SINGAPORE: Drone postal deliveries and a mall where customers can arrange for purchases to be delivered to their homes from in-house computers may become a reality, with research carried out at Singapore Post's (SingPost) new Centre of Innovation (COI) launched on Tuesday (Nov 1).
The research facility, set up in August last year with the support from the Economic Development Board, is meant to carry out research into new logistics and postal services and products in collaboration with research institutions and institutions of higher learning, SingPost said in a press release.
Emphasis will be placed on new technologies such as robotics and automation to meet the needs of future customers and markets and serve as tools for SingPost’s employees, the national mail service added.
SingPost said the COI will deliver significant enhancements to its eCommerce logistics platform as well as work on options for the SingPost mall - a physical mall integrated with eCommerce options. It will also transform its post offices to provide customers options to transact more quickly and easily through technology, and link these improvements to a new version of the Self-service Automated Machine (SAM).
For more innovative delivery solutions, the COI is also experimenting with drone delivery across the island and building the next generation of POPStations, SingPost said. POPStations are the mail service's automated postal boxes, where customers can collect or return parcels at various locations islandwide.
A nationwide parcel locker system, first announced in April, will also be rolled out in Housing and Development Board estates by the end of next year, announced Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Tuesday.
This is meant to ease the last-mile delivery challenges of small parcels, such as recipients not being at home when delivery company employees arrive with the packages.
The success of the stationwide lockers project depends on a few factors, Mr Tharman said. "First is the coverage of the locker network. It must be pervasive enough for people to think about it and for business models to shift. We will roll out the network in phases in our HDB estates and the aim is to have islandwide coverage.
"Because it's an evolving space, and the technologies are evolving, it's important to have a healthy degree of competition for the operation of different segments of this nationwide network, so we continue to see innovation and competitive pricing for consumers. The Government will therefore be inviting current and interested operators to participate in this islandwide locker network."
He added the approach will be finalised after industry consultations, which are expected to finish by the second half of 2017.
TAMPINES E-COMMERCE LOGISTICS HUB LAUNCHED
On Tuesday, SingPost also launched its S$182 million Regional eCommerce Logistics Hub at the Tampines Logistics Park. The facility is SingPost's largest eCommerce logistics investment in Singapore to date, it said.
According to SingPost, the Hub is a three-storey facility with a total built-up area of 553,000 square feet, housing two warehousing floors, 150 simultaneous loading bays and an office block. The ground floor of the building houses a fully-automated parcel sorting facility with a capacity of up to 100,000 parcels a day, and end-to-end sorting, shipping and returns management capabilities that enable quicker order fulfilment.
The parcel sorting system on the first floor and the warehouse on the second floor are both automated at the facility, which will process parcels for delivery within Singapore and overseas.
Inside SingPost's Regional eCommerce Logistics Hub. (Photo: Nicole Tan)
Speaking at the launch of the Hub, Mr Tharman said the domestic logistics sector was a "fragmented and inefficient system", for which there was "scope for tremendous productivity improvement".
Mr Tharman also outlined measures to speed up consolidation of deliveries to malls, saying that in-mall consolidation of distribution pilot programmes launched for malls in Tampines and Bedok earlier this year have progressed well, and the initiative will be rolled out to 12 more malls by the end of next year.
SingPost’s chairman, Simon Israel, described the opening of the Hub as a "milestone" in the expansion of SingPost’s eCommerce logistics network, which he said now spans 19 markets across Asia Pacific, Europe and the US.
"Singapore’s regional connectivity makes it ideally positioned to be a centre for eCommerce. Our Regional eCommerce Logistics Hub leverages on this geographic and infrastructural advantage. Everything in this building is scalable, which means we can keep upgrading it to meet the needs of the future," he said.
He added that he expected the Hub to help broaden SingPost's role in urban logistics in Singapore.
"With the Regional eCommerce Logistics Hub, our POPStation network and our investments into technologies for new postal and logistics solutions, we are prepared for a sustainable future of car-lite cities and the sharing economy," Mr Israel said.
IE Singapore's deputy chief executive officer, Chua Taik Him, said the statutory board has been working closely with SingPost on its regional business strategies.
"Given the strong growth of eCommerce in Southeast Asia, the launch of SingPost’s facility will further support its local and overseas growth. This will also enhance Singapore’s capabilities in fulfilment and facilitate more regional eCommerce trade flows," he said in the press release.