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TRANSPORT & LOGISTICS | Contributed Content, Singapore
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Tze Hsien (T.H.) Lim

How new technology will shape Singapore's logistics landscape

BY TZE HSIEN (T.H.) LIM

Singapore is one of the world’s top logistics hubs, with the World Bank’s Logistics Hub Index ranking Singapore 2nd in Asia and 7th globally. In recent years, we have also seen the birth and rise of local last mile delivery startups fighting to seize the opportunities that come with intra-Asia trade and e-commerce growth.

It is therefore no surprise that the government identifies logistics as a key growth sector with a vision to boost the industry through the Industry Transformation Map (ITM), where initiatives aim to create 2,000 Professional, Manager, Executive and Technician (PMET) jobs and achieve a value-added $8.3b.

The future of logistics in Singapore will be defined by the successful upskilling of workers to effectively adopt new technologies which enable greater connectivity – using big data at every point in the supply chain for network optimization, efficient warehousing and automating package distribution processes. Such technologies are already helping and will continue to help us deliver more than 20 million packages and documents worldwide on a daily basis.

How can we ensure that the logistics industry enhances the capabilities of our people to harness the opportunities brought forth by new technology, and drive the industry forward?

Creating an agile workforce through upskilling
Given that many of the jobs of tomorrow require different skills to perform successfully, both governments and companies need to encourage and support educational and training programs that focus on key skills such as languages and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). In May 2015, PM Lee affirmed that STEM skills are crucial to Singapore for the next 50 years and we can expect jobs in these areas will continue to abound in the economy.

In fact, such skills are crucial for us as the company makes advances in technology innovation to overcome disruptions that are affecting many parts of our business. Some examples of innovation and upskilling include:

  • Our drivers are trained to work with route optimization tools which collect data on the go. The advanced algorithms used create an optimal route for drivers, allowing for more efficient deliveries whilst at the same time reducing fuel and emissions.
  • We also developed new solutions to give customers control over when and where their packages will be delivered – even when items are already in transit. And our people are constantly trained to understand these solutions to deliver the best service to our customers.

Continuous innovation and upskilling efforts undertaken by companies enhances the capabilities of Singapore’s logistics talent pool, moving the nation ahead in an increasingly competitive global economy where knowledge and skillsets are key.

Collaboration between key stakeholders
To push the agenda of job creation, it is vital that industry stakeholders create a collaborative ecosystem of support so that the industry’s transformation is aligned to the government’s goals and today’s technological advancements.

Existing initiatives from the government such as the Industry Catalyst Programme and SkillsFuture Singapore help support the workforce to gain skills aligned to the industry’s transformation. In order to retrain warehouse or factory workers along these guidelines, industry incumbents can partner with vocational institutes to co-fund training programs.

Large industry players should also partner with local businesses and customers to help equip them with new knowledge and skills to fill any gaps in capabilities. In particular, logistics providers can come up with tailored technological solutions for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that face unique business challenges. We have participated in several events and workshops, run by associations championing SMEs, to educate and share knowledge on available technologies which can streamline logistics processes and ease customs clearance, for cost saving benefits.

Supporting local SMEs in their ambitions to internationalise will grow Singapore’s logistical capabilities in intra-Asia and global trade, further entrenching Singapore’s position as a world logistics hub.

Innovation to fuel Singapore’s logistical capabilities
New technologies and workers who understand how to harness the power of such innovation, have the ability to usher the industry into an era where interconnected networks of infrastructure and processes will drastically improve Singapore’s logistical capabilities.

The possibilities that the partnership between human and technology, as well as the collaboration between global logistics companies and Singapore’s SMEs will bring vital transformation to the industry, and achieve a harmonious balance between embracing the future whilst keeping the skills of existing workers up to date. 

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Tze Hsien (T.H.) Lim

Tze Hsien (T.H.) Lim

As the Managing Director of UPS Singapore and Malaysia, T.H. is responsible for driving growth of the company’s small package operations in both markets. In his role, he oversees strategic business units that include Operations, Marketing, Business Development and Finance & Accounting. 

During his term as Vice President of Strategic Planning and Development for the Asia Pacific Region, T.H. spearheaded several projects including the relocation of the UPS Asia Pacific Air Hub from Clark, Philippines to Shenzhen, China in 2010.

An advocate for inclusive growth, he spoken extensively on the advantages of internationalization and exports for SMEs at industry events and capacity-building workshops jointly organized by UPS. A Malaysian native, T.H. holds a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and Management from Oklahoma State University.

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