Greener, cleaner, efficient and autonomous — Interview with Aidrivers’ CBDO
Question: Please could you describe your role at Aidrivers?
Kelvin: My primary role is to grow the business by identifying strategic markets and establishing commercial strategies.
I work closely with my colleagues and team to develop in-house solutions to meet customer demands and remain ahead of industrial trends.
Question: What is the biggest challenge of your job?
Kelvin: Convincing customers that automation is the future and the way forward to achieve better productivity and sustainability. There is a misperception that automation is costly and challenging to implement. However, climate change and the recent supply chain disruptions due to global events have led to a realisation in the industry that automation is essential to ensure environmental sustainability and operational resiliency.
These factors outweigh the costs of implementing automation — and automation costs have gone down significantly in the past few years, thanks to advances in technology.
Our solutions also allow for easy implementation in brownfield and greenfield facilities — we strive towards minimal disruption to existing operations through using our simulators and due diligence prior to deployment.
Overall, I think it is becoming easier to convince people about automation; the interest is not just coming from suppliers or vendors, but from the customers themselves. There is also a great deal more interest at the political level.
Covid-19 showed us that cost is not just about dollars and cents but is also about disruptions to the supply chain, and the shortage of drivers and stevedores, for example. Automation can be the answer to many of the current challenges.
Question: … and what is the most rewarding bit?
Kelvin: Seeing how automation solutions improving people’s lives.
Besides alleviating manpower resource shortages and improving sustainability concerns, implementing automation also minimises human exposure to safety hazards and give people the opportunity to upskill and expand their capabilities.
Question: Can you describe your typical day at Aidrivers? How would you describe your best day at work?
Kelvin: Since I am based in the Singapore office, the APAC team will start work ahead of our colleagues from the other regions.
I will start the day with a catch-up of ongoing projects and the latest news or developments around the world.We are in the logistics automation business and our industry and clients are affected by global developments — and that will have an impact on us as well.
I will end the day with a quick chat with our colleagues based in the Middle East and the UK, so that they can assist us by following up on key matters when we are nearing close of business in Singapore.
At Aidrivers, we are extremely global and flexible. That allows us to work around the clock to deliver effective and efficient solutions to our customers.
Question: How did you first get involved in the industry — please could you tell us about your background and education?
Kelvin: I have always worked in the maritime and ports industry. I started my career as an operations executive at PSA. Working in one of the busiest ports in the world allowed me to appreciate the importance of maritime transport to logistics and the global economy. More than 80% of international trade in goods is carried by sea and handled by ports worldwide.
I then had stints at Royal HaskoningDHV and Kalmar, where I gained invaluable experience in port projects globally and widened my network to better understand logistics automation, especially in ports.
My studies in Computer Engineering and Logistics have also allowed me to appreciate the architecture of our solutions and collaborate internally and with customers to provide the best solutions.
Question: Why did you choose this industry — was there a particular experience or person that influenced you?
Kelvin: I was first intrigued by PSA and how Singapore could [at the time] be home to the world’s busiest container port. I am extremely proud of the way that a small country such as Singapore can contribute significantly to the world.
The maritime industry is very close-knit and I have been blessed with good mentors and teammates in every company that I worked in. My time with Kalmar was very memorable — I worked with people who were very straightforward and professional to resolve the tasks objectively. I was impressed with the Finnish way of Sisu living and working to resolve challenges, and I hope to use that experience in my life and work ethics.
Question: Why Aidrivers? When did you join the company and what was it about Aidrivers that made you want to join the team?
Kelvin: I was working with ST Engineering when I first met Dr Swash, the founder of Aidrivers. I share his vision of providing automation solutions to the logistics industry by focusing on the transport.
The most labour-intensive area of every industry is in the transport and his ambition to do something for the industry globally resonates with my views. When the opportunity came up, it was an easy decision to make!
Question: What makes Aidrivers special? How would you describe your job and/or the company to your friends and family?
Kelvin: I enjoy working with such a diverse team with different backgrounds and cultures. The people are extremely vibrant, enthusiastic and approachable for any discussions — on matters related to work or current affairs. We have a positive culture as a company and are quick in our strategic choices and decision-making.
I always enjoy working with my Aidrivers colleagues and bouncing thoughts and ideas off each other. It always provides moments of eureka!
One of the core values that I observed in the company’s culture that makes us special is the resilience of our people. I have full confidence that no matter what challenges we face, as a team, we will not fail.
Question: What keeps you motivated?
Kelvin: Working with like-minded people who want to achieve the best outcome for the task at hand. I enjoy sharing my industrial experience with the team so we can come up with the best technology suitable for industrial applications. Every industry — seaports, warehouses and airports — have difference environmental nuances.
Question: What do you see as the future opportunities for AI-enabled autonomous mobility?
Kelvin: The end-to-end supply chain consists of multiple nodes including warehouses, seaports and airports.
While the transport of goods is reasonably seamless and interconnected, automation implementation is still very fragmented within the sectors or operational premises.
I believe that in the near future, these sectors will become ever-more interconnected and dependent. Therefore, our AI technologies and autonomous mobility solutions must be mobile and flexible enough for cross-deployment in order to have a truly reliable supply chain. After all, our supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link. There does tend to be a silo mentality in the supply chain. We should strive towards taking a more holistic view.
Question: Imagine stepping forward 20 years — what does the future look like? What would you like to see and what might have been achieved?
Kelvin: The end-to-end supply chain will be a lot more seamless and efficient across various logistics sectors — seaports, airports, warehouses — that are operating with autonomous robotics and automated processes.
Autonomous human transport will be highly adopted and common in major cities. Most, if not all, autonomous equipment will be electric and the adoption of hydrogen platforms will gain higher traction — therefore, a greener and cleaner environment!
Question: Do you have any particular highlights or memories from your career so far that you would like to share?
Kelvin: I have travelled widely to work on projects and learned from many different people — from interns to experienced engineers and seasoned corporate leaders. No matter what our seniority, we should never shy away from working with people smarter or more experienced than us — because everyone is an expert in their own way. There is always something to learn from every piece of advice given and question asked. So always be humble and have an open mind.
Question: How do you relax — what are your hobbies? Can you describe your perfect weekend or holiday?
Kelvin: I like scuba diving — especially night diving, wen sea creatures that you usually do not see in the day come out to play. I find the buoyant feeling during the dive very calming and therapeutic, but at the same time night diving gives me excitement and a sense of adventure. It is pitch dark and you can only see where you point your torch.
Question: Tell us one thing about yourself that might surprise your colleagues.
Kelvin: I have accumulated more than 200 dives and had my fair share of adventures, from boat capsize to equipment malfunction when at 30 metres deep. On one occasion my weights belt came loose. Of course, you must not surface too fast because of the risk of nitrogen bubbles forming in your body, leading to decompression sickness. I managed to grab on to some corals to keep myself down and used a rock to hit my oxygen tank to attract the attention of my dive buddy. He was able to pick up the belt and pass it to me.
I suppose I survived all that thanks to my calmness in the face of adversity!