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A day in the life of a palm oil mill manager in Papua


Robiduan Damanik or Pak Robi, is a Mill Manager at the Kasuari Mill owned by Sinar Mas Agribusiness and Food in Papua. He has been at Kasuari for more than four years but had the opportunity to work in Bangka, Belitung, and South Sumatra. Pak Robi is directly responsible for supervising 17 employees and has more than 200 employees indirectly under his leadership.

Pak Robi, Mill Manager at Kasuari Mill, Papua 
Pak Robi, Mill Manager at Kasuari Mill, Papua

Pak Robi’s daily routine at the mill starts at 6.30am, where he and the employees do some morning exercise together. In the current COVID-19 situation, all employees who enter the mill are required to wear masks, take their temperatures, and wash their hands as part of the protocol. Besides that, he also has to ensure they wear their safety equipment properly. At 7.00am, employees attend morning briefings in their respective departments, to first evaluate the results of the previous day’s work, and then go through the present day’s list of tasks.

Morning exercise
Morning exercise (photo taken before COVID-19)

After the individual delegation of work has been done, Pak Robi gathers all operations staff for 30 minutes. He uses this time to motivate the employees, reiterate the company’s vision and mission, remind them of tasks that need to be done, and give feedback on the mill’s overall performance. The mills run 24 hours a day with a leaner workforce at night, so he reviews the performance of work done the night before to ensure machines that need maintenance are carried out the next day. Preventive maintenance is a key part of ensuring smooth production at the mill, meaning the employees must maintain the equipment before damage occurs. He repeats this process every day.

Guidance and direction
Guidance and direction to employees (photo taken before COVID-19)

During the course of the day, Pak Robi directly supervises critical jobs, such as the work of technicians repairing boilers, turbines, and other major machinery. He also ensures the stock of spare parts and checks on costs.

“We need a strong foundation to ensure the machines and operations are working properly here at the mill. I have basics in maintenance, I can help where needed. We must be in control, and how we do so is by close monitoring of each station’s log sheet. Spare parts have to be ready at all times as well. I make it a point to monitor these regularly especially because our location in Papua is quite remote,” he said.

He also ensures company’s work programmes such as 5R (Ringkas, Rapi, Resik, Rawat, dan Rajin – Concise, Neat, Clean, Careful, and Diligent) are carried out accordingly.

When he is done with the activities in the mill, he conducts staff meetings, which occur weekly, to review the mill’s performance and look into overall improvements.

“We review the mill’s performance once a week to assess if we are running at optimum levels. We’re always looking for ways to exceed management’s expectations. Each employee at Kasuari Mill is also equipped with skills to perform general machine maintenance and inspection. This is a habit that I brought from my time working in previous mills at Bangka, Belitung, Muara Kandis, and Prabuwuli.”

Turbine inspection
Turbine inspection (photo taken before COVID-19)

Pak Robi also rotates his time in a month to have briefings with each department. Foremen, chief operators, and assistants gather in the meeting room to discuss interpersonal topics like team dynamics, fostering work discipline, and safety. He also ensures training and upgrading are available for employees to develop and hone their skills. “What I like most about my work is when I see my staff change themselves for the better, be it in the work area, or outside of that. Thus, achieving the company’s target is easier because employees do it wholeheartedly. Seeing employees grow and succeed is what I love,” added Pak Robi.

Around 6.00pm, the end of a workday, Pak Robi ensures all reservations for spare parts are done and that all paperwork and approvals are completed before going home. “Any problems on that day must be resolved before I go home. I believe in finishing the day’s work on the day itself.”

Pak Robi believes that one’s attitude in everyday life will determine his or her future. His message for future generations who want to succeed in the palm oil industry (or any industry) is to be determined and keep working hard. “When you continuously make the effort, results will follow. Working in this line, you need to have good problem-solving skills, be self-motivated, and adaptable to situations.”

Pak Robi at the PSM Papua
Pak Robi at the PSM Papua Staff Gathering, November 2019
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