Thursday 28 April 2016

Plans for nationwide locker system for easier and cheaper parcel deliveries: Tharman

By Yasmine Yahya, Assistant Business Editor and Jeremy Koh, The Straits Times, 27 Apr 2016

It is a common headache for both online shoppers and deliverymen - the eagerly awaited parcel arrives but nobody is at home to receive it.

There are plans to solve this problem by placing lockers near people's homes, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday, adding that Singapore would likely be the first country to do this nationwide.

Mr Tharman, also Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, was speaking at the opening of consumer goods sourcing giant Li & Fung's subsidiary LF Logistics' regional distribution hub in Jurong West.

E-commerce is on the rise, but "last-mile" delivery - that final link in the logistics chain from the seller to the customer's doorstep - is still an inefficient business in many parts of the world, including Singapore, he noted.

According to Visa's 2015 Consumer Payment Attitudes Survey, over 70 per cent of consumers here shop online at least once a month.

While there are many players in last-mile delivery, what would really help the industry is common infrastructure, Mr Tharman said.

So the Infocomm Development Authority and economic agencies are working with businesses on these "federated lockers" for small parcels. "It will be implemented in areas with higher demand first, before we scale this up in neighbourhoods around the island to create a nationwide common parcel locker system."

Details such as the cost of the project, timeline and the number of lockers are set to be unveiled later.

Some companies, including SingPost and logistics start-up Ninja Van, have started their own locker systems, but Mr Tharman noted it would be impractical and costly if each company were to have its own lockers in each neighbourhood.

Ninja Van chief executive Lai Chang Wen sees the government initiative as an opportunity for collaboration. "All efforts to improve customer experience, including this government initiative, will help propel the growth of e-commerce."

Mr Tharman said domestic logistics is in "greatest need of transformation", and the Government has two pilot projects to raise productivity in the industry.

One will see a logistics operator placed within a mall to receive and consolidate goods, then deliver them to shops. The second is an offsite consolidation centre to ensure trucks making deliveries to a mall and its precinct are fully optimised.

Delivering on parcel lockers
By Aaron Low, Deputy Business Editor, The Straits Times, 30 Apr 2016

Online shopping has been all the rage in recent years.

According to findings from a 2014 survey by PayPal, online shopping in Singapore has grown 38 per cent per year since 2011.

Total spending for last year was projected at $4.8 billion and is expected to grow to $6.9 billion by 2018.

In tandem with the growth of e-commerce, logistics companies have also sprouted.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam's announcement of the roll-out of a nationwide locker system comes at an opportune time.

Logistics, especially last-mile delivery, is an extremely manpower-intensive venture, especially since the miss rate for home deliveries can be high.

One way to get around this problem is to place conveniently located lockers around the island so that the shopper can pick up his wares at his leisure.

Singapore Post has led the way in this regard and introduced its version of parcel lockers, called POPStations, back in 2013.

It currently has about 140 POPStations and has plans to roll these out overseas as well.

Logistics players say the new move will raise efficiency, productivity and eventually lower costs, which they hope to pass on to consumers.

Consumers may have to change their attitude towards deliveries and walk a fair distance to retrieve their parcels.

But if the location is not too far from their homes, the adjustment may not be much.

The other question is cost and who will foot the bill for the network.

A good model would be a public-private partnership, where everyone takes a stake in a national infrastructure that will help grow the industry.

If implemented well, the national locker system will result in a win-win proposition.

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