Speeding up deliveries at malls

Shoppers at Bedok Mall.
Shoppers at Bedok Mall. PHOTO: CAPITALAND

Delivery trucks used to park for an average of 24 minutes at the delivery bays of Tampines Mall and Bedok Mall. These days, that has been cut to just seven minutes and the malls are optimistic they can streamline the process even more.

Thanks to an initiative spearheaded by the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) and CapitaLand, the breakthrough is down, in part, to the two malls adopting a dock scheduling and queue management system developed by local firm Gurusoft.

And although only 30 per cent of tenants have since embraced the new system at both malls, it is hoped that more will come on board after they see the benefits.

Said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim: "Given how dense our society is, this is the right way to go to alleviate some of the stresses." He hopes that by showcasing the benefits, malls throughout Singapore will eventually adopt such a system. There are plans to roll it out in IMM Building, JCube, Westgate and Bukit Panjang Plaza next year.

In-mall distribution is part of a larger effort - including the use of driverless vehicles - to raise productivity in the logistics sector.

Logistics providers and mall operators can tap a $20 million fund announced in October last year - and jointly managed by IMDA and Spring Singapore - to defray the cost of technology.

Dr Yaacob was touring Tampines Mall yesterday to observe how the computerised dock scheduling system works. Congestion is common as retailers want to replenish their stock by 10am when they open for business. With the in-mall handler to receive and store the goods on behalf of retailers, the latter can choose to receive the goods any time in the day. This allows delivery to start as early as 7am without having the retailer at the mall to receive the goods.

Mr Joseph Lee, director of First Gourmet which owns the Prata Wala chain, said: "I've been able to double the number of delivery trips in the morning." His trucks are able to make more trips as they no longer have to wait for a long time at the two malls' delivery bays.

However, the system is not for everyone. McDonald's Singapore, for instance, said the mall-operated system is not suitable for handling food and it would rather stick to its current methods.

"McDonald's has stringent requirements around quality and compliance and this includes the safe handling of food, separate halal-certified storage facilities, food safety and security, among others," said Ms Tan Lay Peng, the restaurant chain's senior director of supply chain and quality assurance.

Mr Raymond Yue, watch seller City Chain's area manager, said its staff need to count the watches and check their condition upon delivery. "We also don't handle anything more than a small bag each time," he said, adding that there is no need to incur additional costs with the in-mall distribution system.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2016, with the headline 'Speeding up deliveries at malls'. Print Edition | Subscribe