By the end of next year, 1,000 parcel locker stations will be set up islandwide, so lockers will be within a five-minute walk of Housing Board blocks.
This is one year ahead of the initial schedule, as the authorities are racing against time to ease the strain on delivery manpower from rising e-commerce activity.
Announcing the new timeline yesterday, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said it will be incorporating a wholly-owned subsidiary, Pick Network, to deploy, own and operate the locker network.
Pick will roll out the first batch of about 200 locker stations by the first quarter of next year.
These lockers will be located in HDB estates, MRT stations and community clubs. When the network is complete, the lockers will be within five minutes' walk of any of Singapore's 10,000 HDB blocks.
In a virtual industry briefing yesterday, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said that beyond the direct creation of jobs for Pick, the launch of the locker network will have a "knock-on effect" across the logistics industry.
"The more you can enhance the productivity - because you don't have to do door-to-door delivery for every parcel - (the more) you're able to enhance the job scope, whether in terms of the volume or the value in functions," he said.
Noting that service providers will need to remodel their business processes, Mr Iswaran added: "The nationwide parcel locker network will transform Singapore's last-mile delivery infrastructure and create a sustainable delivery ecosystem which will benefit both consumers and industry players."
Pick's chief executive New Soon Tee said the company has hiring plans across most functions, for corporate and technological roles as well as in operations.
"Because we are accelerating the timeline, we have to put in place more project resources on the ground to make sure that we can help in the installation and deployment process," said the former IMDA cluster director for trade and connectivity.
He was in charge of last year's Locker Alliance pilot, a trial for the nationwide locker network, which saw the deployment of 62 locker stations in Punggol and Bukit Panjang, as well as in eight MRT stations.
Pick has signed memoranda of intent with e-commerce marketplaces such as Lazada, Qoo10 and Shopee, so that customers purchasing items from them will be able to pick up their parcels from Pick locker stations.
Pick is also partnering logistics service providers such as DHL, EasyParcel, FedEx, J&T Express and Ninja Van to enable parcel drop-offs and returns through its locker stations.
Singapore Post, which worked with IMDA on the Locker Alliance trial last year, said it was able to make three to four times more deliveries an hour.
Mr Vincent Phang, SingPost's chief executive for postal services and Singapore, said: "We are focused on enhancing last-mile delivery solutions for urban Singapore."
The nationwide parcel locker network was first announced in Parliament in March.
Self-collection from parcel lockers is seen as a viable alternative to doorstep deliveries because it saves customers the hassle of waiting at home to receive non-essential packages, and helps couriers avoid wasted trips when customers are not home.
Demand for deliveries surged in recent months amid the Covid-19 outbreak, when people stayed at home to stem the spread of the virus.
Ninja Van, for example, saw parcel volumes more than double during the circuit breaker period from April 7 to June 1.