Robert de Souza, Executive Director & Chief Executive
Having grown up in Yemen, Mozambique, Portugal and the UK, Robert de Souza is almost an incarnation of a global supply chain, the subject he’s a specialist in. He heads The Logistics Institute, a research institute set up by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the US-based Georgia Institute of Technology 12 years ago. At any one time up to 25 researchers and 10 support staff work alongside global companies that want to optimise their supply chains as they go into Asia. “We originally focused on Singapore but we soon spread our wings out into the region,” says de Souza. “Even the supply chains are not just regional, but global.”
Breaking new ground in everything from developing efficient supply chains for NGOs responding to natural disasters to militaries moving defence kit, the Logistics Institute is assisting Singapore in staying ahead of the competition. It also works with masters graduates who spend time at Georgia Tech, the NUS and at a company moving products globally, and has been instrumental in the launch of another supply-chain management degree locally. All of this is, of course, making sure that Singapore remains a leader in logistics and supplychain management in Asia and beyond. Despite being the globetrotter that he is, de Souza likes Singapore so much it seems he’s here to stay.
LOGISTICS AND SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT
With the rise of Asia as the new economic powerhouse, organisations are looking towards the region to expand their business. There is a surge of investments pouring in from the West and the Asian region needs to move swiftly to accommodate incoming interests.
The World Bank ranked Singapore as the No. 1 Logistics Hub in Asia in the 2014 Logistics Performance Index. Singapore’s strategic location in the heart of Southeast Asia and at the nexus of major shipping lanes has made it an important logistics hub and conduit for world trade.
Today, Singapore is a prime location for major logistics firms, with 20 of the top 25 global logistics players conducting operations here. Most of them, like DHL, Kuehne + Nagel, Sankyu, Schenker, Toll, UPS and Yusen Logistics, have set up regional or global headquarter functions in Singapore.
With an expansive base of leading global logistics players, world-class infrastructure and excellent global connectivity, Singapore is the preferred logistics and supply chain management hub for leading manufacturers across industries, which include Avaya, Diageo, Dell, Hewlett Packard, Infineon, LVMH, Novartis, ON Semiconductor, Panasonic, and Siemens Medical Instruments.
Singapore’s Changi Airport is one of Asia’s largest cargo airports and is served by over 6,500 weekly flights connecting to 280 cities in 60 countries, handling close to 2 million tonnes of cargo annually. The country also boasts the world’s busiest transhipment hub, handling about one-seventh of the world's container transhipment throughput or 31.24 million TEUs of containers in 2013. Singapore is connected by 200 shipping lines to 600 ports in 123 countries, with daily sailings to every major port of call in the world. It is also proximate to the world’s major markets, being situated within a seven-hour flight radius to half of the world’s population in Asia Pacific.
Our sea and air ports are readily accessible through a well-planned domestic road network, ensuring that companies based in Singapore are better positioned to serve customers and manage their operating entities, not just in Asia but globally.
There is increasing recognition of the need for supply chains to be more resilient and secure as disruptions involving economic volatilities, political unrests and natural disasters have shown the susceptibility of global supply chains. Singapore has stood out as a trusted and reliable supply chain hub through our strong commitment to global and national security initiatives that support successful business operations. These include the streamlining of security regulations and operational procedures to help businesses cope with the adoption of many international customs and security programmes.
Singapore has also been recognised to have highly efficient customs and business-friendly import/export procedures providing companies greater efficiencies in obtaining clearance/documentation/permits for their goods. Efficiencies in information management are evidenced through platforms such as TradeNet, an electronic national single window that provides a one-stop platform simplifying all documentation, saving time, costs and improving efficiency. TradeNet allows traders and freight forwarders to apply for and receive trade permits from 35 controlling agencies for the purpose of import, export and transshipment of goods.
Two broader industry trends suggest that many of the global transport and logistics leaders of the future will come from Asia. First is the long-term shift in trade and investment from the West to the East, which will provide ever more opportunities for growth in the region across all segments. There will be further consolidation in the sector, as firms grow to reap scale efficiencies and improve their cross-border capabilities. Second is Asia’s early advantage in low-cost competition and “frugal engineering” (a product design approach that emphasises using the bare minimum of resources to create basic, no-frills products).
Home to a diverse range of industries with different needs and specialities, Singapore is well-positioned to help logistics companies build on our manufacturing leadership, innovate to differentiate themselves and develop greater expertise in higher value services to keep ahead. Established infrastructure is necessary to support the growth and successes of logistics companies in serving the distinctive needs of various industries. To that end, Singapore provides world-class specialised infrastructure including the Airport Logistics Park of Singapore (ALPS) in the airport’s free-trade zone, the Changi International LogisPark which facilitates regional distribution and the Banyan LogisPark on Jurong Island which caters to the specific demands of chemicals and oil companies.
As Asia’s leading aviation hub and the leader in the aerospace maintenance, repair and overhaul sector (MRO), Singapore has worked diligently to ensure that industry players’ needs are met. Singapore’s base of leading global 3PLs (including DHL, Kuehne + Nagel, SDV and DB Schenker) offers a wide range of capabilities (AS9120 certified) for aerospace companies and airlines in Asia.
Some of these aerospace specific solutions would include:
- Aircraft-on-ground (AOG) services that ensure rapid delivery of mission-critical spare parts to waiting aircraft
- Service parts logistics (SPL) services tailored to provide a full range of aftermarket support (both consumables and rotables)
- Integrated material management of airlines spare-parts inventory
- Specialist transportation for engines, landing gear and other high-value, outsized parts
Singapore is one of the world’s top three integrated petrochemical hubs. Being at the forefront of the industry, it is developing competitive feedstock for petrochemicals, advanced materials and specialty chemicals. To support the continual growth of this industry, a strong base of world-renowned chemical logistics companies has set up significant operations in Singapore.
Global logistics service provider Katoen Natie’s facility at Jurong Island provides chemical manufacturers with storage and packaging facilities and value-added services such as chemical processing. Another global name that has made Singapore one of its key hub locations is Vopak, the world’s leading independent terminal operator. From its regional headquarters in Singapore, Vopak also manages operations in many other Asian countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Korea and India. The company provides tank storage, regional distribution, and value-added services for petroleum products, gases, and chemicals from its four terminals in Singapore.
The electronics industry forms the largest component driving Singapore’s manufacturing economic engine. Leveraging Singapore’s manufacturing excellence in electronics, DB Schenker set up a global Competence Centre in 2012 to focus on developing Production Vendor Managed Inventory (PVMI) installations for the Electronics and Industrial Manufacturing sectors. This centre is DB Schenker’s first global Solution Competence Centre outside of Europe. With a traditional strength and market reputation within the Electronics PVMI area already established in Asia-Pacific, the Competence Center in Singapore will be the base camp for numerous supply chain experts to support development of the solution and accelerate the roll-out of customised manufacturing logistics solutions for Asia and global markets.
With a growing global demand for more sophisticated, yet also more affordable healthcare options, the biomedical industry is booming. Today, Singapore is entrusted by both pharmaceutical and medical technology companies to handle delicate medical materials. To cater to the growing base of complex biomedical manufacturing, research and clinical trial activities in Asia, 3PLs (third-party logistics) such as DHL, UPS and TNT have established life-sciences logistics hubs in Singapore that can provide GDP-certified temperature and humidity-controlled shipments to global markets. There is also a growing presence of niche transportation providers such as World Courier and Marken that are familiar with the regulatory complexities of moving small volumes of investigational drugs and clinical trial test kits using customised packaging solutions.
Coolport@Changi is Asia’s first and largest dedicated on-airport facility for temperature-controlled and time-critical cargo. The 8,000-square-metre facility is located within the Free Trade Zone with direct airside access. With multi-tiered zones and individual cold rooms set at different temperatures ranging from -28°C to 19°C, Coolport is able to handle a wide range of perishables such as live seafood, meats, fresh produce, flowers and pharmaceuticals. A host of value-added services include warehousing and distribution, inventory management and control and an express lane for urgent bio-medical products. Designed in accordance with internationally recognised Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) guidelines for food safety and in compliance with the highest standards of cold chain integrity, Coolport is also the first Halal-certified air cargo hub for perishables in the Asia Pacific region.
With the increase in the number of Asian artists and a rising demand for Asian art, Singapore has taken the lead in nurturing the growth of museums and galleries to connect buyers to artists and vice versa. The government took this initiative further with the setting up of the Singapore FreePort which offers 30,000 square meters of storage such as showrooms, photo studios and wine cellars to facilitate the storage and movement of delicate, exclusive cargo. Companies that offer storage and logistics services at FreePort include Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services, Fine Art Logistics Natural Le Coultre and Helutrans Group.
Singapore has stood out as a leading supply chain hub with the presence of world-class service providers and talent equipped with the knowledge of accessing the diverse geographies in Asia.
Supply Chain Talent
Singapore offers a base of home-grown talent, including more than 8,500 graduates in science and engineering annually, as well as graduates of specialised SCM courses. Singapore’s high quality of life additionally, draws global and regional talent who can further enhance Singapore’s vibrant logistics/SCM sector.
Riding on the boom in Asia and strong growth in intra-Asia trade, EDB is working with companies to develop pan-Asian talent through exposure particularly to Asian giants China, India and emerging economies in South and Southeast Asia. By centralising the knowledge and expertise in Singapore, logistics companies and manufacturers can better navigate the fragmented trade and regulatory landscape in Asia, and orchestrate their supply chain solutions for the Asian market.
The Logistics Institute-Asia Pacific Double Masters Program
Drawing on the academic standing of both the National University of Singapore and Georgia Institute of Technology (in the US), the renowned Double Masters Program (DMP) by The Logistics Institute-Asia Pacific (TLI-AP) is a highly selective programme tailored to train logistics professionals for strategic and management roles in the supply chain.
As the winner of the Asian Freight & Supply Chain Awards for Best Education Course Provider for ten consecutive years, the DMP has groomed a new generation of leaders familiar with world-class SCM methods and best practices. The programme has nurtured more than 150 professionals who now work in a wide spectrum of logistics companies and supply chain control towers that manage regional supply chains in Asia’s key markets, forming Singapore’s very own “Circle of Logisticians”.
TLI-AP THINK Forum
TLI-AP’s THINK Forum in Singapore is a platform for thought leadership, knowledge dissemination and executive learning. The Forum brings together industry leaders, supply chain practitioners and academia to address issues that shape the industry landscape. Programmes include events for top executives that are focused on IT (THINK IT), Strategy (THINK Executive) and Innovation (THINK Innovation); regular Solutions platforms on optimisation, intelligence and technology; as well as the annual THINK Logistics Conference. These forums provide top executives with opportunities to network, share and discover new opportunities.
Supply Chain Consulting
Besides anchoring top 3PLs (third-party logistics) in Singapore, consultancies like Accenture and ABeam provide a complete ecosystem to help global companies streamline their Pan-Asian supply chains. These consulting firms offer professional support in areas such as strategic planning, sales and marketing, efficient operations and systems implementation to help logistics companies strengthen their competencies and value propositions. Accenture supports organisations that are increasingly looking to establish Singapore as their entry point to the growing Asian markets, and to create regional centres of excellence in Supply Chain Planning, Procurement and Operations. Its staff of 90 professionals across the region teams up with organisations to transform their operations capabilities, collaborate to align process and operating models, and enhance the skills of the supply chain workforce.
Additionally, ABeam has been assisting companies in Singapore and the region to capitalise on opportunities in Asia by implementing business processes and solutions specific to their customers’ needs. One of ABeam’s supply chain solutions is the SAP Rapid Deployment Solution called Distribution Management Solution (DMS). The DMS solution integrates the distributor’s demand planning, sales, inventory and logistics processes to the manufacturer, enabling the manufacturer to have insights into their end customer enabling the manufacturers to provide superior services, and products by responding proactively to market conditions.
Recognising the complexity of navigating Asia’s fragmented trade and regulatory landscape as well as the rise in intra-Asia trade, leading manufacturers are using SCM as a differentiating competency for their global business. The growth in Asia is led by the large economies of China and India and the countries of Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia and South Asia. As such, the opportunities that companies are trying to harness are pan-Asian in nature, and not limited to one country. As more companies review and re-design their supply chains, Singapore has stood out as a leading supply chain hub with the presence of world-class service providers available to support their supply chain activities.
Singapore adopts a comprehensive approach to the development of services, infrastructure and policies, with a strong focus on industry consultation and collaboration. With the right infrastructure coupled with EDB’s efforts to establish a business-friendly and future-ready environment, Singapore has proven itself to be an attractive business location for top logistics companies and global manufacturers.
FEATURED PEOPLE, PLACES
Robert Yap, Executive Chairman of YCH Group
His employees call him Singapore’s Richard Gere. And they’re not far off – the CEO of logistics and supply-chain management company YCH Robert Yap is both suave and approachable. He’s come a long way from watching his father work long hours as a lorry driver (that was the start of YCH) and taking over the firm from his father in 1980, taking it from a transport company to an Asia-Pacific-wide end-to-end supply chain operation with 4,000 employees that serve customers such as Dell, ExxonMobil, LG and LVMH. His modest upbringing has shaped the way he works – he’s passionate about making lives better for people in emerging markets such as India and Indonesia by designing supply chains that improve infrastructure as well as working closely with governments to streamline urban supply chains, which ease congestion and lower pollution levels. “It’s about connecting to the last consumer. There’s something we can contribute to society to allow the next generation to grow. It creates meaningful jobs for people,” says Yap.
YCH is developing a new state-of-the-art supply-chain facility, which Yap hopes will showcase Singapore as the next supply-chain nerve centre in the region. It is due for completion in mid 2016.
Singapore is well known for being a leading regional logistics and transshipment hub. Always one for a challenge, Singapore is also fast becoming a hub for perishable products moving from one part of the world to another. At Coolport@Changi, a S$16m, 8,000 sq m building opened three years ago by SATS, the leading gateway services and food solution service provider at Changi Airport, everything from pharmaceuticals to seafood are stored. It’s become the transit point for 90 per cent of the perishable goods that pass through Changi Airport, which is 10 minutes away from Coolport. Australian and New Zealand producers are particularly keen on using Coolport to move their goods northward. Products are kept in 18 different temperature zones that vary from a cool -28C to 18C.
In association with Monocle, EDB brings to you a selection of people, places and products that make Singapore a nation that is punching far above its weight despite its relatively compact size and population (content first published in Monocle).