KTC Feature: Singapore SME uParcel Sharpens Competitive Edge Through SMU’s Innovative Research
Saturday Nov 25,2023 | IIE News
- The collaboration exemplifies how SMEs can harness the intellectual capital of universities to stay ahead in the thriving e-commerce sector
- Early results from uParcel’s implementation of CUDO indicated 20 percent improvement in efficiency and save 500 hours in delivery time
uParcel, a prominent Singapore-based SME specialising in same-day e-commerce logistics and medicine delivery services, is reinforcing its competitive advantage in the rapidly evolving e-commerce landscape. The company has achieved this milestone through a strategic partnership with Singapore Management University (SMU) and a groundbreaking 16-month collaboration from 2022 to 2023 with SMU Professor of Computer Science Lau Hoong Chuin, in association with the AI Singapore 100 Experiments for Research programme. This groundbreaking collaboration has led to the development of an advanced AI planning and dynamic route optimisation tool, which leverages the patented Collaborative Urban Delivery Optimization (CUDO) technology from SMU as its core framework.
CUDO serves as a comprehensive resource planning and scheduling solution for logistics service providers, allowing uParcel to enhance the efficiency of pick-up and delivery operations dynamically. CUDO's integration accelerates the deployment of this transformative technology, making it the primary intellectual property supporting uParcel's mission to optimise logistics and create mutually beneficial opportunities for all stakeholders in the supply chain.
According to the Singapore Economic Development Board, Southeast Asia’s digital market could exceed US$200 billion by 2025, with Singapore and Malaysia generating one-third of the total online sales in the region. The report also indicated that 67 percent of consumers in Singapore, the highest rate observed in ASEAN, are purchasing products online at least once a year. Singapore’s strategic position as a gateway for Southeast Asia, driven by high per-capita income, tech savvy consumer base and favourable regulatory environment, has propelled the growth of the country’s e-commence sector in recent years.
Last mile delivery logistics partners are pivotal to the success of the e-commerce industry, playing a crucial role in the fulfilment of deliveries. This sector is marked by a diverse array of participants, ranging from small and medium-sized enterprises like uParcel, to established local and global giants as well as smaller players, resulting in fierce competition within the field. To maintain a competitive edge, these players employ various cutting-edge technologies, engage in strategic Mergers & Acquisitions, establish central warehouses, and develop in-house delivery services.
uParcel, as a logistics platform, believes in adopting an asset-light model. Unlike some of its counterparts, uParcel does not rely on central warehouses or in-house drivers. Instead, the company's core strength lies in technology, which forms the bedrock of their logistics capabilities and plays a pivotal role in their foothold in Singapore's e-commerce and medical transportation sectors. uParcel's innovative approach involves the deployment of CUDO-backed technologies, made possible through the collaboration with SMU, therefore enhancing operational efficiency for all stakeholders throughout the value chain.
The CUDO platform simplifies parcel clustering from various origins and businesses, subsequently optimising routes through AI. Preliminary results indicate a remarkable 20 percent improvement in efficiency, saving an estimated 500 hours of reduced time for delivery fulfilment. Drivers could deliver more packages per hour, contributing to more earnings for them. The result is a significant advantage over the traditional model, where each driver serves a single collection point with deliveries scattered across the nation. With CUDO as their backbone technology, uParcel attains dynamic pickup and delivery scheduling, leading to reduced travel distances for their drivers and minimised empty vehicle usage. This approach not only boosts the productivity of their delivery partners, it also contributes to a greener and more sustainable logistics landscape with fewer vehicles on the road.
“In our 16-month research collaboration with SMU, we have integrated game-changing technology like CUDO to shorten our product development cycle and boost our capabilities for commercialisation. The process also allowed us to gain valuable insights into the current logistics landscape and better understand the needs of our stakeholders. We are proud to be part of this industry-academia partnership to drive innovation and transformation in the last-mile logistics sector, and look forward to witnessing how CUDO can further help us scale new heights in the ever-evolving logistics industry,” said Ng Wee Leong, COO of uParcel.
uParcel, headquartered in Singapore with operations in Malaysia, caters to major e-commerce platforms, with Shopee as its largest customer, followed by Lazada. In the medical delivery sector, the company serves Healthway Medical Group, Raffles Medical Group, Parkway Shenton, WhiteCoat, Alliance Healthcare and more. Other customers include confectionary brand Lady M, discount store chain Don Don Donki, and fashion houses such as Alexandar McQueen and Longchamp. uParcel is now looking plans to harness CUDO to support its expansion into new growth oriented markets, including India.
The development of CUDO, which started in March 2015 was led by Professor Lau Hoong Chin and his research team at the Fujitsu-SMU Urban Computing and Engineering Corp. Lab (UNiCEN). The research culminated in September 2020 with a patent filed in Singapore 2021.
“We had two key objectives. Firstly, we wanted to solve the puzzle of finding the most efficient pickup and delivery routes, making sure packages get to their destinations as quickly as possible. This is the foundation of any good delivery service. But we also faced a more intricate challenge: how to adapt to the unpredictable nature of dynamic orders. To tackle these challenges, we harnessed cutting-edge technology, specifically 'reinforcement learning,' which acts as a smart assistant to help logistics providers make quick, real-time decisions. The driving force behind developing this technology was to bridge the gaps in the logistics world, ensuring that it meets the evolving needs of logistics providers, riders, and ultimately the customers,” explained Professor Lau.
SMU's Institute of Innovation & Entrepreneurship (IIE), with its expertise in knowledge transfer and commercialisation has licensed SMU's CUDO to uParcel for its operations. This collaboration reflects SMU's commitment to advancing knowledge transfer and commercialisation initiatives, driving innovation, and fostering industry-academic partnerships for real-world impact. Furthermore, the collaboration underscores the potency of industry leveraging university research for innovation, serving as a prime example of how industry can tap into the expertise and innovative technology developed within academic institutions to address real-world challenges and reshape urban cities.
"We are proud to have played a pivotal role in assisting uParcel on their transformative journey, one that exemplifies the power of industry and academia coming together. Through this licensing partnership, SMU IIE is delighted to facilitate knowledge transfer, enabling uParcel to harness the full potential of CUDO's optimisation engine. Importantly, this collaboration underscores our collective commitment to sustainability, as the integration of this technology stands to significantly reduce the carbon footprint within the e-commerce logistics landscape. We look forward to witnessing the positive impact this transformation will have, not just for uParcel, but for the industry as a whole,” said Dr. Sze Tiam Lin, Senior Licensing Advisor, IIE.
- For more information on CUDO: https://bit.ly/3RdbHnX
- For more information on licensing CUDO: https://bit.ly/3Gnrp9G
- For more information on uParcel: https://www.uparcel.sg/
- Read interview with Professor Lau Hoong Chin https://bit.ly/3Gnabt7