Photo credits: Ricky French

Paul Kamande’s focus on customers and trends drives growth 10 years on for PK Refrigerated Logistics

Loyalty, 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.

Paul 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 ten-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.


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 they load 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,” says operations manager Mark Battersby.

“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 retail markets.

PKRL covers all of metropolitan Melbourne daily and most regional Victorian towns, including Warnambool, 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. 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 wanted 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 not just because they’re great, reliable 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 drivers can easily jump out of one truck and into another.

PKRL still run primarily standard custom-designed bodies built with specifications designed by Kamande himself.

All the trucks have rear and side door access, which means the truck 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, which are 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 their 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. 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 high customer service country, but I believe that level of customer service has diminished across the board in recent years.

“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 to reduce their cost: raw material supplies, 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.”

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-based.

“They want a 3PL who will take ownership of their products and look after their customer base down in Victoria, and that’s where we come in.”


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

“It’s about recording the temperature (of freight) in and out of the warehouse and our trucks, 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 premises).

Being a quarantine approved premise means PK can receive containers from overseas, which might be subject to quarantine and bio-security inspections.

It’s vitally important that every item and pallet 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,” says Battersby.

“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, with growth of pathogens occurring if temperatures are not maintained correctly.

“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.”


One challenge of SMEs who strive to cater for all customers big and small is dealing with the large range of size and shapes or deliveries.

While PKRL’s core business is carton deliveries, just like it was when Kamande started it ten years ago, the team need 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,” says Battersby.

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 Victoria and country NSW.

“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 manage to maintain a constant workforce year round, 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 for 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 them recently adopting 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-focussed mantra.

“It’s about increasing operational efficiencies across the entire business with time management, so we can focus on adding value to our client’s 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, following 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 ten 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.”


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