Singapore focuses on supply chain digitalisation

Increasing data efficiency for local business.

Singapore’s Alliance for Action (AfA) on Supply Chain Digitalisation has brought together public and private sectors to pilot a common data infrastructure to benefit the supply chain ecosystem. This digital utility facilitates data sharing and enables businesses large and small to ‘plug and play’ into the infrastructure easily.

As a start, the AfA will develop two solutions to strengthen trade finance and to help container flow node decongestion.

With a reconfiguration of trade flows and supply chains towards regionalisation both physically and digitally. COVID-19 has accelerated these shifts, as countries and companies re-evaluate their supply chains to balance efficiency and resilience.

With disruptions caused by COVID-19, digital transformation has gained greater momentum as businesses seek to increase efficiency and productivity.

These fundamental shifts expose both vulnerabilities and opportunities for Singapore. For Singapore to remain relevant in the growing digital economy, it is laying a common foundational layer with digital utilities that enable businesses to move into the digital domain, build a stronger and more robust supply chain ecosystem for international trade flows, thereby advancing our position as a global supply chain and trading hub.

The Alliance for Action on Supply Chain Digitalisation

Recognising the need to act swiftly and decisively in these unprecedented times, the Emerging Stronger Taskforce convened seven Singapore Together Alliances for Action in June this year, to seize opportunities amidst a global crisis.

The AfA on Supply Chain Digitalisation was formed to examine how ecosystem players can participate meaningfully in the digital economy, to co-create a supply chain future that is trusted, efficient and resilient.

Over the past three months, the AfA has brought together more than 50 supply chain players ranging from multinational corporations (MNCs) and large local enterprises (LLEs), to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), startups, and government agencies, to jointly identify pain points, opportunities and solutions across the end-to-end supply chain customer journey.

The industry engagements have surfaced significant inefficiencies in physical event, documentation and financial information flows across the value chain currently. These result in considerable cost and asset underutilisation that affect enterprises of all sizes, in many locations. Together with industry stakeholders and in consultation with government, the AfA has arrived at the need for a common data infrastructure to resolve critical pain points in the ecosystem. The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and other government agencies will work with the AfA on a pilot to develop this common data infrastructure.

Common Data Infrastructure

A common data infrastructure will facilitate trusted and secure data sharing between industry players, to drive efficiency, productivity, and resilience through information flows across the ecosystem. Development of the common data infrastructure will be guided by the principles of:

  • open, trusted and secure data sharing
  • scalability and interoperability with local and global data platforms; and
  • timely accessibility to all players across the value chain

The common data infrastructure will augment existing data sharing systems and platforms by connecting the supply chain end-to-end, creating visibility and transparency, linking importers/exporters, shipping companies and financial institutions. It will provide both large and small companies with access to exchange data in an efficient, trusted and secured way.

As part of the pilot phase for the common data infrastructure, the AfA will be conducting trials with industry players for two use cases.

Strengthening trade finance and converging efficiencies

Financial institutions (FIs) currently have limited visibility over the physical movement of goods in the supply chain. This reduces the ability of the trade finance industry to address demand from shippers. For sellers, digitally tracking the physical movement of their goods throughout the supply chain will improve visibility and traceability across the trade process, allowing them to make better decisions.

The common data infrastructure will improve process flow efficiency, where FIs will be able to provide and access data directly from trusted parties, to reconcile trade details with the physical movement of goods. This helps all players reduce dependency on physical documents, improve data flow and builds greater trust across the trading and financial communities. It complements other initiatives such as TradeTrust to digitalise trade documents, and the Trade Finance Registry amongst the banks to mitigate against risk of duplicate financing.

Container flow node decongestion

Logistics players face frequent congestion at container flow nodes, such as depots and warehouses, due to limited end-to-end visibility of container flows. This results in long waiting times and therefore sub-optimal asset utilisation and additional cost. To address this challenge, through the common data infrastructure, major shipping lines, depot operators, warehouse operators and hauliers, can share (with consent) key operational and event data such as container bookings, time slot bookings, job management and other data to enhance end-to-end logistics operations visibility. This will improve planning and asset utilisation, efficiency and productivity, reinforcing Singapore’s place as a logistics hub.

Lew Chuen Hong, chief executive at IMDA said a common data infrastructure is part of IMDA’s drive to put in place digital utilities as baseline infrastructure for the digital economy.

“Like their physical counterparts, digital utilities provide common standards and functionalities to enable data to flow and transactions to be made,” he said. “Companies and platforms will also be able to build additional services and offerings on top of these open digital utilities. This brings about more value and enhances capability for all industry participants.”

COVID-19 has revealed both vulnerabilities and opportunities in the global supply chain ecosystem. It is Singapore’s ability to rally together multiple stakeholders to co-create and bring a common vision of supply chain end-to-end visibility to fruition, that will set us apart as a trusted global trade and logistics hub.

The development of a common data infrastructure is an opportunity to enable large and small businesses to optimise their supply chain flows through Singapore, promote long-term sustainability as a key nodal hub in the global supply chain, and at the same time, support Singapore businesses in expanding their export markets.

During the pilot Singapore banks will be able to access data directly from reliable sources and parties to reconcile trade details with ease and potentially to detect and mitigate trade related fraud. Building a ‘digital twin’ of the physical movement of goods will improve visibility across the trade process, and help stakeholders reduce dependency on physical documents in the long term.

Last week CIO Asia reported the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) has upgraded its sourcing platform to include artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The changes come as a response to the acceleration digital transformation of global supply chains and the issues that it has caused for Hong Kong businesses, by HKTDC.

Benjamin Chau, deputy executive director at HKTDC said, users will notice a refreshed design as well as new features that deliver a better, more personalised smart-sourcing experience anytime and anywhere.

“We have also employed new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to increase the efficiency through which we connect buyers with suppliers and improve the overall user experience,” he said.





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