Saturday 31 October 2015

Tharman: Singapore on track to raise productivity growth

By Jessica Lim, Consumer Correspondent, The Straits Times, 30 Oct 2015

Singapore is "well on track" to lifting productivity growth, targeted at 2 to 3 per cent per annum over the decade from 2009, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday at the launch of a new cash-payment system at Cold Storage supermarket.

"If you take us for the first five years, which is 2009 to 2014, we are well on track... In fact, we are at the upper end of the 2 to 3 per cent range," he said.

Technology is a key enabler within the retail sector in coping with manpower challenges, boosting service excellence and...
Posted by Ministry of Trade & Industry on Thursday, October 29, 2015

Asked if productivity targets would be revised due to poor performance, he added: "We are getting endless repetition of the fact that productivity has not worked. Actually we are very much on track."

"It would have been crazy to think that you'll get the same growth rate every year. It's not that way in any country, for any length of time. It jumps up and down and it's highly cyclical," he said. "(But) productivity today is significantly higher than when we started in 2009."

However, Mr Tharman, who is chairman of the National Productivity Council (NPC), pointed to two disappointments: that a lot of the gains were front-loaded in the first two years, with little progress since; and that while the export-oriented part of the economy has had very good productivity growth, the purely domestic sectors - like construction, retail and food services - did not fare as well.

Labour productivity, as measured by real value-added per worker, grew at a compounded annual rate of 2.5 per cent between 2009 and last year, according to figures from the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Much of this can be attributed to the 11.6 per cent growth in productivity in 2010 when the economy rebounded from the global financial crisis. Between 2010 and last year, productivity growth was 0.3 per cent per annum.

Referring to Cold Storage's new cash system, as well as its other moves to lift productivity, he said: "Which is why what is happening here is so important."

Mr Tharman painted a future scenario of self-checkout and automated cash systems replicated across the retail scene, including at shopping malls. He called on shoppers here to "shift their habits" towards the self-service route.

"We have to think of this ambitiously. This store is now 50 per cent self-checkout... we have to take the national average well beyond 50 per cent and aim for at least 75 per cent within a few years," he said. "It will require some incentive... but the more people switch to self-checkout... the more the savings will be."

To nudge shoppers to use self- checkout systems, which are available at 31 of its 51 stores here, Cold Storage is giving shoppers who do so a 3 per cent discount on purchases.

At the event at Cold Storage's Sime Darby Centre outlet in Dunearn Road, Mr Tharman pointed to another issue that needed fixing: The use of three card terminals at the checkout counters of retail stores here - one for credit cards, another for Nets cards and a third for contactless payment cards.

He said the norm in many overseas markets is a unified system - just one payment terminal for all cards. "We want to get that fixed. It is backward to have to rely on three different card terminals," he said, adding that this is something that the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Spring Singapore are working on.

Follow the National Productivity Council's visit to Cold Storage @ Sime Darby, where Deputy Prime Minister Tharman...
Posted by Ministry of Trade & Industry on Friday, November 6, 2015

New cash payment system to ease manpower woes
By Jessica Lim, The Straits Times, 30 Oct 2015

Supermarket and convenience store chains are introducing an automated cash payment system in an effort to cut down on the number of cashiers needed.

Cold Storage, FairPrice, Cheers and Sheng Siong have begun installing the machines, while Giant and 7-Eleven will follow suit later this year. The plan is to install the system progressively over the next few years at the 800-plus outlets they operate in total.

The system, which take the place of traditional cash tills, varies across the different supermarkets.

At Cold Storage, cashiers collect notes and coins from customers and feed them into slots similar to those on vending machines. The machine will then spit out change.

WATCH: Our reporter Lianne Chia visited a Cold Storage supermarket where she found out how technology can improve the shopping experience
Posted by 938LIVE on Thursday, October 29, 2015

At FairPrice and Cheers, customers feed the money into the slots.

Sheng Siong shoppers get their items scanned and bagged before heading to a kiosk nearby to pay by cash or card. Staff are on hand to help those who have difficulties.

The new system also allows cashiers to feed the day's takings into a backend counting machine. It will also be built into all self-checkout kiosks at FairPrice and Cold Storage, which only accept card payment.

Cold Storage launched its system at its 12,000 sq ft Sime Darby Centre outlet yesterday. The 51-store chain's chief executive officer Victor Chia said the store, which opened in June, has just nine cashiers while a store of the same size without self-checkout kiosks and the new system would require 25.

Mr Chia said the new system counts the cash instantly, a job which would otherwise take cashiers four to five hours .

Previously each cashier was responsible for money in their register, which was then counted and handed to the cashier taking over the next shift. Staff may also be asked to make up the difference if there is any discrepancy. "Now cashiers need not do anything, just sign off and go home," said Mr Chia.

The system should also benefit customers as new registers can be opened when queues get long.

Installing the system at Sime Darby cost the chain about $250,000 though part of it was funded by enterprise agency Spring Singapore.

Cold Storage customer Victor Teoh, a doctor, said: " It's convenient. There are step-by-step instructions."

Cold Storage plans to launch the system at two other stores in the next few months. Two FairPrice outlets and five Cheers stores are also using the new cash machines to help ease manpower shortage.

FairPrice has 10,000 staff at its 290 FairPrice and Cheers outlets but is short of 500 workers, mainly sales assistants and cashiers. Sheng Siong said the machines save customers 15 to 30 seconds at the checkout.

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