Automated trolley pushers scoop top award for vendor at Changi Airport ceremony

Aviation security officer Nguyen Thi Tuyet Trang (right) won the Service Personality of the Year, while Smarte Carte trolley supervisor Mohammad Noor Abdullah was recognised with an Outstanding Custodial Staff (Bronze) award at Changi Airport's 25th Annual Airport Celebration. ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

SINGAPORE - It takes a lot of effort to run a world class airport. Even things passengers take for granted, like cleanliness and availability of luggage trolleys, are carefully managed.

Against a backdrop of manpower constraints, Changi Airport Group has turned to automation, introducing initiatives like smart bins that use sensors to alert cleaners when full.

Vendors there are doing the same. On Tuesday (Feb 13), the airport's trolley management vendor Smarte Carte Singapore won the service partner of the year award at the Airport's annual ceremony for its efforts that boost productivity.

The Singapore chapter of the US-based company uses an automated pushing device to wheel around up to 24 trolleys at a time - more than twice what one human worker could manage - removing the physical strain.

Smarte Carte Singapore's general manager Anthony Lim said it has been a challenge to convince his staff - who have an average age of 67 - to embrace technology, but the company has also been encouraging them to take care of their well-being.

"Gradually, employees will feel more motivated and be more receptive to new ideas. What is important is to show them that you care," he said.

Mr Lim received the award from Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who was guest-of-honour. "I'm very happy to receive the award, and proud of the work of Smarte Carte staff. It also puts on pressure for us to ensure that we continue the good work," said Mr Lim.

Labour MP Zainal Sapari told The Straits Times that as Singapore progresses, it is important that companies with large numbers of elderly workers - such as cleaning and security firms - redesign jobs to suit the age profile of their workers. They should also use technology to ensure that less physical exertion is required.

"This is critically important, especially since few Singaporeans want to take such jobs, and with the tightened quotas on foreign workers. We have to change mindsets and leverage technology to make it easier for the elderly," said Mr Zainal.

Smarte Carte was one of about 30 award recipients at the 25th Annual Airport Celebration, held at the Ritz-Carlton Millenia Hotel, which recognises individuals and partner organisations who have "exemplified service excellence by going beyond their call of duty".

Award winners receive voucher prizes of between $750 and $10,000.

Another recipient was Ms Trang Nguyen, 27. The aviation security officer from Certis Cisco Aviation Security was given the service personality of the year award - the other top award - for her efforts in saving two passengers in life-threatening situations.

The Vietnamese worker helped dislodge a sweet from the throat of a little girl who had been choking, and administered first aid on a passenger suffering an epileptic fit.

Mr Lee Seow Hiang, chief executive of Changi Airport Group, said: "Changi continues to be a bright spark on the world map because our people have taken on this mission to serve above and beyond the call of duty."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.