Supply chains, interrupted

Logistics workers ensure timely delivery of goods

For 12 hours a day, Mr Kumaran Panjanathan inspects products from shipments on arrival, checks inventory levels in the warehouse, and picks and packs supplies for deliveries to clients.

The 47-year-old warehouse supervisor is responsible for overseeing the inventory and food supplies of Seafrigo's customers, to ensure that they do not run out of stocks amid the global supply chain disruptions.

"We do stock counts every day and we will inform our customers when their inventory levels are low or if the expiry dates of their food are near," said Mr Kumaran.

The two-month circuit breaker last year and the various dining restrictions that followed have greatly impacted the flow of food supplies for some customers.

Some food and beverage operators had to fly in supplies when items ran out quickly after dining curbs were lifted, as ships would take too long to arrive, he noted.

Others had to order greater quantities since shipping schedules have become unpredictable because of port congestion caused by, among other factors, Covid-19 outbreaks.

Since the start of the peak year-end season in October, Mr Kumaran's work has been more exhausting than ever. He works from 7.30am to 7.30pm from Mondays to Fridays, and half a day on Saturdays.

There are shipments arriving every day and deliveries to arrange for clients, he said.

Among the clients of Seafrigo, a food logistics specialist, are Marks & Spencer, French bakery Paul and Cold Storage.

"Festive products for Marks & Spencer run out very fast. Every day, I will have deliveries from the warehouse to the stores. And I need to keep track and alert the client when supply is low," said Mr Kumaran.

Front-line workers like him play an important role in ensuring that supply chains for their clients are not broken.

Logistics providers, too, are rising to the occasion by working round the clock.

Mr Terence Tan, managing director of UEI Logistics, has staggered working hours for his staff so that they can keep track of shipments.

"If they are not working, the transport providers will continue to monitor the shipments for us. We have a very efficient port system. Sometimes, (port operator) PSA will discharge containers at odd hours," said Mr Tan, 57.

Since the fourth quarter of last year, PSA Singapore has rolled out measures including offering real-time visibility of cargo and their status and priority discharge of containers, to help cushion the blow of the global chain upheavals for cargo owners and shipping lines.

The efficiency of Singapore, the world's largest transhipment hub, has also allowed shipping lines to make up for lost time and connections.

Joyce Lim

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2021, with the headline Logistics workers ensure timely delivery of goods. Subscribe