SINGAPORE: For Singapore to become a key player in the global supply chain, logistics firms here need to adopt new technologies and improve productivity, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Wednesday (Jul 18).
“Today, a typical item that enters Singapore, either from the port, the airport or the Causeway will probably have zipped around the island a few times before it finally reaches the hands of the final consumers,” said Mr Chan, adding that it is a situation that is “highly inefficient, highly unproductive and a waste of time and money".
Speaking at the opening of Australian logistics company Toll Group’s S$228 million logistics hub, Mr Chan said he wants to make this a thing of the past, but that requires all logistics firms to continue innovating and to utilise their resources more effectively.
“What we have today – automated vehicles picking items from the shelves and loading them onto the trucks – is just one part of our innovation in the entire supply chain," said the minister.
“I have a dream where all the things in the warehouse are organised overnight in the dark – picked, packed and delivered in the night to all the destinations, without holding up the traffic or fighting with the daytime logistics flow. That is how smart urban cities should look like," he added.
Mr Chan said this is why Singapore needs to testbed new concepts on this front, and build it into a competitive advantage. This way, Singapore can also be a role model and a testbed for many other countries, particularly in Asia.
He cited Toll Group as one of the firms that is contributing to this vision of improving Singapore’s logistics and supply chains, and which has successfully done away with labour-intensive operations through the help of automation and digitalisation.
For instance, automated guided vehicles and smart shelving systems at its new hub have helped Toll Group reduce manpower costs and ramp up its efficiency by up to 30 per cent. The company is also constantly working on new solutions that will help to maximise the usage of space in its warehouses.
When asked if the use of automated equipment has displaced jobs, Toll Group’s executive vice president for global logistics, Mr Vincent Phang, told Channel NewsAsia that, on the contrary, it presents the company and its workforce with new opportunities.
Mr Phang said: "If anything, the opportunity for us to automate allows us to create new and better jobs for our workforce.
"From an operator standpoint, it no longer is just about operating a single forklift, it could be that such an operator is operating a fleet of forklifts or being a supply chain planner, so that gives us the opportunity to upskill our talent and to create more meaningful jobs for them."
He said the firm is able to ensure a healthy pipeline of talent through the government's Professional Conversion Programme, as well as working closely with polytechnics to attract its graduates into the industry.