Thanks to a tech-savvy line manager, sustainable palm oil giant Sime Darby Plantation (SDP) has rolled out a pioneering app to improve housing conditions for plantation workers in its Malaysia operations. The Oil Palm Pal was introduced company-wide in December – meeting with an approval rate of more than 95% from employees.
Adrianudin Raj Azman, SDP’s Regional CEO in Sabah, Malaysia said: “We believe this is a first for the industry and it has been a tremendous success.”
It was last November that assistant manager Muhamad Hazwan Bin Azman quietly digitalised the maintenance process for workers at his operating unit in SDP’s Flemington estate, hoping to improve efficiency and cut waiting times for repairs.
However, head office soon learned of his efforts and bosses were so impressed that they took his idea and ran with it.
Adrianudin Raj Azman explained: “Someone told me about an app they were using at one of our operating units and I contacted the assistant manager whose idea it was and asked him to give us a simple presentation.
“We were impressed. The app was straight forward and user friendly and we decided to expand on the concept. So, we brought in our digital athletes to further refine and enhance the application and we now use it at all our plantations.”
The Oil Palm Pal app was introduced throughout the company in December. Via a QR code, now tacked to the front of all the company's 20,400 houses in Malaysia, workers can lodge any complaints or requests for repairs on a designated system which management has direct access to and which triggers action almost immediately.
Previously, management kept track of repairs and maintenance issues manually, something that often led to delays through insufficient monitoring or incorrect procedures.
“Now we have this ability to immediately monitor and track maintenance issues,” said Adrianudin Raj Azman. “The app is also something the management at a higher level can follow so, naturally, the response time to complaints has been much quicker.
“Anything related to our workers’ housing whether it’s minor repairs needed, such as a broken window pane, or something bigger such as the locks on the house not functioning or disruption to water supplies, gets logged almost immediately into the system and we can alert the handyman on site to fix the problem.
“Before, we quite often outsourced the repairs to external contractors, which brought more delays, whereas now, every one of our operating units has a handyman on site.”
For assistant manager Muhamad Hazwan Bin Azman, from Kajang in Selangor, the unexpected interest in his idea has been not only gratifying, but also inspiring.
The 34-year-old said: “I came up with this idea after realising the difficulty in maintaining multiple logbooks across several locations in my operating unit, as we have a few outlying divisions with workers’ houses.
“Because I’ve always liked using IT-based apps to enhance or simplify my workload, I decided to try something similar to improve the efficiency of housing repair requests using a simple web-based app tool available online.
“I was then very delighted that a simple idea managed to generate so much interest from management, and my idea went on to become an official reporting system for the company.
“I’m now looking forward to contributing more ideas to enhance digitalisation into our plantation operations.”