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On a postal mission

April 29, 2019
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From automation to improving connectivity, the country’s postal delivery service is racing to adopt technology to keep ahead of the surge in parcel deliveries spurred by e-commerce.

POS Malaysia Berhad is on a mission. From automation to improving connectivity, the country’s postal delivery service is racing to adopt technology to keep ahead of the surge in parcel deliveries spurred by e-commerce. Head of operations, Rahman Abbas, says that the number of packages that POS Malaysia deals with on a daily basis has more than tripled from 200,000 five years ago to almost 600,000 a day at peak today.

Relative to the tedious process of manual sorting, the group has increased efficiency by 70-80% after adopting LG CNS technology to sort parcels autonomously. The subsidiary of South Korea’s LG Corporation supplies the company with machinery and software for sorting.

Mechanised sorting

The machines are fitted with optical character recognition (OCR) cameras that read parcel labels and determine where they are supposed to go, says Abbas. All that the mail staff need to do is correctly position items on the conveyor belt so that the labels can be read.

Despite this rapid digitalisation of postal processes, Abbas is upfront about “struggling” with parcel volumes in meeting service agreements. Not only are there a growing number of low-cost competitors, but inefficiencies such as frequent and numerous unsuccessful delivery attempts increase the load exponentially.

As Malaysia’s national postal service, the group’s remit and service expectations are mandated. “We can’t say no to deliveries if they’ve been requested, but other delivery services can work within whatever their capacity is,” says Abbas. We suffer penalties “from breaching service licence agreements with contract customers.”

The group’s most recent first quarter 2019 earnings results show operating profit plunging 74.4% to MYR 10 million from a year ago. Much of this loss can be attributed to postal services, the company’s second largest revenue generator, which made a loss of MYR 33 million for this quarter. POS Malaysia’s stock has fallen almost 50% in the past year.

New business models

While technology can be expensive to integrate, it also can create new business opportunities. According to a report by the U.S. Postal Service and IBM, the Internet of Postal Things could help protect postal companies by generating cost savings, operational efficiencies, and user value. Over time, it could also create new revenue opportunities and foster new business models. For example, a smart and sensor-connected mailbox that would allow larger parcels to be delivered securely, even without residents being home, and could notify recipients when a delivery is done. Postal services could generate revenue by renting the connected mailboxes to households. According to the report, France’s La Poste and mailbox manufacturer Renz have already successfully tested connected parcel buildings in a few buildings in Paris.

With the vast infrastructure that postal services have of both stationary and moving elements from post boxes to delivery vans, if these objects were able to “talk”, collect, and communicate data, this could create an information network to complement the physical network.

Robots, drones, and IoT

Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo said recently that the commercial use of drones in the postal and courier industry will be implemented in the next five years. POS Malaysia’s longer-term ventures also include drones, says Abbas, but concerns about the short battery life remain.

“Most drones have less than one hour of air time,” says Abbas. “So, the proximity of the drone towards the warehouse is a factor, and security is another one; kids with just a slingshot could take down a drone easily.” Abbas is also on the fence about autonomous delivery robots, noting that the technology backing these robots is not yet mature.

More promising is the ‘Internet of Postal Things’ actually helping with one of POS Malaysia’s most basic challenges, which is standardising addresses. “Sometimes in rural areas, we receive addresses like ‘the house behind the yellow building’ and if you aren’t familiar with the area you wouldn’t know where to go,” says Abbas.

In circumstances such as those, familiarity combined with technology could go a long way, so that the next generation of post-workers, drones, or delivery robots know exactly where that yellow building is.

Smoothing the Transition to Smart Manufacturing

October 03, 2021
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Paper-based maintenance, planning and quality acceptance plans are now bygone. The future belongs to sensors, integrated systems algorithms and cloud-based software solutions to define and optimise the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). In an idyllic factory situation, equipment would function 100 percent of the time at 100 percent capacity, with quality production of 100 percent. In the real world, however, this situation is rare. Therefore, calculating the overall OEE is a crucial process to improve processes, consistency, quality, and productivity.

CELEBRATING SUCCESS : How EPF Digitalising its Customer Journey

September 30, 2021
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Employees’ Provident Fund of Malaysia (EPF) plays a central role in securing Malaysians’ retirement needs. As Malaysia’s public provident fund, EPF serves over 14.5 million members and manages a portfolio value of over RM1.0 trillion.

With digital channels becoming a norm in work and lifestyle needs, the importance of building these channels must be a priority. To that end, EPF has recognised these growing demands and initiated its Operations Transformation 2.0 back in 2017. Since then, the fund has engaged in several digitalisation initiatives. These initiatives serve to improve both the customer experience and internal operational efficiency.

Our article seeks answers to the following questions:

  1. How is EPF improving the digital experience of its members?
  2. How is EPF creating new channels & services to drive the participation of its members and widen its coverage?

Building a comprehensive omnichannel experience

1. Continuous enhancement to the i-Akaun platform on mobile and web applications

The i-Akaun platform is the primary digital channel for a customer’s interaction with EPF. It is accessible via the internet and more recent mobile applications – the i-Akaun app (for members) and the e-Caruman app (for employers). Some functions performed through these applications include checking account balances, monitoring transaction status, enabling payments, etc.

Since its launch, EPF has continuously introduced new updates/services onto its i-Akaun mobile application. In 2019, several updates included new PDF-format statements for downloads, targeted push notifications, a branch locator service, and fund performance monitoring for its i-Invest users.

With these improvements, the i-Akaun platform has gained commendable acceptance among its members in the past five (5) years. From 2017, the growth in i-Akaun membership grew by at least 70%, with 52.06% of their 14.5 million members registered on i-Akaun. On the employers’ side, 99.36% of 522,297 employers registered for i-Akaun.

To date, the i-Akaun application has nearly 1.5 million downloads with an average rating of 4.5. Both the growing user base and reviews reflect EPF’s focus on building these digital channels.

2. Enhancements to brick-and-mortar branches

To extend the digital experience onto its physical branches, EPF has continuously introduced new processes to improve customer interactions at the branch. The focus here is to provide effective self-service channels and superior customer service.

EPF designed its branches as a one-stop-centre approach. Apart from e-kiosks, EPF also introduced initiatives to provide advisory training for its staff. Nowadays, customers, tend to prefer self-service channels due to their efficiency and ease of use. Hence, EPF recognised that its staff could provide higher value as retirement advisors.

To execute this training plan, EPF introduced the Retirement Advisory Services (RAS) in July 2014, which is now available in 52 branches. The latest figures show that more than 82,000 members received advisory services that RAS provided.

3. E-payroll Services for SMEs

EPF also pays attention to services beyond its core functions. For example, in June 2021, EPF unveiled an e-Payroll service to assist small business owners and entrepreneurs with a digitalised payroll system. This service complements the i-Akaun platform for employers. It ensures that they meet and monitor statutory obligations and employee contributions.

The e-payroll service aims to ease the difficulties that small business owners face in terms of the financial constraints to adopt a digital payroll solution. Some features include the ability to store digital records, monitor account contributions, automate calculations, and many more.

The range of services provided by EPF is indeed commendable. The increase in customer interactions through electronic channels suggests that customers are strongly shifting towards digital channels provided by the fund. In 2019, self-service channels via kiosks and the i-Akaun platform recorded 104.88 million interactions, a 24.12% increase from 2018.

EPF’s Contact Management Centre (CMC), which handles customer inquiries mainly through telephone or email, recorded a 27.16% decrease from 2018. Customers are increasingly attuned to digital channels as opposed to traditional face-to-face interactions according to these statistics.

Launched new services to drive participation & increase coverage

1. Introduced i-Invest platform to drive participation from members

The introduction of this service was a new one for the industry. EPF was the first public retirement fund that allowed its members to invest their retirement savings directly into unit trust funds of their choice. Customers also enjoy significantly lower sales charges through this service. The sales charge ranges from 0%-0.5%compared to the standard range of 2%-3% often charged by intermediaries.

The i-Invest service also includes tools for its members to monitor all the relevant information on the unit trust funds they selected actively. Through these tools, EPF encourages higher participation from its members.

2. Building programmes for gig economy workers

EPF continues to face the challenge to cover a broader range of Malaysian workers. The growing size of the gig economy is one of the leading causes of this. Estimates indicate that gig workers would represent more than a third of Malaysia’s labour force in the next five (5) years. With the pandemic’s impact on job losses, this situation may worsen as Malaysians continue to find alternative income sources.

To counter this, EPF introduced the i-Saraan programme in mid-2020. Through this programme, self-employed workers can voluntarily contribute to their EPF accounts. This programme was designed to encourage gig economy workers to save up for retirement. The pickup has been encouraging, with recent registrations increasing by 22.11% in 2019 with 120,738 registrations.

The government has also championed this initiative by introducing an RM50 million matching grant for i-Saraan investors in June 2020.  In addition, EPF has engaged with the private sector, most notably collaborating with Grab Malaysia by extending their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that was signed back in 2018. Like the government’s matching grant, this MOU commits Grab to match contributions by up to 5% with a ceiling of RM80 annually for those below 55 years old. Those above 55 years old are guaranteed matching contributions of 10% with a ceiling of RM120 annually.

How you can emulate EPF

  • The customer satisfaction levels are a reflection of the customer-focused culture that is present in EPF. Merely digitalising is not the answer. Businesses need to understand the specific customer journey pain points to build solutions effectively.
  • Observing EPF, the fund placed a strong emphasis on creating a comprehensive omnichannel experience, one that could meet the demands of different types of customers. This is crucial to ensure consistent customer satisfaction and provide a seamless onboarding process onto digital channels.

Key Elements for Better Data Insights

September 28, 2021
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Designing future citizen services – Inspirations from our youth

September 16, 2021
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On the eve of Malaysia’s 64th National Day, I had the opportunity to engage with a few of our youth on their expectations for future citizen services. It was inspiring to see the passion, energy, and ideas flowing as they aspire to build a better tomorrow. The conversation helped me gain useful perspectives on what is important and possible next steps for us to build the next generation of citizen services. Here are my five (5) key takeaways from the session:

  1. A high benchmark in term of expectations – This generation has grown in a digital-first world and are the recipients of great customer experience (CX) from some of the world’s best brands. In the case of these six youngsters, it is best exemplified by Grab, Revolut, Etiqa, BigPay, AirAsia and Foxtons. Each of these companies has established incredible benchmarks in delivering intuitive, frictionless, personalised, efficient, and completely digital services. This is now the minimum benchmark for the delivery of next-generation citizen experience. Anything lower will only result in an unhappy citizen.
  2. A customer-centric view – The service delivery must be designed from the lens of the citizen and his or her life journey – from womb to tomb – all integrated into one place. The user or a citizen should be the centre and focus of service delivery. As the citizen traverses through the various stages of life, he or she should be able to access the services through a unified channel. This is in stark contrast to the way citizen services are delivered by individual agencies, requiring us to engage with each of them separately.
  3. Build the foundational layer – The first step would be to build and integrate some very essential components that are fundamental to digital experiences as we know them. Some of these include:
    1. Mobile-first and digital-first approach
    2. Single Sign-On for all services
    3. Consistent user interface/user experience (UI/UX) across all federal, state and municipal agency services
    4. Data-once – citizens need to enter data only once; it is shared subsequently by the various agencies
    5. Predictive – anticipate and pre-empt citizen needs
    6. Omni-channel and One-stop customer service
  4. Develop a digital coalition – Further sustained innovation in citizen services can be achieved only through open innovation and co-creation among government agencies, technology partners, citizens and the start-up ecosystem. Human needs and behaviour are extremely complex and unpredictable. Co-creation enables the delivery of better services in a dynamic manner by leveraging the capacity to use resources of a wider ecosystem. It should be treated as a fundamental requirement for the delivery of next-generation citizen services.
  5. Driving industry transformation – It was interesting to hear the youth pointed out that the biggest impact of digital on the country will reside in our ability to transform some of the essential citizen services, such as education and healthcare services. This proves that digital can help improve access to every section of the society. They also discussed about the urgent need to modernise our core infrastructure (such as ports) so that we can be competitive in the region.
Imri Mokhtar, Group Chief Executive Officer, Telekom Malaysia Berhad

I was immensely inspired – every youth on the panel was part of a social initiative. Beyond just sharing ideas, they involved themselves actively and contributed to help build a better Malaysia. The onus is now on us in the government and institutions to channel that same energy into driving collaborative projects and creating world-class citizen services.

Looking forward to this exciting future. Selamat Hari Malaysia!!

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