SINGAPORE - By the end of next year, 1,000 parcel locker stations will be spread out across the whole island to be within five minutes' walk from Housing Board blocks.
This timeline is one year ahead of the initial schedule as the local authorities race against time to ease the delivery manpower strain from rising e-commerce.
Announcing the new timeline on Friday (July 3), 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 Network will roll out the first batch of around 200 locker stations by the first quarter of 2021.
These locker stations will be located in HDB estates, MRT stations and community clubs, and when all are deployed, they will be within five minutes' walk of any of Singapore's 10,000 HDB blocks.
Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran unveiled the company name in a virtual dialogue session with industry players on Friday afternoon.
He said that beyond the direct creation of jobs for Pick, the launch of the 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 workflow and business process, 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 Network's chief executive officer is Mr New Soon Tee, formerly IMDA's 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 HDB estates, as well as at eight MRT stations.
Mr New said that Pick Network has hiring plans across most functions, whether it be corporate or 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," he said.
Pick Network has signed memorandums 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 its locker stations.
Pick Network is also partnering logistic service providers, such as DHL, EasyParcel, FedEx, J&T Express and Ninja Van, to enable parcel drop-offs and returns through its locker stations.
SingPost, which worked with IMDA on the Locker Alliance trial last year, said that the initiative had yielded significant productivity gains and that it was able to make three to four times more deliveries per hour.
Mr Vincent Phang, SingPost's CEO for postal services and Singapore, said: "It is fundamental to bring to consumers an efficient and convenient way of receiving their e-commerce purchases. We have long been a strong supporter of parcel lockers and are focused on enhancing last-mile delivery solutions for urban Singapore."
The nationwide parcel locker network was first announced in March during the debate on the Ministry of Communications and Information's budget.
Self-collection from parcel lockers is seen as a viable alternative to doorstep deliveries because it saves consumers the hassle of waiting around at home to receive non-essential packages, and helps couriers avoid wasted trips when consumers are not home.
Demand for deliveries had surged in recent months amid the Covid-19 outbreak when people stayed at home to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Ninja Van, for example, saw parcel volumes more than double during the circuit breaker period from April 7 to June 1.