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Parcel lockers: Bridging the final mile in urban deliveries

Smart city expert Laura Puttkamer looks at how parcel lockers can enhance smart city effects.

Smart cities, as explained in the last article of this series, intend to be more sustainable. They are also supposed to offer convenient solutions for citizens. Technologies such as the Internet of Things, encryption and cloud-computing, can make even CO2 intensive activities such as delivering a parcel smart and more sustainable. Here, we look into ‘out of home delivery systems’ that can fit seamlessly into the smart city concept.

The Parcel Locker, known as the smart terminal, the automated parcel machine or the self-service locker, is based on the clever automatic technology that is housed in each unit. These lockers can be placed outside or inside, powered by electricity or by battery. They provide us with an easy and simple way to collect and return parcels, designed to benefit both recipients as well as carriers.

In recent years, parcel delivery lockers have become an important feature in many communities, as well as within workplaces and now we are seeing expediential growth in many parts of Europe. Look around and you will find parcel lockers in many different locations such as carparks, retail sites, airports, train stations, hospitality sites, fuel stations, hospitals, hotels, and sporting venues.

InPost NCP
Lockars - Parcel Lockers
  • Earlier this year InPost raised €2.8 billion euros as its stockholders sold 35 per cent of the company. As of the end of 2020, InPost owned 12,254 automated parcel machines handling 249 million deliveries through them.
  • New parcel delivery ecosystem Lockars announced last week its launch in the UK, allowing carriers, retailers and customers to use the open network of lockers for collection, delivery and shipment from multiple locations installed across the country. Lockars will begin services in London with the roll out of 1,000 lockers this year, and plans to install 10,000 in the capital and 25,000 in total across the UK. According to Lockars, its solar-panel locker network will facilitate the consolidation of last-mile deliveries and will enable 14,500 delivery vans to be removed from UK streets – 6,000 in London alone – reducing CO2 particulates by 70%, compared to home deliveries.
  • The Deutsche Post DHL Group now has 7,000 Packstations in operation throughout Germany. The DHL Packstations complement the broad network of around 24,000 branches and DHL parcel shops. The Deutsche Post DHL Group plans to have 12,500 Packstations by the end of 2023.

Parcel lockers are especially important in cities and surrounding suburbs as they are a greener solution for e-commerce solution. Parcel carriers can save a lot of CO2 emissions and time by dropping multiple deliveries off at a single parcel locker location instead of delivering them to every individual recipient. Locker delivery results in a reduction of CO2 emissions by two-thirds compared to to-door deliveries in urban areas. InPost reports that this saves approximately 75,000 tonnes of CO2 per 100 million delivered parcels compared to to-door delivery. Final mile drivers can deliver many more parcels in a day using this method, resulting in a huge reduction of emissions. Therefore, polluting factors such as a high vehicle mileage, high energy, and combustible use, as well as vehicle congestions, can be reduced.

In addition, with parcel volumes growing, the more volume that is delivered to an out of home solution, will help to take the pain away from network capacity issues. When it comes to receiving a parcel at home, almost 28% of recipients find it inconvenient to wait at home for a parcel, and delivery personnel is equally inconvenienced when no one is at home. Therefore, parcel lockers are very convenient solutions.

Infinium Logistics Solutions (ILS) have recently been involved with an area regeneration project where a number of parcel lockers will be placed at certain locations within the development. ILS suggested that Parcel Lockers, PUDO and Cargo Bikes would be the three choices to receive or send parcels. 

We are also working on some new innovations to overcome the challenge of having multiple lockers in different locations, which sometimes creates inconvenience for consumers, having to go to location A for one parcel and location B for another.

Parcel Lockers in Urban Area

Convenience is a huge part of the WHY for lockers. Customers have secure, round the clock access to collect or return parcels at the time to suit themselves. They access their parcels using either a PIN number, barcode or a specific smartphone app to access their deliveries – the digital key. Similarly, environmental benefits are a key reason for lockers.

Parcel lockers as part of the smart city

Parcel lockers can enhance the smart city in many ways. As an important part of an urban business ecosystem, the lockers replace the final mile in deliveries, asking customers to take control and therefore offering them ownership as well as convenience.

At the same time, parcel lockers can alleviate the tension on urban streets. Up to half of urban traffic in London, for example, consists of commercial freight vehicles. By reducing last-mile delivery, cities benefit from a better quality of life through less congestions, less greenhouse gases and more pedestrian space.

Self-service is an important part of the smart city. By making something such as receiving parcels more flexible, the smart city is creating an easier, more convenient life for everyone that resides or visits. Simultaneously, CO2 emissions are reduced and traffic congestion is alleviated.

Importantly, parcel locker services and PUDO points depend on the willingness of consumers to complete the final mile by walking or cycling to the collection point. The trend towards the 15-minute-city is crucial here: More and more European cities, in part motivated by the COVID-19 pandemic, want to create smaller-scale neighbourhoods where you can reach every important service within 15 minutes.

Similarly, logistics companies benefit from parcel lockers by being able to better plan their deliveries, developing more efficient freight corridors for concentrated shipments, consolidating freight loads, and locating distribution centres, which can be shared between several companies, near business and residential districts.

Once part of future visions, smart parcel lockers today can increasingly provide additional services such as charging points, drop off and pick up for dry cleaning and refrigerated lockers for food and pharmacy collections. Soon we will see an integration with SIM cards that would allow couriers to communicate with owners of private lockers, putting the Internet of Things into practice. Technologies such as fingerprint recognition can allow access and maximise security.

In the end, individual lockers and locker parks as part of a smart city can make the urban environment more sustainable, more convenient, and more secure. Locker parks can serve as community meeting points and offer many different services that even make a positive difference during a pandemic. Both customers and logistics companies will benefit from a smart locker park for out of home deliveries.

At Infinium, we will work with clients to ensure the best parcel locker solution is implemented throughout the portfolio. 

We help with the design and mapping of locker locations, through to the full project management support of implementing. Get in touch to learn more about smart parcel lockers and their integration into your neighbourhood.

For more information call us on 0208 334 8229 or email our Channel Director for Urban Logistics Lockers Jonathan White jonathan.white@infiniumgroup.co.uk 

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