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Paving The Way

 

“Jack of all trades, master of none”, the often heard saying conveys the message that it is better for one to specialise in a skill. To succeed in the market, one has to discover a niche where one can deliver the best to emerge as the market leader. Every business should come up with its unique selling proposition. This is no different for Pembinaan Tetap Teguh Sdn Bhd (PTT), which has successfully established itself as a leading land developer and earthwork contractor in Malaysia.

At the helm are two diligent brothers – Group Chairman Terry Teo and Group Managing Director Teo Swee Phin. Unlike most of the developers looking out for strategic land banks to purchase for the construction, launch and marketing of their new projects, PTT specialises in the earthworks and infrastructure planning as a land developer. In short, they function as a trustworthy and dependable support to the developers.

“Developers need more projects to increase their turnover. But they may not have suitable land (to develop). As such, they will conduct a land search, buy and clear the land before they can launch their products, be it landed or high rise properties.

“That’s where we come in to source for suitable land to get it cleared and flattened. Once the ground is cleared, developers can purchase the land immediately and start building their houses,” says Terry.

Prior to establishing their own firm, Terry was working with a landscape company which undertook projects including the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) Main Terminal Building and also the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya.

The experience has taught him to take into account the way things work in the construction ecosystem. This realisation emboldened Terry and his brother to establish their own company.

GAINING TOTAL CONTROL

The company kicked off its business by building schools in Terengganu. It started off with Merbau Patah Primary School, Kuala Terengganu in 2001 followed by Kampung Nyior Secondary School in Paka, Dungun in 2003. In between, PTT also secured a roadworks project in Pusat Bandar Melawati, Gombak in Selangor.

He says that the challenges of being a building contractor covers issues ranging from rooftop construction to overseeing the entire building construction project. To counteract the negative aspects of the job, the Teo brothers decided that beginning 2005, PTT would primarily focus on earthworks as the main contractor from their role as sub-contractor since 2000.

BUILDING TRUST

Even in their previous role as sub-contractors, they were a force to be reckoned with.  

This fulfills its aspirations of becoming a renowned fast-tracked contractor as it emphasises greatly on performance by investing in machineries.

Over the years, the company has invested over RM100 million in machinery. With over 300 units of machines including bulldozers, excavators, heavy trucks and more, PTT has emerged as the largest fleet owner of Caterpillar machines in Malaysia, and has managed to exceed the required specification in ground compaction.

And now, filling a bigger role as main contractor, PTT will be able to operate with more flexibility in undertaking more complicated projects, being the owner of the largest fleet of earthworks machinery with over 300 Caterpillar and Volvo machines and counting.

Although they are in the challenging construction line, the brothers believe that the only thing stopping them is the weather which they have to compete against in terms of delivering their projects on time.

As an earthworks contractor, PTT helps developers to clear and prepare the land for construction. Their main client, Sime Darby Property Bhd, once engaged them to clear 1,000 acres of land and over 10 million cubic metres of  earth to cut and fill in Bandar Universiti Pagoh, Johor within six months – an almost impossible feat which they successfully pulled off.

CONCERN FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

While PTT deals with the levelling of hills and the clearing of land, they also care about the environment. The company has formed a special task force to handle environmental issues. For example, as huge chunks of land are exposed to the elements without coverage from vegetation at construction sites, it is easy for dust to form during the hot weather while topsoil will be washed into rives and become silt during rainy days. The discharged water could contaminate the nearby land and rivers if not treated properly.

“At PTT, the special environmental task force has taken various measures to protect the environment. We have invested in our own Gross Pollutant Traps (GPTs) to ensure that the Total Suspended Solids (TSS) in discharged water is minimised in line with industry best practices to comply with the Standard A requirement of the Department of Environment (DOE), and that the water is as clean as those found in rivers in the forest,” says Swee Phin.

The Selangor Water Management Authority (LUAS) has been conducting inspections on discharged water at all construction sites across Selangor. When it came to the northern Shah Alam suburb of Elmina City, a Sime Darby township which PTT handled in terms of the earthworks, they found no issues at all which spoke volumes of PTT’s effort in ensuring a clean environment.

PTT takes extra initiatives and preventive measures by also setting up automated water sprinklers to avoid the dust from rising into the air as opposed to other contractors who spray water unto the roads.

“By eliminating the need to send water bowsers to sprinkle the roads every few hours, they get to save on diesel too. Besides, the task force also inspects the cut slopes often, to ensure that any erosion will be under control.

“We have also installed rainwater harvesting systems at the sites to harness rainwater for sprinkling and other uses. The construction industry should really embrace more technology to facilitate better quality works while protecting the environment,” affirms Terry. 

EMBRACING CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

PTT is no stranger when it comes to corporate social responsibility (CSR).

As a philanthropist, Terry serves as the President of the Sakyamuni Dharma Centre in Old Klang Road, Kuala Lumpur.

“We managed to buy them a building as they were renting previously, and continued to offer financial aid year after year,” Terry said.

Swee Phin also recently donated RM27,000 to his alma mater, the Chung Hwa Wei Sin High School in Kuala Terengganu for the Academic Enhancement Programme (Program Pemantapan Akademik) to aid students to excel in their studies.

As there aren’t many family recreation facilities around Klang Valley, PTT established an equestrian centre for families – the Denai Alam Recreation and Riding Club (DARC).

“We started everything empty handed, so it’s time for us to give back to the community whenever we can. Horse riding is my passion, and it has been my dream to transform horse riding from an expensive, elitist sport to a more affordable family activity.

There are plenty of golf clubs but you hardly see family clubs. Therefore, we just charge a minimal fee for the DARC membership, which is just RM290 a year for the whole family, even though the upkeep of a horse costs about RM4,000 every month, and we have 80 horses here,” says Terry.

Operating with the intention to help as many people as he can, Terry has also taken up the offer to be the Honorary Consul General for Nepal in the states of Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Malacca.

“I have to attend to a lot of cases involving Nepalese citizens here. This takes up a lot of my time and energy, but I am very happy to contribute my service as I get to help many migrants to solve their problems when they are far away from their homeland.

You need a lot of passion and sincerity to serve other human beings. In fact, it is the biggest CSR I am doing,” adds Terry.

PTT is also committed to talent development by sending its employees to the “Caterpillar University” where they can be trained to manage the machines. Besides learning how to operate and repair machines, trainees are also taught how to manage the machinery. With state-of-the-art technology incorporated into the machines, the fleets can be monitored via satellite, which allows the management team to receive real-time reports on the health of the machines.

“Whenever the machines fail to offer optimum performance, or should the diesel consumption increase, the management team will be informed immediately. The Level 3 courses offered by Caterpillar University is equivalent to a degree, whereby graduates will become professional engineers for Caterpillar machines.

“They will diagnose the problems and conduct preventive maintenance. For example, while the mindset in Malaysia is to replace a hose only after it bursts, the PTT team will change the hose as soon as a small break is found. This way, the lifespan of the machines are lengthened,” asserts Swee Phin.

FAST-TRACK RESULTS

PTT capitalises on machine usage to deliver fast-tracked results. While others use their machines for up to 2,000 hours a year, at PTT, each machine can clock up to 3,500 hours of work per year. The rationale behind this is that by maximising machine usage at multiple projects, better results and more profits can be obtained. If machines are left idle, no revenue is going to come in.

“Others might want to avoid overtime or minimise investments in machinery. However, we think differently, and make sure we deliver better results with the help of machines.

Initially, when we were given (our very first) RM20 million contract, we invested an equivalent RM20 million in machinery.

People might laugh at us but if you don’t invest in machines, how are clients going to give you a job? How can you claim to be able to deliver the job? If you are slow, you will delay the subsequent works. Therefore, you must invest and leverage on the machines and build up the track record, so people will have faith in us,” adds Swee Phin.

Counted among PTT’s achievements is its prominent track record that speaks for itself. At Elmina City, PTT has cleared 2,200 acres of land out of the overall 5,500 acres, including 1,000 acres in Elmina East and 800 acres in Elmina West within eight months.

Due to the speedy completion of earthworks, Sime Darby Property has successfully launched 1,300 units of landed homes so far. In fact, Elmina has enjoyed the fastest development turnaround time out of Sime Darby’s 24 townships across the nation.

“It’s not easy for developers of landed properties to launch products worth RM1 billion in a year, and PTT takes pride in saving time and cost for our clients,” says Swee Phin.

“That is why the clients always pass difficult jobs to PTT, because PTT will surely deliver. That is the trust developers have in us. Everything we promised, we have honoured,” he adds.

On average, he says the company is clearing 1,000 acres of land for Sime Darby annually.

“So far, we have successfully completed our job in Elmina, Denai Alam, Bukit Jelutong and Putra Heights in Selangor, Nilai Impian and Bandar Ainsdale in Negeri Sembilan as well as Bandar Universiti Pagoh in Johor, among others,” adds Terry. 

FORAY INTO PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT

Like many other successful industry players, PTT has also ventured into property development by forming a development arm – Mainstay Development Sdn Bhd. The word “Mainstay” he explains, is a truncated version for the term “Remain Staying”, which more or less shares the same meaning as “Tetap Teguh”.

Following the instinct of capitalising on one’s niche, Mainstay decided to partner with Horizon Group Properties (HGP) from the US with its venture into the development of a retail outlet store. Horizon is one of the largest outlet store operators in the US which is rich in experience and technical know-how to ensure the success of the outlet mall.

For instance, Mainstay will pre-lease the retail parcels, and only start the construction after enough parcels are leased out and the breakeven point is attained. While this is new in Malaysia, it has been the norm for all Horizon projects around the world. Located in Bandar Serenia near KLIA and Xiamen University Malaysia campus, Horizon Village Mall (HVO) is set to enhance Kuala Lumpur’s appeal as an international shopping destination.

When asked about their future plans, the Teo brothers are unperturbed despite the challenging market.

“In years to come, various infrastructure projects are earmarked to be launched. This includes the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) from Port Klang to Kuantan, Kuala Terengganu and Kota Bharu before ending in Pengkalan Kubor, as well as the High Speed Railway (HSR) between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

In addition, there will be plenty of earthworks coming on board. Most developers don’t have this kind of machines that are needed for land clearing. Therefore, we don’t have that many competitors. As a prudent land developer, we will continue to buy strategic land, clear it and offer it to developers. They can sleep well knowing that all the earthworks has been done, and concentrate on their marketing campaigns instead,” stresses Terry.

As PTT has grown from strength to strength over a period of 17 years, the company needed more talents to run the show.

“We think big to remain strong and to stay ahead. From the initial headcount of four, today we have a workforce of 400, including professionals and technicians. Here at PTT, we treat everyone as our family members. For us, all employees are our brothers and sisters. That’s why everyone can contribute happily towards achieving common goals,” adds Swee Phin.

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