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25 Sep 2020 Updated 28 Sep 2020

Logistics firms wield digital tools to boost operations

The Straits Times Choo Yun Ting

Accidents like toppled containers and collisions are all too familiar to logistics players when operations run 24/7, so it is no surprise that many firms are assessing high-tech options to improve on-site safety.

Allied Container Services is one local company that is employing digital solutions in this area.

It has installed a fleet safety management system that can detect early signs of driver fatigue and prevent potential accidents.

The system uses facial recognition technology to detect signs of fatigue, such as yawning, and then alerts an operations team, which will check on the driver.

Prime mover driver Mohamed Ali, 57, with Allied Container Services demonstrating the use of a fleet safety management system that is fitted onto the company's trucks and can detect early signs of driver fatigue and prevent potential accidents. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

Managing director Lim Kian Chin said: "If the driver has multiple offences, such as using his phone while driving, the vendor will alert the company."

The search for this safety solution started in 2018 after concerns were raised by some of the container transport services firm's clients, which include petrochemical companies on Jurong Island.

The system, which has been implemented in six vehicles so far, costs $4,000 for each set. The company is rolling the system out to the rest of its fleet of more than 60 vehicles.

"We're still working with the vendor to refine the system further, and automate it as much as possible so that (checks with the driver) can be done ourselves," Mr Lim added.

The system uses facial recognition technology to detect signs of fatigue, such as yawning, and then alerts an operations team which will check on the driver. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

Besides safety concerns, logistics players have also been using digital tools to improve operational processes.

Enterprise Singapore (ESG) transport and logistics director Lee Meilian noted the importance of technology in improving Singapore's connectivity in trade and transport.

"Improved visibility of operations and customers' supply chains enable logistics companies to plan for shipments into and out of Singapore, and prepare for the necessary transport and storage of goods in warehouses," she said. "The overall efficiency that technology brings to asset and manpower management can help companies optimise resources and streamline operations."

ESG has been partnering institutes of higher learning, such as the Centre of Innovation for Supply Chain Management (COI-SCM) at Republic Polytechnic, to drive the adoption of Industry 4.0 solutions and other digital applications.

COI-SCM, which has trained staff from more than 100 companies through its capability building programmes since 2018, is a partner of the recently refreshed logistics Industry Digital Plan.

Around 86,300 workers and 5,300 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the industry are expected to benefit from the enhanced plan, which is part of the Infocomm Media Development Authority's SMEs Go Digital programme.

Local SME Ever Rich has also adopted digital solutions to improve its operations. It implemented an enterprise resource planning system last year that integrated its sales and purchasing, accounting, inventory and warehouse management systems in one platform.

The firm, which provides storage and warehousing for food wholesale and retail businesses, started looking for such a system in 2017.

This followed a change in the firm's business model - from a lower quantity of large-ticket orders to a higher quantity of small-ticket ones.

This meant increasing its use of digital tools, said business development manager Alvin Tan.

While he was unable to disclose the amount the firm invested due to commercial sensitivities, Mr Tan noted that the boost the system has provided is a "very good return".

Ever Rich's operation costs have fallen by 15 per cent and capacity has increased by 20 per cent, he said.

"Previously, with separate systems (for different functions), a lot of cross-checking had to be done and took up a lot of time," he added.

But with real-time information now consolidated on a single platform, processes are more efficient and allow staff to dedicate more time to logistics planning rather than repetitive, manual functions.

Sharikat Logistics, also a homegrown player, has invested around $75,000 in areas such as warehouse management and RFID (radio-frequency identification) scanning equipment. This means it now takes just one-third the time to process orders, said logistics manager Phang Yuan Long.

It took about one to two months of on-the-job training to get employees up to speed with the new digital tools, he added. The effectiveness of the RFID scanning technology at its ambient-temperature storage warehouse at one of its facilities in Chin Bee Avenue has prompted the firm to look into digitalising its other facilities, Mr Phang said.

Source: The Straits Times  © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.