that’s where we come in.”


Man­ag­ing health and safety com­pli­ance with re­frig­er­ated pro­duce also means ad­her­ing to hazard anal­y­sis and crit­i­cal con­trol points (HACCP), Ka­mande says.

“It’s about record­ing the tem­per­a­ture [of freight] in and out, so that if there’s a cer­tain batch of product that’s gone out to a cus­tomer that for some rea­son has been iden­ti­fied as a risk, we have a sys­tem in place so we know where that par­tic­u­lar batch went to, and we can do a re­call. It hasn’t hap­pened in prac­tice but we’ve done mock re­calls.”

Sys­tems like these are re­quired un­der both HACCP and QAP (quar­an­tine ap­proved prac­tices). Be­ing a quar­an­tine-ap­proved premises means PK can take con­tain­ers from over­seas, which might be sub­ject to quar­an­tine and bio-se­cu­rity in­spec­tions.

It’s vi­tally im­por­tant that ev­ery item stored in the ware­house has a la­bel with re­ceived date and ex­piry date. Some items, such as sug­ar­less or­ganic ice cream, can start to de­frost quickly if it drops out of tem­per­a­ture.

“It’s a con­tin­ual process of tem­per­a­ture check­ing,” Bat­tersby says. “Tak­ing the tem­per­a­ture of a product when it’s re­ceipted, check­ing your probe or gun is cor­rectly cal­i­brated, check­ing tem­per­a­ture again. It also in­volves lots and lots of pa­per­work!”


But it’s a se­ri­ous busi­ness, and Ka­mande knows that the stakes are high.

“We deal with food. And food can be very dan­ger­ous,” he says. “For me, there is no ne­go­ti­a­tion in terms of product in­tegrity. It’s peo­ple’s lives we’re talk­ing about. So it’s very im­por­tant to re­alise we’re deal­ing with food prod­ucts. Hav­ing those sorts of ethics and stan­dards has helped us get to where we are.”

A chal­lenge of SMEs that strive to cater for all cus­tomers – big and small – is deal­ing with a large

“We held sta­ble dur­ing the GFC be­cause what we lost on de­liv­er­ies to restau­rants we gained in de­liv­er­ies to su­per­mar­kets”

range of sizes and shapes of de­liv­er­ies. While PK’s core busi­ness is car­tons, just like it was when Ka­mande started it 10 years ago, the team needs to be able to cater for larger, bulk or­ders as well.

“On one run we could de­liver one car­ton into a restau­rant, and 24 pal­lets to some­where else, dou­bled up in our 12-pal­let truck,” Bat­tersby says.

The busi­ness needs to be adapt­able to han­dle the spike in de­mand that oc­curs sea­son­ably as well, with sum­mer bring­ing the big­gest bulge in the cal­en­dar.

“On be­half of one of our clients we ser­vice ice creams to pretty much ev­ery Vil­lage, Re­gent, Hoyts and Palace cin­e­mas across Mel­bourne. School hol­i­days are a peak pe­riod.”

For other food items, such as frozen mi­crowave din­ners, the de­mand stays fairly con­stant year round. De­spite the spikes in de­mand, PKRL man­ages to main­tain a con­stant work­force with lim­ited re­liance on ca­sual em­ploy­ees.


Keep­ing track of freight mov­ing through PKRL means nav­i­gat­ing through many lay­ers of com­plex­ity. Most of the cus­tomers PKRL trans­ports for also re­quire ware­hous­ing for their freight. Bat­tersby says a big is­sue had al­ways been the need to ‘dou­ble en­ter’ when re­port­ing be­tween ware­hous­ing and trans­port. It led to the re­cent adop­tion of a new man­age­ment sys­tem: CMS’s Freight2020.

“In our old ware­house man­age­ment sys­tem, we were pro­cess­ing the ware­house or­ders – the pick and packs – get­ting new or­ders picked, but we then had to phys­i­cally cre­ate the jobs for the driv­ers’ man­i­fests as well. So we were do­ing ev­ery­thing twice.”

The idea is that the new sys­tem will au­to­mat­i­cally send a ware­hous­ing job to the trans­port com­po­nent of Freight2020, as well as sort the jobs into driv­ers’ routes.

For the first time, cus­tomers can now also log in through the on­line por­tal and track their own stock move­ment through the ware­house and the de­liv­ery process, which saves a phone call or an email. Be­cause all move­ments are recorded, cus­tomers can see what’s been sell­ing and who’s been buy­ing which product line.

Ka­mande agrees, and adds the now fa­mil­iar cus­tomer-fo­cused mantra.

“It’s about in­creas­ing ef­fi­cien­cies with time man­age­ment so we can fo­cus on adding value to our clients’ busi­nesses.”


Ka­mande knows more than any­one that life has a funny way to tak­ing you to places you’d never ex­pect to go. From Kenya to the UK to Aus­tralia, he fol­lowed his well-tuned nose for sniff­ing out a mar­ket, then work­ing hard to build a busi­ness.

“I’d love to branch out across Aus­tralia one day, but be­fore we do that my plan is to fully ex­plore the Vic­to­rian mar­ket and make sure we’ve cap­tured ev­ery area that re­quires a niche ser­vice.

“If you asked me 10 years ago if we’d be where we are now, I’d say pos­si­bly not. But we’re in a good place. I con­sider ev­ery­one here at PKRL fam­ily. I see this as a fam­ily busi­ness.”

Top: The com­pany is loyal to Hino af­ter a com­mit­ment made to a dealer nine years ago

Above: GPS track­ing of the eet

Above: The high stacked freight with each pal­let la­belled

Left: Ka­mande de­scribes PKRL as a fam­ily busi­ness

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