New plan to modernise logistics industry

Logistics firm blu operates 49 bluPort lockers (left) islandwide, mostly at petrol kiosks, malls and Cheers convenience stores, while Go Plus has developed a locker with biometric verification capabilities (right). The two local start-ups are hoping
Logistics firm blu operates 49 bluPort lockers (left) islandwide, mostly at petrol kiosks, malls and Cheers convenience stores, while Go Plus has developed a locker with biometric verification capabilities (right). The two local start-ups are hoping to respond later this year when IMDA is expected to call for proposals for a network of parcel lockers that can be used by all couriers. ST PHOTOS: IRENE THAM

Islandwide network of lockers, cargo space trading system among initiatives

A network of parcel lockers around the island and a trading system billed the "Airbnb of cargo space" are in the works as part of a new plan to modernise the logistics sector.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) yesterday outlined the two initiatives it hopes will make parcel delivery more efficient and lower freight charges for small shippers. It added that the logistics sector is just the start of its modernising efforts.

The authority said the cargo space trading system is part of the first of many blueprints known as Industry Digital Plans (IDPs).

IMDA - which has seen its role grow amid a national drive to go digital - intends to announce more IDPs for sectors where innovation has been lagging.

The goal is to help local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) confront business challenges brought by digital disruption, as spelt out under the SME Go Digital programme. Some $80 million has been made available over the next four years under the scheme, which started in April.

Announcing the plan for the logistics sector yesterday, Finance Minister and Future Economy Council chairman Heng Swee Keat said it is tailored for the industry to grow. "When we talk about the future economy, it is important to remember that amid the changes, we continue to see growth opportunities."

He was speaking at the inaugural Future Economy Conference and Exhibition 2017, organised by the Singapore Business Federation, at Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Marina Bay Sands.

He said: "The rise of the middle class and urbanisation within the region will increase the demand for financial services, hub services, logistics and urban solutions."

The next IDP will be rolled out for the struggling retail industry, with plans for sectors such as food services, wholesale trade, environmental services and security to follow.

The plans will run concurrently with the broad-based industry transformation maps currently being rolled out.

Through these sector-specific IDPs, IMDA will identify projects with the potential to help SMEs grow their business, which will in turn lift the sector. The authority will work with the private sector to co-create technology solutions.

For the logistics sector, one such solution is the Airbnb equivalent for cargo space, where large shippers can sell unused cargo space at a discount to smaller shippers.

IMDA has signed a memorandum of intent with locally based e-freight platform provider vCargo Cloud to create this platform. Two logistics firms - France-based Bollore Logistics (Singapore) and Taiwan-based Dimerco Express Singapore - and insurance broker LCH Lockton are also participating in the project.

Another project is the parcel locker system to reduce house-to-house delivery inefficiencies, especially given the increase in online shopping.

Citing data from logistics providers, IMDA said more than one in 10 deliveries could not be fulfilled largely because recipients were not at home. It is thus looking to roll out a network of lockers - akin to extra large mailboxes - to facilitate deliveries without recipients needing to wait at home.

Similar systems already exist, for example, SingPost's POPStation and Ninja Van's Ninja Boxes. But they work separately and are not integrated.

The locker system proposed will not be tied to any single operator, and can be used by all couriers, potentially benefiting more than 7,600 logistics service providers here.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2017, with the headline 'New plan to modernise logistics industry'. Print Edition | Subscribe