Nationwide parcel locker network in the works

Under the new initiative, a nationwide system of lockers, similar to Singpost's POPStation (pictured), will be set up to help facilitate the delivery of ecommerce items.
Under the new initiative, a nationwide system of lockers, similar to Singpost's POPStation (pictured), will be set up to help facilitate the delivery of ecommerce items.PHOTO: ST FILE

It is a common headache for both online shoppers and deliverymen - the eagerly awaited parcel arrives but nobody is at home to receive it.

There are plans to solve this problem by placing lockers near people's homes, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday, adding that Singapore would likely be the first country to do this nationwide.

Mr Tharman, also Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, was speaking at the opening of consumer goods sourcing giant Li & Fung's subsidiary LF Logistics' regional distribution hub in Jurong West.

E-commerce is on the rise, but "last-mile" delivery - that final link in the logistics chain from the seller to the customer's doorstep - is still an inefficient business in many parts of the world, including Singapore, he noted.

According to Visa's 2015 Consumer Payment Attitudes Survey, over 70 per cent of consumers here shop online at least once a month.

While there are many players in last-mile delivery, what would really help the industry is common infrastructure, Mr Tharman said.

So the Infocomm Development Authority and economic agencies are working with businesses on these "federated lockers" for small parcels. "It will be implemented in areas with higher demand first, before we scale this up in neighbourhoods around the island to create a nationwide common parcel locker system."

Details such as the cost of the project, timeline and the number of lockers are set to be unveiled later.

Some companies, including SingPost and logistics start-up Ninja Van, have started their own locker systems, but Mr Tharman noted it would be impractical and costly if each company were to have its own lockers in each neighbourhood.

Ninja Van chief executive Lai Chang Wen sees the government initiative as an opportunity for collaboration. "All efforts to improve customer experience, including this government initiative, will help propel the growth of e-commerce."

Mr Tharman said domestic logistics is in "greatest need of transformation", and the Government has two pilot projects to raise productivity in the industry.

One will see a logistics operator placed within a mall to receive and consolidate goods, then deliver them to shops. The second is an offsite consolidation centre to ensure trucks making deliveries to a mall and its precinct are fully optimised.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2016, with the headline 'Nationwide parcel locker network in the works'. Print Edition | Subscribe