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NTUC FairPrice is a household name synonymous with affordable, quality products, but not everyone understands how much hard work goes into running a retail business that services over half a million customers every day.

Variety of Japanese Ice Cream at Bishan’s NTUC FairPrice Finest

From the product origin to your doorstep, these are 5 behind-the-scenes secrets that NTUC FairPrice has developed to make customers happy.

1. Sourcing From Multiple Suppliers

Don’t you hate it when a product is out of stock? As a retailer selling over 15,000 products, NTUC FairPrice knows how painful it is when a customer cannot get the necessities they need quickly.

Some challenges this supermarket has survived are national shortages in eggs, rice, N95 masks, toilet paper and even mosquito repellents!

Well-stocked shelves of eggs at AMK Hub FairPrice Xtra

To pre-empt 15,000 possible out-of-stock situations, the supermarket sources from multiple suppliers in various countries, which also helps moderate prices just in case one supplier decides to play punk and charge through the roof.

Secret tip: With over 140 stores all across Singapore, NTUC FairPrice ensures there’s always an outlet nearby to provide you with your daily essentials!

2. Building A Giant Distribution Centre

If you ever want a shop-cation without stepping out of Singapore, just take the MRT (with lower public transport prices from 30 Dec 2016) to Joo Koon station.

At first glance, you will see a huge FairPrice Hub with shops, restaurants and the Warehouse Club which sells items in bulk to save you that extra dollar.

If you walk behind the shops and past the carpark entrance, you’ll notice an even bigger building called the Benoi Distribution Centre.

NTUC FairPrice’s newest Benoi Distribution Centre at Joo Koon

For supply chain buffs, this 6-storey centre has a warehouse storage capacity of over 52,000 pallets for dry goods which will eventually make their way to 140 outlets islandwide.

With this increased capacity, NTUC FairPrice can stock up more product varieties to deliver to outlets so that customers would have more choices.

Benoi Distribution Centre can stock up more products so you have a wider choice in outlets

Secret tip: The first 2 hours of parking at FairPrice Hub are free.

FairPrice Hub Carpark entrance

3. Using Automation For Speedy Order Fulfilment

The Benoi Distribution Centre can process up to 120,000 cartons a day, or 200 cartons per man-hour (double that of a conventional distribution centre relying on manual labour).

This means outlets can receive goods faster to minimise out-of-stock situations, and still carry a wide variety of products for you to choose from.

How NTUC FairPrice made their distribution centre more productive / Image Credit: NTUC FairPrice

Here are some automated robots and systems that NTUC FairPrice has included as helping hands.

Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS)

The ASRS enables pallets of products to be automatically stored and taken out of 19 levels of storage racks.

High-bay racking and intelligent control stacker cranes do the hard work so that employees don’t have to risk their lives stacking pallets that high with forklifts and manually-operated cranes.

NTUC FairPrice’s Benoi Distribution Centre has more than 52,000 pallets on 19 levels of racking (vs 8 levels for conventional warehouses) / Image Credit: NTUC FairPrice

The ASRS can receive up to 380 pallets of goods per hour (compared to 120 pallets per hour for conventional systems).

With more levels of storage space per land area, the ASRS increases land utilisation with its higher density.

In addition to ASRS, there are 84 CaddyPick carriers which work together with staff to process up to 120,000 cartons per day (based on 12 hours of normal operations).

How CaddyPick equips NTUC FairPrice staff to pick cartons more efficiently / Image Credit: NTUC FairPrice

Staff members refer to an outlet order displayed on the screen on each CaddyPick. From here, they select the desired products from the shelving for the CaddyPick carriers, which then automatically move to the next shelf.

Optimal picking routes are planned out by the system to reduce time going back and forth from one shelf to another.

How automation increases productivity / Image Credit: NTUC FairPrice

With the help of CaddyPick’s technology, each staff has doubled their productivity to 200 cartons per hour.

The CaddyPick also autonomously consolidates recyclable packaging material to be sent to recycling centres, thus allowing staff to focus on other duties.

Operations Executive Lim Shih Yung shared how in the past, retrieving items for deliveries used to be highly manual and labour intensive. It was difficult to find staff and the team had many human errors to resolve.

NTUC FairPrice’s Benoi Distribution Hub Team

But with technology, he and his colleagues have been able to move up to higher skilled roles of managing warehouse activities.

The environment is also safer as with automation, there are lesser forklift and material handling equipment movement within the distribution centre.

Did you know: According to Labour Chief Chan Chun Sing, who is also Deputy Chairman of the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE), many new jobs created in the info-comm sector will be found in areas concerning data, which can be seen as a new resource to create new competitive advantages for Singapore, and new businesses and jobs for Singaporeans.

4. Continuously Revamping Customer Experience

Since 1983, NTUC FairPrice has launched various technologies to improve your customer experience with multiple options to conveniently purchase and pay for products.

NTUC FairPrice’s innovation in improving customer experience

Lately, NTUC FairPrice has unveiled new self-checkout machines which accept coins and notes.

Secret tip: If you hate paying fees to banks to convert your bagful of coins into currency, use your coins at these new check-out machines.

Self-checkout machines with both card, dollar note and coin payment at Bishan FairPrice Finest

5. Helping Customers Save The Earth

To help you do your part for our Earth, NTUC FairPrice is the first supermarket chain in Singapore to carry environmentally-friendly cooking oil.

Its house brand FairPrice Premium Cooking Oil and FairPrice Vegetable Oil are made from certified sources under Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

Environmentally-friendly FairPrice Vegetable Oil is made from certified sources under RSPO

Secret tip: You can also get fruits and vegetables at a cheaper price under NTUC FairPrice’s “Great Taste, Less Waste” campaign, if you’re not picky about how they look.

“Great Taste, Less Waste” bag of fruits for $2 each at AMK Hub FairPrice Xtra

One shopper, Mrs. Chan, has been religiously buying at least a bag of “Great Taste, Less Waste” fruits a week.

She says, “I can prepare at least 4 to 5 servings of fruits with just one $2 bag. It is very convenient and I would rather buy these fruits at a cheaper price than see them being thrown away as they can still be eaten”.

The Hidden Secrets Of FairPrice Supermarkets

There are many more secrets NTUC FairPrice has in store to make customers happy. In the end, it’s all about ensuring Singaporeans have convenient access to affordable, quality products.

Featured Image Credit: Labour Beat

The Labour Movement wants to help Singaporeans have better jobs and grow Singapore’s competitive advantage to be prepared for the future, whilst ensuring Singaporeans get access to affordable, quality products and services via NTUC’s social enterprises.

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)