Plan for nationwide lockers to enable more efficient deliveries

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

To solve this problem, the Government will be rolling out lockers close to people's homes, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday.

The Republic will likely be the first country to do this nationwide, he added.

Mr Tharman, also Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, made the announcement at the opening of the LF Logistics' regional distribution centre 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, more than 70 per cent of consumers in Singapore shop online at least once a month.

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

And so, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore and economic agencies are working with businesses on these so-called "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," he said.

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 NinjaVan, have started their own locker systems.

However, Mr Tharman noted it would be impractical and costly if each company were to employ its own locker solution in each neighbourhood.

NinjaVan co-founder and chief executive Lai Chang Wen agreed, saying he 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 also said in his speech that domestic logistics is in "greatest need of transformation", and the Government has two pilot projects, starting in the second half of the year, to raise productivity in the industry.

One is an in-mall distribution model, where a logistics operator is placed within a mall to receive and consolidate goods delivered there. The operator will then deliver them to the respective shops.

The second is an offsite consolidation centre to ensure every truck making a delivery to a mall and its precinct is fully optimised.

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