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How SingPost is delivering on digital transformation

SingPost group CIO outlines the company’s efforts to leverage AI and automation to improve operations, emphasising the importance of building the right culture as it expands its regional footprint

Like many other postal operators around the world, SingPost has been on a drive to leverage technology to transform itself into a logistics business, tapping artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to improve operations as it expands its regional footprint.

In Australia, where it has been growing its business through a local subsidiary, SingPost is already one of the largest fourth-party logistics (4PL) players in the market. In 4PL, a logistics company manages and executes a customer’s logistics activities across an entire supply chain.

For example, when shipping goods from China to Australia, SingPost could work with a Chinese partner to collect and ship the goods to a collection point in Shenzhen or Hong Kong, before it ships the goods to Sydney. The last mile delivery in Sydney could be handled by a SingPost entity or a local partner.

But orchestrating each step in a customer’s supply chain is challenging and requires SingPost to not only put in place new processes and AI capabilities to predict and manage disruptions, but also build an entrepreneurial culture to keep pace with the dynamic nature of its business, said Noel Singgih, group CIO of SingPost.

“There’s quite a lot of transformation that needs to happen internally,” Singgih told Computer Weekly on the sidelines of Oracle CloudWorld Tour Singapore last month. “This is very much multifaceted and you’re not just talking about having new technology to track and pick up things.”

The company recently implemented a cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) system from Oracle to streamline finance processes and Oracle Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) to automate reporting and administrative tasks. But more importantly, it had to convince employees on why change was necessary.

“We needed to quickly jump into the new house, which is basically all these new processes and technologies and new ways of working that we need to survive and maintain our leadership in the market. That sense of urgency was clearly communicated from the CEO all the way to our warehouse and delivery colleagues,” Singgih said.

SingPost’s EPM implementation was part of the company’s broader efforts to automate business processes. “We’re seeing more use cases on automation and what used to take two days to complete can now be done in two hours,” Singgih said, adding that more business processes could be orchestrated and triggered by generative AI (GenAI) in future.

We’ve not seen the need for us to train our models, but that may change in the future. For now, we just want our people to be more adept at AI and think about how they can use it to help them in their day-to-day jobs
Noel Singgih, SingPost

The company has also been a big proponent of public cloud, but it prefers to leverage software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings as much as possible – followed by platform and infrastructure services – rather than build its own applications due to strong competition for IT talent from technology and financial firms.

“What we want to do is to get the right IT people with domain knowledge in logistics and rely on partners like Oracle and Google to provide the tech capabilities we need,” Singgih said. “We will be modernising all our legacy systems in that direction, and it will take us a few years but that’s where we’re heading.”

In December 2023, SingPost teamed up Google Cloud in a multi-year partnership to empower its employees with AI-powered tools, helping them boost productivity, streamline repetitive tasks, and foster collaboration with external partners and customers.

It has also developed an AI prototype application to streamline its logistics operations using Google Cloud’s Vertex AI platform, foundation models, and Document AI. The application transforms unstructured data from trade documents into a searchable repository, with a GenAI-powered chat interface that understands natural language queries and surfaces accurate and relevant information.

Singgih said SingPost’s approach towards AI is to use out-of-the-box foundation models and “box them up so that the data becomes secure”.

“We’ve not seen the need for us to train our models, but that may change in the future,” he added. “For now, we just want our people to be more adept at AI and think about how they can use it to help them in their day-to-day jobs.”

Having strong data management capabilities is also key, not only for organisations to harness AI, but also to orchestrate processes across logistics partners in the case of SingPost.

“Data is as important as the capability of our partners to perform what we need them to do at the quality we need and at the right costs,” Singgih said. “How they provide the data is up to them, although in some markets we may help smaller partners with their data capabilities.”

Singgih added that SingPost has also implemented data integration capabilities from Boomi to bring its partners’ data into its 4PL logistics operations platform.

“The 4PL platform provides us with visibility into how our operations are going, and alerts us when certain activities are not yet completed and the impact on the supply chain, allowing us to take the necessary action to rectify the situation,” he said.

SingPost’s transformation into a logistics business has yielded benefits. In its latest financial year that ended on 31 March 2024, it achieved a net profit of S$81.5m, an increase from S$38.8m in the previous financial year.

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