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Making deliveries in double-quick time

last updated 23 December 2016

A new In-Mall Distribution model is capable of reducing the time it takes to deliver and unload goods to shopping centres by more than 75 per cent. Hot on the heels of its successful pilot testing at two malls earlier this year, the system will be rolled out in 12 more locations in 2017.

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Delivery of goods to Tampines Mall now takes a third of the time it used to, thanks to the In-Mall Distribution model. 

By Annabelle Liang

Every day, delivery drivers at Tampines Mall face the unenviable task of waiting in line for half an hour or more to unload their goods. With a new in-mall delivery system, this time-consuming task now takes seven minutes or less.

Tampines Mall is one of the partners that are reaping the benefits of participating in the pilot test for the In-Mall Distribution (IMD) model developed by the Infocomm Development Authority (IMDA) in collaboration with SPRING Singapore. The new system, which has been tested at the mall since June this year, aims to take the chaos out of delivering goods to shopping centres by making the whole process function with clockwork, airport-like efficiency.

For example, instead of having to queue without knowing if their turn is in sight, drivers delivering ingredients to Prata Wala, an Indian restaurant in Tampines Mall, go through a vastly different process. Upon entering the unloading bay, trucks are automatically identified by their licence plates. A signal is immediately sent to the mall’s logistics partner and a designated lot is assigned to the truck to pull into. Once the truck is parked, staff from logistics firm Yamato Transport’s will swiftly unload the goods and the truck heads off to its next destination.

With deliveries now taking a third of the time that they used to, the productivity improvements are adding up at Tampines Mall. Close to a third of their monthly cargo transactions – amounting to almost 20,000 cartons of goods – now take place under the new IMD model.

Buoyed by its early success, the pilot was expanded to Bedok Mall in September. Prata Wala, which also has an outlet there, signed up for it straightaway.

“The increase in productivity has been fantastic,” said Joseph Lee, Director at First Gourmet, which owns the Prata Wala chain. “We have daily deliveries, so it is very impactful on us. The (time) savings are very real.”

Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim also lauded the IMD model and said, “I think this is the right way to go, to deploy technology in a way that we can alleviate some of the (manpower) stresses. We hope that the success of this will inspire other mall operators to come on board.”

The IMD model will be progressively rolled out to 12 other malls in 2017, starting with CapitaLand's IMM Building, JCube, Westgate and Bukit Panjang Plaza. With more malls on board, delivery companies that sign up can expect to reap even more benefits by optimising delivery routes and timings, thereby allowing more deliveries per day.

At Tampines Mall and Bedok Mall, those who opt to use the new model pay $1.40 for delivery of a small carton and $3.50 per roll cage, before a subsidy of up to 70% under SPRING Singapore's Capability Development Grant. Prices are likely to drop once expected economies of scale kick in.

Mall operators can also tap on a $20 million pool to defray the cost of setting up the system. This has been set aside by the government for the transformation of domestic logistics. Announced by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam last October, the Urban Logistics programme aims to leverage technology to implement urban logistics solutions in the retail sector.

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