Royal Brunei Technical Services (RBTS) is uniquely placed to exceed customers’ requirements. It engages and partners with key manufacturers and suppliers in delivering value for money solutions in the best interests of customers. This makes RBTS the leading acquisition management and systems management service provider in the country. In this interview, CEO, Col (Rtd) Muzri Mokhsin, discusses the evolution of the company over past decade and how it is contributing to Brunei’s Vision 2035 plan through training of the workforce
What was the idea behind the creation of Royal Brunei Technical Services (RBTS) and how has it evolved over the years?
RBTS was formed 29 years ago with the sole objective of being an authorized procurement agency for strategic operational requirements of all relevant security agencies in Brunei. Our main customers since then have always been the defence and security sectors, with the Ministry of Defence being our main client, followed by the Royal Brunei Police Forces and other security-related agencies. Our core business focuses on procurement services, forming close to 85% of the company’s revenue stream with the balance coming from the provision of after-sales support services.
Recently in 2016, RBTS re-strategized its market position from being a procurement service provider to a holistic solution service provider by offering life cycle management (LCM) services to its customers. Due to rising demands in managing capital strategic assets life-cycle, we foresee our role more as a supporting partner in optimizing our customers’ capital investments. With this new strategic direction, RBTS has expanded its capabilities into 5 different market sectors to capture the various growth opportunities in the local market. These include providing Acquisition Management Services, Engineering Services, Logistics Services, Defence Skill and Training Services and Explosive Handling Services.
Can you share some of the milestones achieved by RBTS and some examples of successful partnerships with international companies or organizations?
Almost 3 decades after the company’s formation, RBTS has come a long way from being a sole procurement agent for the government of Brunei Darussalam that focused on delivering strategic buys for the security and defence industry, to diversifying its core business of delivering life cycle management services for highly invested assets. The transition in the company’s portfolio is visible and has been incrementally expanding in the last 10 years. This is reflected by RBTS’s venture into the automotive industry in 2007 followed by training industry in 2011 and extending its scope further into dangerous goods handling in 2013.
We clearly see ourselves carrying out the role of a supporting partner to our customers, particularly, our defence and security customers; by supporting them with their non-core activities, in particular, the logistics support elements; this will allow the security agencies to focus solely on maintaining their core business. And I believe this is where RBTS capabilities can contribute effectively to support our customer’s operational needs.
To ensure RBTS remains competitive in delivering its services to its customers, we have progressively worked towards building up our strategic partnership networks with reliable market leaders globally. Just recently last year, RBTS achieved a major milestone in providing training services, where RBTS partnered with one of France’s leading training service provider, Defense Conseil International Services and Assistance (DCI-SA), to provide 10 years of naval training to the Royal Brunei Navy. This partnership will become our platform to enhance local trainers’ knowledge and skills towards meeting international standards and receiving global recognition. This is one of RBTS’s contribution in supporting Brunei Vision 2035 in meeting the local workforce skill development objective.
Another successful collaboration initiative is the public private partnership (PPP) project between RBTS and Ministry of Defence for the establishment of Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) Training Simulation Centre back in 2011. In this collaboration effort, RBTS worked with Meggitt Training Systems to build and maintain the simulation facilities for a contract period of 15 years and to provide simulation training on small arms and mortar to RBAF personnel with the objective of enhancing RBAF personnel shooting skills. This simulation facility will be handed over to RBAF after the contract ends.
How does RBTS fit with vision 2035? How are you supporting the diversification efforts of the country through Life Cycle Management services?
Our new strategic direction as a LCM service provider will put more emphasis on building our employees’ competencies to international standards. Our main contribution towards Brunei’s vision 2035 is by becoming one of the major players in building our local workforce to attain required technical skills that meet the highest international standards and are recognized by the global market. This in turn will help increase Brunei’s labour and service market value in international markets.
Making LCM our core business will automatically help diversify Brunei’s economy through the expansion of supporting industries such as the engineering and logistics sectors. In fact RBTS’s long-term commitment is to help build the local supporting engineering and logistics industries towards global competitiveness. And this is how the RBTS Transformation Plan 2020 will contribute towards Brunei’s Diversification Plan, in moving away from heavy reliance on the Oil & Gas Industry.
Looking at foreign investment, Brunei has for two consecutives years been the most improved economy in the ease of doing business report by the World Bank. How do you think that a company like RBTS serves also to ease the doing business in Brunei and how can Japanese companies benefit from this?
The nature of our business involves us working with international companies a lot of times mainly from the western world; I see this experience as a core strength, which can help with the ease of doing business in Brunei, particularly, in helping any FDI company to settle in Brunei. We have a successful track record.
What would you outline as the key element that make RBTS the perfect partner of choice for Japanese companies looking to operate in Brunei?
There are several factors - the nature of our business, our past successful experience in building strategic partnerships and our commitment towards ensuring services are of international standards. Apart from that, we are also a government-linked company that can provide assurance to our international partners in relation to ensuring company stability and strong corporate governance. We are 100% owned by the government yet we enjoy financial flexibility as other corporate companies. Our global supplier networks also put us in the best position to remain competitive in the industry, and adding Japanese companies to our supplier networks will definitely boost our market strengths.
Another benefit that our partners can enjoy is the flexibility of contract structures that can be explored for partnership initiatives. Of course, we are looking for a long-term partnership but we do not limit our collaboration initiatives to a buy and sell partner-relationships; we prioritize and are committed towards building value-added services for our partners and customers.
Having the experience of working in highly technological advanced industries like defence and security, how does this help to ensure the highest-quality services as you transition to other industries?
For RBTS Transformation Plan 2020 to be implemented effectively and efficiently as planned, we have outlined 3 main objectives to focus on in the next 3 years, i.e.: Improve Quality of Service, Develop Human Capacity and Obtain New Revenue Streams. The last objective focuses purely on the financial aspect of the company’s performance. The first two are where we are putting much effort on at the moment in order to derive our financial objective.
Our past experience of working with the defence and security industries showed that technical and allocative efficiency as well as quality services are valued highly. As we move to becoming a LCM service provider, certain essential factors must therefore be prioritised. Last year alone, we invested heavily in IT solutions in order for our procurement operations to be fully automated and to deliver reliable, timely and consistent services to our customers. We also invested heavily in building our employees’ competencies in order to match the required level of skills needed for our LCM services. It is important for the company to strike a balance between automation and having sufficient numbers of trained personnel in ensuring consistency in our services; hence, service re-engineering is one of our key initiatives to ensure highest quality of service is met.
Furthermore, some of our business units are also ISO certificated. We are in the process of revamping our quality system to comply with ISO 9000:2015. We are also trying to get certification for ISO 14000 on environment and safety. So those are the three objectives that we are aiming to achieve in the next couple of years.
Why would you encourage Japanese investors to come to Brunei? What added value can Japanese investors bring to this market?
On top of the ease of doing business and investment incentives offered by the Brunei government, Brunei’s geographical location and its political stability is key to why Brunei is potentially the preferred country for FDI. Furthermore, our literacy rates are high and there's a high level of tertiary educated people here. The government has also strengthened efforts in enhancing the technical capabilities of the nation by offering more vocational training to create a much broader technical and competent workforce. The pay scale is also comparatively similar to other countries in the region. When you invest in a country, you try to invest in the long term rather than short term. So you're looking for those conditions that provide opportunities for you to be able to invest long-term and be able to actually produce. We see that Japanese investors can bring with them not only technical qualities to which we aspire but also the corporate disciplined culture they are well known for as well as potential research and development opportunities that we are lacking in.
How do you envision the future of RBTS and what would you like to accomplish in the upcoming years?
Within the next coming years, RBTS envisions itself to be the leading service provider in delivering holistic solutions for its customers. Its services have expanded from exclusive asset acquisition for its customers to managing their customers’ asset throughout the asset’s life span, such as, delivering after-sales service support including obsolescence management and asset disposal. Through this newly adopted core business, RBTS market share is expected to increase exponentially from serving the defence and security industry to cater to a broader market segment made up of non-defence industries particularly, the engineering sector.
Through the RBTS Transformation Plan 2020, RBTS aims to position itself as one of the local companies that can help develop a highly skilled workforce, particularly, in the engineering and logistic services industries. In the wider context, RBTS’s new direction will benefit the country from an FDI perspective through the optimization of capital investment by potential investors.