Singapore: Expo showcases innovations in urban logistics

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ANN) - Reduction in delivery times is among solutions on display at the expo, which will be on till Jan 25.

All it takes is a click to send presents to loved ones this festive season, yet all those delivery vans could clog up the roads quickly. But, as is usual these days, there is a tech solution.

Software company VersaFleet is employing algorithms that aim to alleviate the problem with more optimised routes so trucks do not have to waste time going back and forth.

The firm put its solution on display at an Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) exhibition on innovations in urban logistics that opened yesterday (Dec 4).

One of VersaFleet's clients, Reliable Transport & Logistic Services, said its daily operational planning, which includes drawing up routes, has been cut from two hours to 30 minutes thanks to the software.

Reliable's business development director, Mr Mohammad Faizal, said manpower and routes were once painstakingly planned out using pen and paper. An employee now just keys in the routes, and all the drivers can be tracked while on jobs to maximise manpower allocation.

"They just put their phones there and follow them," said Mr Faizal. "The system even reminds drivers if they miss a drop-off point."

The software was one of a range of innovations showcased at the exhibition opened by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong at the URA Centre atrium.

He said at the event: "We need to optimise the delivery of goods within our island to bring greater convenience to consumers, to help businesses lower costs and ultimately to enhance our competitiveness as a regional hub."

International market research firm Statista said e-commerce sales here will exceed US$4 billion (S$5.45 billion) this year, well up on last year's US$3 billion or so.

A recent study by the Singapore University of Technology and Design and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology found that trucks going into Orchard Road are less than 40 per cent full and usually bound for only one shop at each mall.

Assistant Professor Lynette Cheah, who led the study, said: "We need collaboration between all stakeholders, including multiple suppliers, carriers and consumers, in order to achieve efficiencies."

One way to reduce the number of delivery trips is to do pooling to ensure more goods in vehicles.

AAK Logistics Services has been trying to do this since last year. Its consolidation centre in Penjuru Road gathers goods from separate firms before delivery to stores.

AAK business manager Jason Chan said it has been able to reduce truck trips by more than 20 per cent, resulting in cost savings of 15 per cent to 20 per cent for its customers.

However, challenges remain in pooling resources. "Some luxury goods and sports apparel brands don't want to mix their products with other merchandise in the same truck," said Mr Chan.

Efforts are also being made on the other end of the delivery process.

For example, Locker Alliance, a government initiative, aims to create an integrated parcel locker system that is accessible by delivery companies. Lockers are now owned by different operations on various computer systems.

If the project is launched island-wide, there will be an estimated 50 per cent reduction in the distance travelled by delivery vehicles.

The exhibition runs until Jan 25.