Are automated parcel lockers more sustainable and efficient? Maybe…

Home deliveries are the preferred method of delivery for consumers today. But, due to the specific, costly nature of home deliveries together with changes within society e.g. people working longer and more flexible hours and the competition between logistics providers, new more sustainable alternatives are being implemented. Automated parcel lockers being such an alternative.

Automated parcel lockers

Based on different studies researchers from the University of Brussels (B) concluded that at first sight the usage of parcel lockers seems to be more sustainable and less costly than the standard home delivery. Although there are some restrictions to this assumption such as the distance the customer has to travel to collect the parcel, which method of transportation is used and urban vs rural area.

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As parcel lockers are still recently new, research is limited. Many studies presume that parcel lockers are a suitable alternative because they usually don’t encompass and quantify the impact of the personal collection by the individual which is a very crucial part of the supply chain.
From an economic viewpoint many papers agree that the usage of PL’s will lead to a reduction of costs because of bundling of parcels, efficient routing and almost a zero chance of failed delivery. However, it is not entirely clear to whom these cost relate, the customer or the courier delivering the parcel.

Future research

Despite the fact there are limitations to the concept, many third party logistics providers continue to invest more in automated parcel lockers to gain a competitive advantage over others. Some studies confirm that online shoppers will use the parcel lockers more frequently.

Unfortunately the study did not look at the cost of the automated parcel lockers (investment, location), alternative options where lockers are placed in residential building of offices and right sizing capacity to deal with extreme seasonal peaks in e-commerce. More research is necessary.
Also, more insight into consumer willingness to pick up parcels and into involving the consumer in efficiently working with them is necessary. The time a parcel is in a locker is key factor for cost and capacity of the system.

Source: Ecological and economic impact of automated parcel lockers vs home delivery

Walther Ploos van Amstel.

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