Few industry insiders would disagree that parcel lockers (aka Automatic Parcel Machines "APMs") will be a significant feature in the future of last mile logistics. A Hermes study showed that APMs are the most liked last-mile innovation, with 39% of UK end-users finding APMs appealing.
The user benefits from 24/7 availability whilst the carrier enjoys near 100% first-time delivery success and the associated cost efficiencies. This has resulted in c. 11% of all parcels being delivered to an APM, while c. 9% of returns pass through the machines, figures which are increasing year on year. However, the one feature holding locker expansion back is location, which needs to be safe and accessible for users but affordable for suppliers, until now...
The APM is evolving with significant investment going into mobile and autonomous mobile versions. They work in one of two ways - either parking in a convenient location for a period for users to pick parcels up, or as micro-fulfilment hubs for bike and foot carriers to pick up from and complete the last mile.
Amazon (unsurprisingly) is developing its own solution, as are Google and independents such as Boxbot. We may be some years before we see these mobile APMs parked on our streets, but they represent a more feasible, scalable solution than drones which I'm yet to be convinced of. Whilst drones sound great, the operational infrastructure required, range limitations, risk of failure, landing challenges, along with the fact that only one parcel can be delivered at a time, means they are far less practical and little more than marketing collateral for now.
Automated local fulfillment hubs placed in residential neighborhoods could help reduce the cost and increase the speed of last-mile delivery