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France's Bollore opens S$100m high-tech facility in Jurong

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Cyrille Bollore, chairman and CEO of Bollore Group, with Senior Minister of Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat on a tour of the facilities in the Blue Hub.

Singapore

FRENCH supply-chain firm Bollore Logistics has opened a S$100 million, fully-automated facility in Jurong that promises to cement Singapore's reputation as a global logistics hub.

The Blue Hub, as it has been called, is designed to improve operational efficiency in handling goods from storage and managing orders to distribution, particularly for businesses in the perfume and cosmetics sector.

Within the Blue Hub is Bollore Logistics' B.Lab, the company's second such facility after the one in Puteaux in France. The lab uses robotics and other digital technologies to come up with logistics solutions - arrived at through collaboration with other sector stakeholders and partners - that enable more efficient and sustainable ways to handle goods on a supply chain.

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Blue Hub has its roots in Bollore's desire "to break the codes of what a warehouse is", said Cyril Dumon, chief executive officer of Bollore Logistics Asia-Pacific, at the inauguration of the facility on Wednesday.

It has a centralised multi-shuttle automation system and the tallest spiral conveyor in Asia Pacific. Its building management system and Internet of Things (IoT) devices enable predictive analyses of temperature and air quality, thus minimising energy consumption and improving workplace efficiency. It is the first building in Asia to qualify for the BiodiverCity label, the first international label for biodiversity in construction and renovation projects.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and for Education Chee Hong Tat, the guest of honour at the opening of the facility, said the project testifies to Singapore's continued attractiveness as a strategic base for logistics companies to manage their regional and global operations.

Singapore is well-positioned to serve as the base of innovation and research for companies to bring in talents and ideas, while allowing companies to link up to the rest of the region to tap its potential, he said.

He added that even though the Republic is vulnerable to global economic headwinds and the fallout from the ongoing trade tensions, bright spots remain in its logistics industry.

"Emerging trends such as digitalisation, big-data analytics, additive manufacturing and industry Internet of Things have brought about new growth opportunities in logistics and supply-chain management," said Mr Chee.

B.Lab, the set-up of which was facilitated by the Economic Development Board (EDB), will team up with institutes of higher learning in Singapore to co-develop curricula, conduct research and provide internship opportunities to students.

L'Oreal, a long-term partner of Bollore's, has expressed interest in being a part of the programme.

Such partnerships, which offer immersive experiences, might just be the ticket to attracting more young Singaporeans into the logistics sector, Minister Chee said.

Upcoming projects at B.Lab include the development of a robotic arm for the luxury retail industry. This testing of autonomous mobile robots and smart robotics for value-added services will be a first in South-east Asia.

Bollore is also approaching petrochemical companies in a drive to find alternatives to plastics in their operations. Bollore also hopes to attract Singapore startups to work with.

Bollore representatives told The Business Times that they favour Singapore over other cities for a range of reasons. Fabien Giordano, chief executive officer of North Asia, Bollore Logistics Japan, described Singapore as a natural hub that is well-connected to key markets in the region.

Frederic Marcerou, managing director of Bollore Logistics Singapore, added that Singapore's stability - especially its financial stability - coupled with its skilled workforce encouraged Bollore to step up its investment here.

The Business Times understands that L'oreal will use the Blue Hub's warehouse facilities for its local Singapore market and for travel retail.

Daniel Yeend, operations director of L'oreal Singapore, said: "We expect to gain greater efficiencies in terms of how we store the products, how we prepare orders, how we basically manage the flows in a warehouse."

Mr Giordano said that the collaborations undertaken in B.Lab will put Singapore at "the core of innovation for all of the Asia-Pacific".

Logistics companies in Singapore are increasingly embracing technology to improve their operational efficiency. Singapore-based logistics company, YCH Group opened its Supply Chain City in September this year, also in Jurong.