Case Study

NTUC FairPrice

NTUC FairPrice quadruples order fulfillment

Country
Singapore
Industry
Grocery
Partner
Swisslog

In 2018, NTUC FairPrice – Singapore’s largest supermarket chain – launched its online platform, started using AutoStore, and dramatically increased its picking efficiency.

365
Daily deliveries
20,000
Bins
1,875
sqm (20,182 sqf)
Covered by grid

In March 2018, Singapore’s largest supermarket chain, NTUC FairPrice, launched two significant innovations: its overhauled online platform, FairPrice On, and its new, automated storage and retrieval system, AutoStore.

The new AutoStore system, based at the FairPrice Distribution Center in Joo Koon, has enabled the company to increase its order fulfillment rate by four times.

Automation has allowed supermarket operator FairPrice to streamline its processes and track products more easily.

Halimah Yacob
Singapore President

Who is NTUC FairPrice?

NTUC (National Trades Union Congress) FairPrice is a co-operative chain of over 100 supermarkets and 160 Cheers convenience stores across the island of Singapore. 

The company was originally established in 1973 as the NTUC Welcome Supermarket in Toa Payoh. In May 1983, NTUC merged with the Singapore Employees Co-Operative (SEC) to form NTUC FairPrice Co-Operative Limited. Today, the supermarket chain has the slogan “Singapore’s very own.”

As is the case with other major supermarket chains worldwide, their products include everything from fresh produce, grocery items, and clothing to personal care products, pharmacy products, and general household goods.

In 2016, Singapore launched its Retail Industry Transformation Map (ITM). This map contains key strategies to support sector transformation, and focuses on innovation and the adoption of new technologies aimed at driving productivity.

NTUC FairPrice has adopted the strategies outlined in the map. “We continue to innovate and harness technology to boost productivity and customer service while adapting to constant shifts in the e-commerce industry,” says NTUC FairPrice CEO Seah Kian Peng.

The surge in demand for certain products at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic also meant that FairPrice had to increase their capacity. In turn, Singapore had a role to play in bettering the supply chain of goods in the region.

Kian Peng believes the shifting global supply chain will create opportunities for Singapore to emerge as a trusted hub to do business. 

The AutoStore system at NTUC FairPrice

The new goods-to-person storage and retrieval system, installed in 2018, stores brand offerings of over 13,000 products. The FairPrice On e-commerce platform has also grown in leaps and bounds, and there are now over 400,000 registered subscribers. Many place their orders via a mobile app.

Here’s what the AutoStore system looks like in NTUC FairPrice’s large Singapore warehouse:

  • The grid occupies a space that’s one and a half times the size of an Olympic swimming pool. It covers an area of 1,875 square meters (20,182 square feet).
  • 55 Robots retrieve Bins containing order items, sliding over an aluminum grid, maximizing storage space as they go.
  • 20,000 Bins are spread over multiple layers. Each Bin can hold various types of products to provide greater flexibility to the system. 
  • The system can handle up to 3,000 orders per day, which has increased order fulfillment by four times compared to the previous system. FairPrice NTUC can now fulfill 220 order lines per hour.
  • The Robots use a wireless LAN to communicate with each other and the control system.

The advantages of AutoStore 

AutoStore has helped maximize economic benefits to people living in Singapore and the surrounding region. 

“FairPrice’s journey is reflective of Singapore’s in the next phase of its development, which is about embracing technological change to maximize its benefits for everyone, but also keeping a watchful eye on how it impacts jobs and helps every individual adapt to change and do well, “ Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugarathnam said at the official launch of the new AutoStore system. 

President Halimah Yacob adds: “Automation has allowed supermarket operator FairPrice to streamline its processes as it tracks products more easily. This has also enabled FairPrice to spot potential problems before they turn into major issues and end up causing disruptions.”

Yacob notes these efficiencies are significant for Singapore, a country that imports most of its food. “We import more than 90% of our food products from 170 countries. Ensuring supply chain resilience for our food products and essential foodstuff is really important. It’s an issue of national security.”

Apart from general economic advantages, the automated warehousing system has improved FairPrice NTUC’s operational efficiency by a factor of four. It also makes full use of the available workforce, the entire system is incredibly flexible, and the team can easily expand it to accommodate future growth.

Sven Åge Hjorteland
Vice President Sales APAC

Want to learn more about this case?

Talk to an automation expert.

Let's talk

Let’s figure out how you can benefit from AutoStore

AutoStore can fit any warehouse or fulfillment center. Make yours the next.