1.3 million. That’s the number of kilograms of cargo an employee would have moved in 2018.
Broken down, that’s 5,000kg per trip, maybe 10 trips, five times a day every week for a 52 weeks.
For a load like this, workers of FCS Logistics, a 3PL firm that offers air and sea freight logistics solution, would have to transport the goods multiple times with a hydraulic pallet jack. Which requires a pumping action to lift cargo off the ground; and pushing and pulling to transport these from place to place.
By itself, the manual pallet jack could weigh more than 100kg as it is. It serves an even greater challenge when a majority of its workers are above the age of 50.
“There are times when one job is 2-3 tonnes altogether. By the time we complete just that job alone, we’re extremely tired. But that’s only one job,” 68-year-old Chong Leong Wah, an employee of FCS Logistics, shares.
“We have customers that have cargo as heavy as one tonne, or 1,000kg. That would require two men to transport using the traditional method of a manual pallet jack,” Adrian Yew, business development manager, explains.
Assistant Business Development Manager Alan Yam adds : “Using one man to push the load from point A to B is very tough as they’ll have to transport a few pallets for one job. Imagine if in one day, they have four to five jobs. The next day, they’ll all be tired out or they’ll even fall sick.”
Which is why they decided to look into adopting technology and machinery to help their employees in their day-to-day operations. That’s how they came across the electric pallet jack. All it requires is the moving of a latch to lift and move loads.
Yew explains: “Everything is done electrically so lifting up and moving cargo can be done by one person using their fingertips.”
But that presented another challenge: Cost. Each machine was priced at almost $5,000, which would significantly impact the finances of an SME like FCS Logistics.
Thankfully, both men were introduced to WorkPro, an initiative by Workforce Singapore that offers government grants such as the Job Redesign Grant, providing funding support to help companies create physically easier, safer and smarter jobs for workers above 50 — exactly what FCS Logistics was looking for.
“We wanted to help our older workers work safe and not be so tired,” Yam says.
Through WorkPro, the company purchased two electric pallet jacks for its warehouse at a more wallet-friendly price of $600 per unit. “At first, some (of the older) workers still preferred the traditional method. So to teach an old dog new tricks, we had to give some treats,” Yew shares, saying they introduced cash incentives to encourage employees to use the new equipment.
“Now, we don’t see any electric pallet jacks in the warehouse because they’ve all been snatched up by our workers.”
These days, its workers have more than willingly taken on the new gadget in their daily operations, including Chong, who says the machines did require some getting used to at first. “While learning to use it, we weren’t used to controlling it,” he recalls. “Sometimes the electric pallet jack would collide into us because we weren’t able to control the speed. So we have to be more careful.”
But the benefits far outweigh the challenges. Chong shares that prior to the introduction of the electric jacks, the effort used with the manual one is much higher. “Now, we don’t have to use much strength to move the cargo. It is easier and faster to complete jobs,” he says. “With the old jack, there were times when we had to transport almost 10 tonnes of goods in a day. Just moving each load from the warehouse to the truck, we’d have to stop and take a break in between trips when using the manual jack.”
His colleague, 50-year-old Soh Lee Ang agrees: “Previously, we had to pull tonne by tonne. It was dead exhausting. Transporting goods from the warehouse to the trucks takes less effort and time now.”
The younger workers too enjoy the fruits, such as 40-year-old Mardy Mararac, who adds that such machinery has encouraged him to remain in the logistics industry. “When it comes to moving heavy loads, the electric pallet jacks make it much easier for us.”
Seeing how WorkPro has been helpful to the company, both Yew and Yam has since taken on the grant again in March 2018 for the purchase of a power tailgate and canopy for one of its older lorries. The power tailgate helps workers to load cargo easily on the vehicle, while the canopy helps shield goods from the rain.
Moving forward, Yew shares his vision of FCS Logistics going semi-automated to help the company keep up with the demands of the industry, such as installing high racks and deploying stackers. “More and more companies are going into automation,” he says.
“Once we go into semi-automation, we can improve operations and even go paperless.”