Business Masterclass with Mark Hulme - video transcript

This video transcript is from a speech by Mark Hulme, Director and General Manager, DP World Brisbane, at Brisbane City Council's Lord Mayor's Business Forum on 21 October 2013. He shares his insights on innovation, digital strategy and workforce.

Julian Simmonds - First question, first of all DP Word started in - established in 2006. It's continued to grow. Perhaps you could tell us a little bit about DP World and your journey?

Mark Hulme - Sure. Whilst DP World in Australia started in 2006 we were formally known as P and O so obviously they're a global organisation. We run one of the three container terminals down at Fisherman Islands so we've operated at the Port of Brisbane since 1980 but probably at Hamilton since well the early '30s. You touched on it, a $250 million re-development for us. I've heard a lot about small business today and a lot about innovation and go digital. One of the big focusses for us on this automation project was there a number of very large suppliers?

We were quite particular to talk to them about supporting local business and we're finding that what they've done is partnered with a number of companies locally in terms of electrical supply, plumbing, pulling of the cables and some of the technology that we're introducing which has been fabulous to see them tapping into small and medium businesses in Brisbane. That technology and I guess innovation is not going to leave the country when these large organisations leave, but it's being retained here.

Julian Simmonds - So Mark you mentioned innovation which is a big part of your business, as I said you were recognised in the Brisbane Innovation Score Card and that was all about this brand new simulated training program that you're putting together, that took - for those of you who aren't Mark will take us through it - but it took about - I understand about 12 months' worth of R&D, many millions of dollars. So that's a significant commitment from any business. How important is innovation to your business and how do you I guess take that leap to invest so much time and money into something that you're not 100 per cent will pay off?

Mark Hulme - The shipping industry historically hasn't been known for innovation. I guess simplified we play with Lego every day. We lift containers on and off ships, we store them, we put them on and off either road trucks or onto rail. As part of our re-development the challenge that we face was training the workforce of 350 people in a new type of equipment we're introducing at the same time as trying to run our existing business. So the challenge we found was we just didn't have any space to be able to put people into a straddle that weighs 70 tonnes, it carries two 60 - sorry two 32 tonne containers. So we spent about 12 months investing or researching and we ended up requiring a simulator. A little bit like what you see with pilots in the airline industry or pilots that bring the large container ships in.

This has allowed us to speed up our training. We delivered a production training time of sort of 50 per cent. Where it would take normally 20 or 25 days to train someone but we're managing to do it in two weeks. We can individually I guess judge the performance of the person, whether they've got the aptitude or not to drive a certain machine. It doesn't slow the training program down, it allows us to I guess keep moving. As part of our development we had a very set timeframe where we had 18 months to try and train enough people first of all to get it started so it's been a key one for us, this innovation.

Julian Simmonds - So for businesses who are about to go down this journey I think that they want to invest in R&D, invest in innovation, what particular pitfalls or keys to success I guess have you come - found along the way that you could impart on us?

Mark Hulme - I think the key one is build an alliance with others, be it suppliers, be it customers, be it others in other industries. That's where you can really tap into some of the things that they're achieving. Some of the benefits you get by forming those alliances is word of mouth and that's a huge one in any business be it small business or medium or large business. It's not all about I guess the multinationals. It's word of mouth, it's who you know and quite often that's the way we do business these days.

Digital, we've probably we've heard fairly heavily tonight, we push it fairly hard from a multinational companies' perspective. All of our tendering we do online. Most of our interaction with customers is done obviously face-to-face but everything they want is online these days. They want it at their fingertips as quickly as they can possibly get it. So it's really about driving as hard as you can I think on alliances and the digital strategy.

Julian Simmonds - Very good segway Mark. So talking about the digital strategy I mean yours is a business, as you say, you're picking up containers at a port day in day out. It is not a business that you would traditionally associate with a digital presence and there's other businesses out there perhaps the butcher or the baker who are not traditionally associated with a digital presence but how important has it been to your business in terms of your growth and how have you in a non-traditional sector found the right things for your digital strategy to pick out?

Mark Hulme - I think there's a number. For the transport industry, or our interaction with the transport industry, everything is online. To send a truck down to pick up a particular container everything is done online these days. For the larger businesses like a Woollies or a Coles they obviously run just in time. They tap into everything that happens in the shipping industry and the port business to understand where their containers are, how quickly they're coming, what's happening in terms of delays overseas if there are some. The digital strategy for us is - back in the old days where literally and it was a fax machine - everything we do with customers these days is all electronic.

So no-one comes down to our facility and all the paperwork. To deliver a container out or receive a container in it's all online. It's all digital these days so we don't have paperwork anymore. Everything has to be electronic. Communication with all of our staff, with all our machines, it's all digital. There's a number of machines now we've removed two-way radios, everything's gone computerised and the digital strategy is something that's absolutely driving our business.

Julian Simmonds - So director - managing of a company that employs over 380 employees, no matter how big or small your business employees are absolutely pivotal. How do you - what do you look for in a good employee, how do you go about finding them?

Mark Hulme - I think the key one is people work for people, they don’t work for a company. As long as you've - obviously when you're searching for an employee you might look for the right skillset, do they have the right aptitude, but really it's about interacting with people on a day-to-day basis. The waterfront hasn't had a great track record in terms of some people but really it's interacting with our employees every day. If someone's not doing the right thing it's about telling them straight up. I guess there's an expression we tend to focus on which is tell me how I'll be judged and I'll show you how I behave.

As long as you're clear on your expectations both from an employee, from a business perspective, employees really do - they want to work for people, they don't want to work for a company. So if you treat them the right way, if it's well rewarded, if they're enjoying what they're doing and motivated they will deliver day in and day out for whoever their employer is.

Julian Simmonds - Okay, so just to round things out how about a nice general question - top tips for the businesses here in the room through your journey, you've picked up along the way?

Mark Hulme - Spend more time in sales. It's easier to retain a customer than try and find one. Investing in your people, we've touched on that. Be clear on your goals. I think that's a really important one. Find a mentor. There's a lot of people out there that are really happy to mentor smaller businesses or medium size businesses. I saw it obviously up on the screen earlier. We're doing - in bigger organisations obviously we do it with senior staff looking after more junior staff but it's something as a business we definitely do. We do it with a number of smaller businesses of Wynnum area, which is obviously close to where our facility is.

We really do try and offer I guess a service to some of the smaller businesses. We try and point them in the right direction or at least have a sounding board in an industry that really they have no association with, just someone that I guess operates a big business or can manage more staff. So if you can find a mentor - you can obviously go online and find that - but it's finding anyone that's in an industry you've got a little bit of an interest in that can point you in the right direction

Julian Simmonds - Fantastic. Alright ladies and gentlemen that's been a bit of an introduction to Mark and DP World.

Go back to the Business Masterclass - Innovation and new ideas videos.

11 February 2016