Tech systems help tackle labour crunch

November 4, 20166:42 pm273 views
Tech systems help tackle labour crunch
The RFLD (Radio Frequency Identification) cashierless system at Decks can scan up to 10 pieces of clothing at a go, shortening payment processing time. Photo: Koh Mui Fong

Through the use of a simple tool like a barcode scanner and improving the work processes, one retail company managed to increase productivity and halve the number of employees needed to man its outlets at Surfers Paradise, Island Shop and Beverly Hills Polo Club.

Another company, an interior design and furniture firm, implemented an automated carpentry system, helping its carpenters shave off the amount of time they spend on their work. These two companies were among the 1,400 firms who have benefited from the Government’s Lean Enterprise Development (LED) programme.

Local fashion retailer Decks late last year implemented an RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) system to manage inventory and sales transactions at their 22 counters and five shops across Singapore, helping it improve efficiency and save costs.

It all started when Decks joined a Government-led initiative trip to London to observe the technology used there by retailers.

Today, at Decks’ warehouse, staff need not go through each piece of item individually for stocktake; they need only scan the bags of clothes with a handheld scanner, cutting down the inventory process to minutes from hours.

At the individual stores, the cashier system can scan up to 10 pieces of clothing at a go, shortening payment processing time significantly.

The result: A reduction in manpower by 50 per cent, and more time for staff to attend to customers.

“In the past, we had to hire four staff, now we only need two staff to handle the daily operations. Productivity has improved and the staff are also more willing to take up the job because it is easier and simpler. The staff can serve the customers more,” said Decks managing director Kelvyn Chee.

Decks is one of the companies that participated in the LED scheme launched last year by the Ministry of Manpower. The LED scheme allows small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs) more leeway in hiring and retaining foreign workers — provided they commit to becoming more manpower-lean, developing their workers, and building a stronger Singaporean core eventually.

In just one year, more than 1,400 SMEs have benefitted from the LED scheme, said a joint statement by the Ministry of Manpower, Spring Singapore, Workforce Singapore and the National Trades Union Congress yesterday at the inaugural LED symposium, which was attended by more than 700 guests.

Darwin Interior is another company that has benefitted from the LED scheme. It introduced an in-house automated carpentry system that has helped it reduce the wastage of raw wood and materials, gain 20 per cent in time savings per carpenter, and increase staff productivity.

“We can do more work in a single day now. Previously, our experienced carpenters had to manually look at the design and decide how to cut the raw materials. Now we just need to feed the dimensions of length, width, pieces, inches and type into the computer and it will do the rest,” said Darwin Interior director Sia Chye Whatt.

“The industry competition is stiff but by using this technology there is no need to increase our selling price as we are more productive.”

Both Decks and Darwin Interior said the adoption of the new technologies has brought about better salary prospects, job skills, and job satisfaction for their staff.

“We have simplified the job scope for the staff and they are more willing to come and work for us. The staff who can work the system well also receive a higher salary than normal market rate as they are more productive,” said Mr Chee.

Mr Sia said: “Our carpenters and interior designers earn their salary in a ‘per piece-rated basis’, they can now handle more jobs daily and this increases their take-home pay.”

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