Singapore Land Transport and DHL Express Lean Heavily on GIS for Business Process Improvement

By Joe Francica

Rosina Howe-Teo, chief innovation officer of the Innovation and InfoComm Technology Department of the Land Transport Authority of Singapore, and Henrik Dahlin, logistics manager of DHL Express, Belgium, have a common bond. Both are responsible for maintaining an efficient flow of goods and services over a wide network of roads and highways. Both spoke at the Senior Executive Summit (SES), held the day before the ESRI Users Conference in San Diego.

Singapore - Managing Growth
Singapore is an island nation with 4.6 million people and only 682 square kilometers, just slightly smaller than New York City. Howe-Teo is in charge of managing the nation's public transit agency. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) was formed in 1995 as an amalgamation of four agencies: the Land Transport Division, the Mass Rapid Transit Corporation, the Public Works Department and the Registry of Vehicles. The agency (1) formulates and advises the Singapore government on land transport policies; 2) plans, develops and manages land transport; 3) serves as an agent of the Singapore government for the administration of public and private land transportation.

Leaving private industry to work for the Singapore government, Howe-Teo recognized several challenges in bringing together these diverse groups. There were four working cultures, many disparate systems and technology platforms, a lack of standards and common processes, and complex integration issues. She determined that the first thing to do was to align business and information technology (IT) systems and identify core IT competencies, and to identify a core technology roadmap. A sourcing strategy was also needed: What would the agency in-source? What would it outsource?

Work began in 2000 with the appointment of a CIO. IT was aligned with business units that performed operations support as well as strategic business applications. With the four business units combined, Howe-Teo found that they all needed GIS for certain applications, and users included geotechnical engineers as well as those in transport technology, road construction, traffic engineering and information technology.

Certain questions arose at this point: Who makes what decisions? What data should be captured and how are data shared? The LTA decided to establish a governance framework so that IT realized a return on investment, shared the available data, and managed a centralized GIS administration. But in Singapore, GIS expertise is rare. Some work had to be outsourced to consultants, despite an ingrained mistrust of outside help. The LTA contracted with an Indian systems integration company with strong GIS skills. But the LTA realized that it needed internal expertise in GIS, as well. The LTA asked some 2,000 engineers within its organization to learn GIS. One year of training required a two-year commitment to the organization.

Howe-Teo said, "It was important that we bring [GIS] knowledge and have a single point of expertise." The LTA's GIS did not have workflow process built into its framework and it determined that building this aspect into the plan was important, otherwise GIS would be nothing more than a repository. So, the LTA incorporated a workflow engine and the teams created integration processes.

In 2003, a centralized data hub allowed the LTA to compile the data requirements for the four domains of the department. The workflow engine is called ORBIT, built on the FileNet document management system. Centralized GIS data sources now include as-built drawings, on-site surveys and the National Land Data Hub.

"To date, the LTA has more the 70 layers of GIS data and the data are used across all functions of LTA and shared with other land use organizations," said Howe-Teo. "I wanted to 'laymanize' the process." That was her word for improving efficiency and effectiveness, and taking processes down to the people on the street. More information on the LTA can be found at With over 13 million page views each month, Howe-Teo said, "This portal is not allowed to go down."

DHL Tackles Logistics and Costs
DHL Express and its parent company, Deutsche Post World Net (DPWN), employ 500,000 and aim to be the world's logistics company.

Dahlin's unit, DHL Express, serves the world with offices in 220 countries, with 285,000 employees, 420 airplanes, 72,000 trucks/vans and 4,700 terminals or retail drop off points. At DHL, GIS improves the bottom line and positively impacts the customer experience.

Examples of GIS in DHL include:
  • Strategic Objectives
  1. Determine optimum terminal locations
  2. Optimize the number of terminals or retail outlets
  3. Minimize all costs
  • Tactical Objectives
  1. Optimize number of tours or routes per terminal
  2. Minimize fleets
  3. Minimize driving distances
  • Operational Objectives
  1. Optimize the daily resources
  2. Optimize pick up and delivery, otherwise know as event management
  3. Optimize distribution and system sorting
  4. Minimize tour prep time for drivers
  5. Improve positioning and navigation
DHL's GIS supports the company's optimum network configuration and delivers lower total transportation costs, in part by minimizing the number of kilometers driven. The result has been an improved competitive position in the actual market, leading to higher throughput and higher margins. There were fewer missed pickups and quicker responses, leading to lower costs. For customers, DHL is able to maintain competitive pricing levels and higher service levels. "When we created these efficiencies, we reduced pollution and [provided for] a cleaner world," said Dahlin. "Sustainable transport is our business. We offer offsets to customers to cover their carbon footprint and promote sustainable transportation."

Published Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Written by Joe Francica

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