Smart robots set to boost productivity at Changi

A robotic chef that prepares laksa, an automated food delivery vehicle and smart wheelchairs are some of the new technologies unveiled at the new virtual centre called TechnIC@SATS.
Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng getting a first-hand look at robotic chef Roboto at the TechnIC@SATS exhibition. The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, Economic Development Board and Sats have pledged $110 million to a technology innov
Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng getting a first-hand look at robotic chef Roboto at the TechnIC@SATS exhibition. The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, Economic Development Board and Sats have pledged $110 million to a technology innovation centre.PHOTO: SATS

TechnIC@SATS initiative to automate manpower-intensive tasks at airport

Picture a convoy of three wheelchairs guided by vision-based technology following a Changi Airport staff.

Passengers would not have to wheel themselves around the terminals.

The Smart Wheelchair System is on trial at the airport.

Other technologies being considered include Roboto, a prototype robotic chef that could prepare laksa for passengers at the Sats Premier Lounges in Changi Airport in future.

They were among 13 technological exhibits unveiled yesterday at an exhibition held at Changi Airport Terminal 3.

At the event, Sats, the chief ground-handling and in-flight catering service provider at Singapore Changi Airport, launched the TechnIC@SATS initiative - its rebranded technology innovation centre.

The centre is supported and co-funded by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and the Economic Development Board.

The three organisations have committed $110 million to the centre.

"Through this initiative, we can leverage technology to automate manpower-intensive processes, thus raising Changi (Airport's) productivity and efficiency," said Mr Ng Chee Meng, Second Minister for Transport, in a statement.

Mr Ng, who is also Minister for Education (Schools), said the Government hopes to see the development of more partnerships and new ideas to "further enhance Changi's competitiveness through innovation and productivity".

In the past two months, Changi Airport has also been testing smart vehicles that utilise Follow-Me technology to transport food trolleys.

The Dolly system allows an employee to transport up to three food trolleys together.

"Before, it was very manpower-intensive, and some (employees) even suffered from back injuries because of (pushing individual food trolleys)," said Mr Donald Lum, Sats' assistant vice-president of technology.

With the Dolly system, airport catering staff have to push only a small food trolley, with larger food trolleys weighing between 150kg and 200kg moving smoothly across the carpeted floor closely behind.

Sats said many of the technological innovations were inspired by their employees.

Ms Pauline Tan, senior vice-president of technology at Sats, said: "Our employees in the various business units are encouraged to come up with ideas on how we could use technology to improve productivity or enhance our services."

She said TechnIC@SATS does not have a physical location.

"It is on the tarmac and in the corridors of the airport terminals. We work collaboratively with our business units to build and implement the solutions," added Ms Tan.

Mr Alex Hungate, Sats president and chief executive officer, said constant innovation and productivity gains are crucial in today's competitive marketplace.

He said that by harnessing the power of information and technology, Sats can provide more dynamic, agile services that make travel more seamless for passengers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2017, with the headline 'Smart robots set to boost productivity at Changi'. Print Edition | Subscribe