Faster processing of parcels with Changi's e-Commerce AirHub

At the Sats facility, mail bags are placed on conveyor belts, sorted and dispatched to different chutes.
At the Sats facility, mail bags are placed on conveyor belts, sorted and dispatched to different chutes.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Online shoppers can expect a shorter wait for their items with the opening of a $21 million facility at Changi Airport where products shipped from overseas are automatically scanned, sorted and immediately handed to SingPost for delivery.

In the past, these standard postage items were manually scanned and sorted, said ground handler Sats.

With the latest technology and automation processes, the centre is able to process more than 1,800 bags of parcels an hour - up from 500 previously. It currently han- dles more than 9,000 bags a day.

The total turnaround time for scanning, sorting and handing over to SingPost or loading onto flights for outbound mail has also been reduced by half - from six hours to three.

This means items bound for other markets can be put on earlier flights for faster delivery, Sats president and chief executive Alex Hungate said at the official launch of the Sats e-Commerce AirHub yesterday.

  • More work done in less time

  • Automation has halved processing time and tripled handling capacity at a new Sats facility at Changi Airport for handling standard postage items.

    • Mail bags are placed on conveyor belts. The sorting system scans the barcode on the bags and channels them to different chutes - assigned either by flights or destinations if they are outbound. Inbound mail is handed to SingPost.

    • Along the way, the bags are screened by X-ray machines. If suspicious items are detected, the bags are channelled to a separate chute.

    • Bags are dropped into a container-like trolley and, from there, loaded onto the different flights or handed to SingPost.

    • Transit mail that arrives a few days before connecting flights is stored in a separate area before being automatically rerouted at the right time.

The new facility, co-funded by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), allows Changi to enhance its e-commerce capabilities, he added.

CAAS director-general Kevin Shum said the collaboration with Sats is "part of our efforts to transform Singapore aviation, make the sector more efficient and competitive, create better jobs and improve productivity using technology".

Trade and Industry (Industry) Minister S. Iswaran, who was at the opening, said Singapore is well placed to ride on the region's growing e-commerce business.

Within South-east Asia - the world's fastest-growing Internet region - the user base is expected to rise from 260 million users today to around 480 million users by 2020.

Driven by this growth, the Internet economy in the region is projected to reach US$200 billion (S$279 billion) by 2025, he noted.

Several leading e-commerce companies have already invested in Singapore, Mr Iswaran pointed out.

Last year, Alibaba invested US$1 billion in Singapore-based e-commerce start-up Lazada Group.

A growing number of local e-commerce start-ups, such as Reebonz, have also scaled up their e-commerce platforms from Singapore to regional markets, he said.

While the global air freight market remained healthy last year, long-term trends indicate that the sector is facing over-capacity as supply of cargo space has been outstripping shipping demand.

Amid these developments, e-commerce will be an important growth driver for the logistics industry, and the new e-commerce facility will strengthen Changi Airport's attractiveness and value proposition as a leading air hub, Mr Iswaran said.

As the logistics and aviation sector transforms through technology, it will also create new and better job opportunities for Singaporeans, he added.

On future plans for the facility, Mr Hungate said: "With ever-increasing e-commerce mail volumes, Sats has deliberately designed this eCommerce AirHub to be modular so that we can increase throughput even further with only incremental investment."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2017, with the headline 'Faster processing of parcels with Changi's e-Commerce AirHub'. Print Edition | Subscribe