Jobs in logistics sector will change or be displaced with new-technology adoption

More than 86,000 workers are employed in the logistics sector here.
More than 86,000 workers are employed in the logistics sector here.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Job roles in the logistics sector are on the "move" with the adoption of Industry 4.0 technology solutions, with changes or displacement of positions expected in the next three to five years.

Of 56 positions studied in the Jobs Transformation Map (JTM) for the sector, about 54 per cent of job roles - which 36,000 workers account for - will experience at least a "medium degree of change" which will require job redesign or undergo displacement.

Overall, all job roles are expected to experience some level of change.

New roles, such as in data analysis and software development, are beginning to emerge, and this trend is expected to accelerate.

These findings from the JTM for the logistics sector were outlined in the 28th Jobs Situation Report released on Friday (Nov 26).

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said the changes to job roles in the logistics sector should make the work more fulfilling, and the emerging positions offer bright prospects.

He was speaking to the media on Friday at a virtual press conference after a visit to ST Logistics' facility in Clementi Loop.

Dr Tan said: “I encourage employers to redesign jobs to increase the attractiveness and appeal of their roles to new and existing talents. This will also help to raise productivity and enable workers to deliver greater value for the business with more value-added tasks.”

More than 86,000 workers are employed in the logistics sector here, based on 2019 data.

The JTM for the logistics sector is championed by the Economic Development Board and supported by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Enterprise Singapore, SkillsFuture Singapore and Workforce Singapore.

The map was launched in June last year. Similar maps have been launched for the wholesale trade, human resources and financial services sectors.

Eleven more JTMs are being developed to cover other sectors, such as food manufacturing and construction, to help guide businesses and workers in transformation efforts to seize new opportunities in their respective sectors.

In the joint release on Friday, MOM and the four agencies highlighted several findings on the changes in job roles.

Some positions, like warehouse assistants, may be disrupted as transactional tasks, which are manual, labour-intensive and repetitive, become automated.

Workers in such jobs will need to reskill to take on redesigned roles or be redeployed to new ones.


An ST Logistics employee showing Manpower Minister Tan See Leng (left) the automated storage and retrieval system the company has deployed at its Clementi Loop facility. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF MANPOWER

Other positions, such as freight inspectors, inventory management managers and transport executives, will also see their scope augmented by technology to boost efficiency.

The report noted that workers above the age of 40 make up a significant proportion - 63.1 per cent - of local staff in the logistics sector. With the experience and expertise built up over the years, employers can continue to tap this talent pool through upskilling and reskilling.

Training should not, however, be limited to just older workers, but also be extended to younger staff, whose responsibilities are constantly shifting with the adoption of new technologies.

Firms can consider introducing in-house initiatives to build relevant skills or using WSG's career conversion programmes (CCPs) or the Infocomm Media Development Authority's Tech Immersion and Placement Programme, the report said.

Close to 650 workers from 226 companies have tapped CCPs relevant to the logistics sector as at September this year.

ST Logistics is among firms which have automated processes and embraced CCPs to fulfil new roles over the past two years. The logistics company works with public sector and commercial customers in the region.

Through the CCPs, ST Logistics employees learnt how to use new technologies to leverage data insights and reduce labour-intensive work, improving efficiency and output.

Mr Loganathan Ramasamy, chief executive of ST Logistics, said: "While we put in money to upgrade our facilities and... bring in autonomous systems, it's equally or more important to make sure that our workforce is ready to use these technologies to enhance productivity."

It is important to help staff build confidence in using these systems and make them feel like they are part of the company's transformation, he added.

Mr Mohammad Zailan Bujang, 51, a senior logistics coordinator at ST Logistics, was previously a senior logistics assistant whose responsibilities included manual picking and packing of orders. 

After the firm implemented new technology in the warehouse, he was trained to operate automated systems and has also been taught how to do basic maintenance and generation of reports. 

While he was initially daunted by the task given that he was not computer-savvy, Mr Zailan was also excited about the challenge and wanted to be able to keep up with the times. 

“In the end, it was not as difficult as I thought and I am amazed at how much productivity comes out of using automated systems,” he said. 

Correction note: This article has been edited for accuracy.