30 September 2023

We will continue to see uncertainty in these volatile times: HWR CEO

HW Richardson Group’s celebrations after winning the Supreme award at the 2023 Southland Business Excellence Awards earlier this month were apparently “unprintable”.

The group, commonly known as HWR, collected a host of awards including the Southern Green Hydrogen Supreme Award, the Findex Rural Sector Excellence Award, the ACC Workplace Safety Award and the Fi Innovations | Innovation Award for its hydrogen project.

While HWR chief executive officer Anthony Jones was not in the country to celebrate, he was quite proud of the company’s work that led to the accolades.

In a phone interview with the Southland Times, the Australian-born Jones said, “I think it’s amazing to be recognised that way down here for our efforts in Southland. We are very proud of our Southland roots, and it’s great to be recognised in our town.”

Of all its wins, Jones cherished most the recognition for safety across its rural transport, fertiliser on farm spreading and livestock handling businesses because of its national significance, followed by its efforts in green hydrogen adoption.

“We say we’re a little humble Southland-based business, but we are really leading the way in regards to hydrogen and adoption, not only in New Zealand, but across the world. So it’s great to be recognised for that innovation,” Jones said.

The company had put its second hydrogen truck on the road under its Freight Haulage Limited (FHL) business which is Southland-based, and expected to get its fuel facility running by January next year.

“We hopefully will have, at this stage, the first high production hydrogen facility in the country … We don’t work for the awards, but it is great to see our teams being recognised for the great work that they do, day in, day out,” he said.

Spreading company safety values across New Zealand

During Christmas last year, the company executed a driver safety campaign with the tag line, ‘You’re almost home. Don’t be almost dead’, to encourage drivers to get rid of the ‘almost’ mentality.

It ran across social media, with videos showing dashcam footage from the company’s vehicle fleet, which demonstrated dangerous driving putting both the driver and other drivers on the road at risk.

Jones said that they received a great response to the campaign.

“One of the reasons we did [the campaign] was because we do see some horrific things that come through in our dash cam footage.

“We did it at Christmas last year, and it was all about [safety], because one of our key values is ‘get home safe’.

“And often, people don’t think about the outcomes or the potential outcomes of their behaviour. We see, too often, near misses that could have been fatalities.

“For us, it was about making sure that the general public and also our people can manage that risk and get home safe to their loved ones,” Jones said.

The footage from the company’s dash cams leads to driver prosecutions, taking dangerous drivers off the road, he said.

“We’ve continued that [campaign] … and we will continue because we never cease to be amazed at the stupidity [and the danger] that some people put them[selves] and other members of the public in, by their actions on the roads,” Jones said.

He said that the engagement with the campaign had encouraged them to keep running it with new footage every month.

“Ultimately, we just want to see a better outcome on New Zealand roads.”

So what separates HWR from other companies, and makes it a good work environment to be in?

“I think it’s something which we’re deeply passionate about here at HWR, just our can-do attitude and how we foster a ‘fail fast’ environment. We try new things, we fail fast, and we give things a go.

“And [at] HWR, it’s all about how we can deliver for our customers, our people and our communities. And innovation, giving things a go, doing something a little bit different is all about what we are”, Jones said.

Skill shortage cooling but not over

Despite its can-do attitude, the company has been, like many others in New Zealand, subject to labour shortages.

Last year, Jones had mentioned that the critical skill shortage was hitting the company hard. However, now, HWR was cautiously optimistic.

“We are starting to see that [skill shortage] abate. There are still pockets where there are shortages. But the cooling in the economy has actually lent itself to there being a bit more availability of labour. But as I said, I don’t think we are fully out of that skill shortage [yet].

“Some people who were previously working here have relocated to Australia, and there is still definitely that drain that’s occurring in New Zealand, but [the] 60 to 100 to 200 people shortages that we were having across our businesses have definitely abated now.”

Source: The Southland Times – 30 September 2023

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