Syamsul Bahri grew up around oil palm plantations. Born in 1989 in South Tapanuli regency in North Sumatra, Syamsul’s father was a palm oil smallholder.
After studying at Bogor Agriculture Institute, it’s no surprise that Syamsul wanted to pursue a career in palm oil. And, as one of the biggest oil palm companies in Indonesia, Asian Agri was his employer of choice.
Syamsul’s journey at the company began with six months of basic training in the Asian Agri Learning Institute (AALI). After graduating from AALI, he was given the job of Afdeling Assistant (a departmental assistant) until 2014.
“After that, I was appointed as a Training Officer at AALI – the exact place where I first stepped onto an Asian Agri oil palm plantation,” says Syamsul, with a smile.
At the end of 2018, the company appointed him as a Continuous Improvement (CI) Coordinator. In this new role, Syamsul would have to make full use of his communication and negotiation skills.
The CI Department works with all the operational departments in Asian Agri – including the Plantation Department, Mill Department, Traction Department and the Corporate Office – to continuously improve in line with the company’s quality, productivity, and cost targets.
As the company’s targets are revised every year, Syamsul and his team have to ensure that the departments are able to keep up with the demand.
“We have regular coordination meetings with representatives from the different departments to discuss issues or problems they are facing,” says Syamsul, adding that the CI Department operates in line with a PDCA (Plan, Do, Check and Act) principle.
“Our role is to help identify issues and their root causes, and to devise solutions,” he says.
However, being the main advocates for continuous improvement in the company can be rather challenging for the CI Department, he says.
“Our main challenge is trying to sync schedules to collaborate with operational stakeholders who are busy with their own daily tasks. We also have to be motivational enough so that all these other departments will proactively want to improve,” says Syamsul.
Syamsul and his team members also have to ensure that these departments continue to follow any improvements that they implement.
“We have to keep encouraging the operational teams, particularly those in the oil palm plantations, to achieve their targets even though the CI team may not be there every day to assist them,” says Syamsul.
Syamsul says the job keeps him on his toes, because there are new challenges to face every day.
“You will never get complacent or comfortable working in Asian Agri, as you’ll always be hungry to face new challenges. At least, this is how I’ve felt for the last eight years working here,” he says.
Although his days are filled with visits to operational areas and meetings with various other departments and teams, Syamsul is still able to maintain a work-life balance.
“My wife and two sons came with me to the oil palm plantation. At the beginning, it felt difficult as the plantations are far away from the city. But after a few years, we’ve grown used to the environment and the camaraderie shared with the community living near the plantation,” Syamsul explains.
Besides being a leader at work, Syamsul is also a leader within Asian Agri’s employee housing complex, organizing social events such as gatherings and sports activities to improve team bonding.
Syamsul says that he understands what matters in a close-knit rural community, having grown up near an oil palm plantation.
“Holding these activities may seem simple, but it really helps to strengthen our bonds, and we can continuously improve ourselves together in Asian Agri,” he says.
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