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An Interview with Mr. Khoo Kiak Kern, Managing Director of Desmet Ballestra (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd.

Khoo Kiak Kern

K. K. Khoo graduated as a chemical engineer and has a Master in Management Science from the University of Manchester, U.K. He has worked for more than 30 years in the Oil & Fats Industry starting as a project engineer and then as plant manager in one of the leading palm oil refineries in Malaysia. He joined Desmet Ballestra Group in 1992 as general manager for Malaysia office taking care of the operation in the South East Asia region. Later being promoted to managing director taking care of the Desmet Ballestra regional offices in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and China covering the South East Asia, Far East Asia, and China markets.

1. Desmet Ballestra Malaysia has been established since 1978. What are the company’s comparative strengths and strong suit than other refinery companies in the industry?

Desmet Ballestra Malaysia has been in Malaysia since 1978 and the philosophy of the company has always been consistently to bring to the vegetable oils industries (palm oil included) with the latest technology and to provide technical support regionally to all working partners. More than half turnovers of the group are repeat customers some have even been working together for more than 40 years in this region before even our presence in Malaysia.

Desmet Ballestra group started more than 70 years ago with the first extraction plant in Belgium in 1946 and since then the group has expanded the local network globally. We have today more than 21 fully-owned regional offices throughout the world to provide full technical supports locally to all customers.

2. How does Desmet Ballestra aim to develop and supply sustainable technologies of superior quality as there is plenty of companies that have resort to sustainability in their project and products?

With more than 25,000 processing plants globally and the several R&D centres located globally within the group, we are proud to say that all process know-how is developed inhouse within the group network or in collaboration with the technical institution. The group policy of “the Science Behind Technology” approach enables us to introduce to the industries with innovation to meet the ever-growing stringent market requirement in terms of quality and sustainability.

Our in-house technology starts from the extraction of vegetable oils to refined oil and various downstream products – be it for food uses or non-food uses – which we are proud to say we have almost the complete chain of processing technology available in-house. Turning low-grade materials into high value-added products, energy efficiency optimisation, product quality enhancement,

new product developments are some of the areas in which the group has always aiming to focus depending on priority and market trends.

3. Soap and cleaning products have risen due to the outbreak of COVID-19. It has seen an increase in demand in the oleochemical industry. How does Desmet Ballestra’s market in Detergents, Surfactants & Chemical change concerning the situation? What were Desmet Ballestra‘s plans and strategies to strengthen its market by the opportunity that has leaped?

Indeed the need for cleaning and personal care products has risen due to a recent outbreak and our group has always been the technology partners for companies producing these products globally and regionally.

The technology and equipment supplied by us to our customers are associated with the production of renowned household brands found in the markets. Our continued efforts in R&D and working alongside our customers allowing us to ensure the needs of end-users and markets are aligned.

4. Is Desmet Ballestra’s Oleochemical and Biodiesel industry affected by the COVID-19 outbreak? How does Desmet Ballestra plan to serve their customer in these difficult times?

The needs for oleochemical and biodiesels in the region have grown recently and will/might continue to grow to judge from the current market trend. We have the full technical design in our office in Malaysia and the execution/site support team in both Malaysia and Indonesia offices.

This enables us to provide good supports to our existing and new customers in the region. Oleochemicals and Biodiesel are an important part of our group business lines and with the global presence of our operating plants, we can share the different experiences we have within the group in addition to all the new development we have done in our R&D centres.

This enables us to provide our customers with a better competitive edge and up-to-date knowledge of the latest development and technology to meet the increasingly stringent market demands. As traveling is limited due to the current outbreak of COVID-19, we have been providing supports locally if possible or remotely via video-conferencing and/or on-line real-time technical supports.

5. What are Desmet Ballestra’s goals to curb the unforeseen situations caused by the current economy?

The group policy has always been consistent to ensure that our customers are supported and updated with the latest development in the market. With our worldwide network and the knowledge gathered from all the processing plants globally, we can accumulate these extensive field-experiences to share with our customers. Our local presence and the strong IT-based supports from within the group enable us to have a very strong link with all our customers.

6. With over 70 years of experience, what are the advice that Desmet Ballestra would like to give to the players in the palm oil industry?

Over the years we have seen that the palm oil industry has undergone many challenges and revolutionary changes capacities have increased tremendously over the years, advancement in technology, the market requirement has become more stringent, competition becoming more intense, customers’ needs become more demanding, operating costs to be more optimised, etc are some of the major changes we can easily identify.

Thus it is important that we remain vigilant in ensuring that the quality of products should not be compromised as food safety today is one major concerned which could have been over-looked with increasing production and lowering cost due

to competition.


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