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Keeping Cool with Technology

Innovation is crucial if SMEs are to thrive in the future. Find out how innovation has been a key driving point of Warehouse Logistics Net Asia’s business and growth strategy.


Keeping Cool with Technology

Since 1999, Warehouse Logistics Net Asia Pte Ltd (WLNA) has been building know-how and establishing best practices in its cold chain logistics business. Its management — second-generation directors, Johnnie and Dennis Png — are aware that it takes more than experience and a strong track record to attract and retain new customers; especially as the digital age and new consumption patterns are dramatically changing how the logistics industry functions in nearly every aspect. As a result, the company stands ready to adopt the latest technology to enhance its operations and improve service quality, while remaining lean. “As an SME, our goal is not about bulking up in size but being small, nimble yet impactful, just like Antman (the Marvel superhero),” explains Mr Johnnie Png.

The Png brothers share their innovation efforts that have spurred the company forward despite the tough economic climate:

What were some of the early innovations WLNA adopted for your cold chain business?

When we first moved into the cold chain business in Singapore, the industry was quite nascent, with various opportunities to set benchmarks within the sector. We decided that it was an area in which we could differentiate ourselves from competitors by providing value-added services to our customers. One of the first steps we took to be a market leader was to establish best practices through systems like HACCP – Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point certification, a preventive approach to food safety that is typically adopted by food manufacturers. This is important because we deal with many food suppliers and achieving this strict standard shows that we are serious players.

We also soon noticed the lack of end-to-end cold room solutions that are necessary for improved food hygiene and delivery in the market. This is why we recently built a larger space — a five-story, multi-temperature food hub — that can cater to a wider range of food products from ambient and chilled items, to deep-freeze products. The facility is also able to host multiple food suppliers, which makes it easier to serve our customers better, especially those in retail. Besides cold room storage, goods are also picked, processed, packed and delivered within the facility and around the clock. This reduces the wastage of resources and improves efficiency across the value chain.

You believe that out-of-the-box thinking is important for SMEs to sustain and grow. What are WLNA’s future plans in this respect?

As entrepreneurs, we see the need to have an open mindset and be quick to spot new opportunities when it comes to running and growing a business. It provides an edge, especially in tough economic climates. It’s not good to just hang in there; we constantly need to strive to be better.

At WLNA, we are now exploring the possibility of introducing indoor vertical hydroponic farming for vegetables in our hub. This is both a technology and a skill that can be built on. What will drive its uptake is the scarcity of land in Singapore coupled with a five percent growth in demand for fruit and vegetables here every year.

We are also planning to invest in High Pressure Processing (HPP), an idea that sparked after discussions with SPRING Singapore (now Enterprise Singapore1). This is a cold pasteurisation technique where products are subjected to a high level of isostatic pressure transmitted by water. It inactivates bacteria, parasites and other food pathogens while maintaining the product’s original freshness, extending its shelf life and guaranteeing food safety. HPP will broaden our capabilities and range of solutions and services, allowing us to meet a wider variety of customers’ needs.

SPRING_WLNA_2

Technology has been a focal point of WLNA’s innovation drive. Can you elaborate on this?

Advanced technology is a strong enabler that helps companies stay relevant, competitive and acquire new customers and good staff. It also enables us to improve our standards and capabilities to deliver high-quality solutions and services to our customers. Some of the technologies that we have implemented with support from SPRING Singapore’s (now Enterprise Singapore's1) Capability Development Grant include:

Enterprise Resource Planning System

This end-to-end platform is linked to our back-end system, enabling key information to be shared across various departments in real-time. It also encompasses a warehouse and order management system, which enables our staff to work more efficiently – for example, by getting rid of the manual handling of inventories.

Voice-Picking Technology

With this paperless technology, the warehouse assistant no longer requires a picking list because the picking instructions can be conveyed through the voice-picking equipment. Integrated with our warehouse management system (WMS), it provides our workers with immediate system verification and increases picking accuracy to nearly 100 percent, thus improving efficiency.

Radio Frequency (RF) Scanning Technology

The RF scanner is a handheld device that complements the voice-picking technology, providing real-time picking information at all times. The user receives instructions from the WMS with regards to what product needs to be picked next. Moreover, if a wrong item has been scanned, an error code will prompt the user. This reduces human mistakes and eliminates the problem of delivering the wrong item to customers.

Apart from these technologies, we are also working with partners like A*STAR to implement a new solution that will help us identify and track staff in our cold rooms, so that we can monitor their safety.

So what’s next for WLNA?

Adding value to customers and giving them the option to choose from our offerings is crucial to our business. This, we believe, drives business growth. We hope to continue making an impact in business with our new food hub, the continued adoption of innovative technologies, on-going efforts to explore related business in supply chain and logistics, and our expansion into neighbouring countries like Malaysia. What is clear for us is that we are investing our time and resources to reach a common goal of doubling our revenue and profit in the coming years. We have set a shared target and, together with our employees, we are paving our way to get there.

Visit https://spring.enterprisesg.gov.sg/CDG to find out how the Capability Development Grant can support your innovation and automation projects.

1SPRING Singapore merged with IE Singapore to form Enterprise Singapore on 1 April 2018.

Last Modified Date: 04 Oct 2018