Paul Kamande has built a thriving refrigerated transport business on essential virtues
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.”
FROM SMALL BEGINNINGS
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.
ROAD TO SUCCESS
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.”
COMPLIANCE AND SAFETY
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!”
VARIETY THE SLICE OF PK LIFE
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.
FORGING A NEW SYSTEM
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.”
A GOOD PLACE TO BE
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