Robots to the rescue amid labour crunch


Tireless: A delivery robot pushing a trolley in Singapore General Hospital. — The Straits Times/ANN

WHEELED robots carrying cargo are important members of the Singapore General Hospital as it battles a manpower crunch that has only become more acute in recent times.

Whirring around SingHealth Tower – which opened in January this year as part of a S$4bil (RM12.9bil), 20-year revamp of the SGH campus – the 13 robots deliver meals, linens and medical supplies to 16 wards in the building.

The robots, which look like refrigerators on wheels, have relieved SGH of the need to hire five support staff for such deliveries, its director of service support Joseph Chua said.

SGH said this allows it to focus on filling in-demand roles such as nursing and medical support.

“By automating supplies transportation, SGH can (also) optimise productivity and schedule deliveries more effectively,” said Chua.

Sensors on the robots help them navigate around the campus autonomously. The sensors map out the route and identify obstacles to avoid collision.

There are plans for the robots to deliver medical supplies to the upcoming Elective Care Centre on the SGH campus.

Healthcare, hospitality and aviation are among the hardest-hit sectors by an ongoing labour crunch amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic.

When Covid-19 restrictions started to ease in April this year leading to spikes in service demands, the tight manpower situation in consumer-facing sectors worsened.

The 1,252-room Swissotel The Stamford relies on 10 self-service kiosks to automate check-ins as the hospitality sector faces a manpower crunch with the return of travellers.

“The automated check-in and check-out counters help to alleviate the challenges of the tight labour market in Singapore,” said Marcus Hanna, managing director of Swissotel The Stamford and Fairmont Singapore.

Besides simplifying work processes and eliminating paperwork, Hanna said it has also freed up front office staff for more personalised interactions. — The Straits Times/ANN

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