Calls made for optimized package locker network
As self-service package lockers become an increasingly popular option in China's express delivery service, a call has been made to optimize the allocation of the smart facilities to meet the needs of this fast-growing industry.
Ma Baoxi is a deliveryman at STO Express, one of China's leading domestic courier companies. Not allowed to enter many office buildings, he has to wait outside for customers to pick up their parcels.
Deliverymen wait outside office buildings in Beijing for customers to pick up their parcels. [Photo: VCG]
"The biggest problem is that we've got too many parcels to deliver, and time is short. I wish there were three or four sets of self-service package lockers here, which is convenient both for you and for us. You can simply pick up your packages when you leave the office, rather than go downstairs during your work time," says Ma.
The self-service package lockers are now gaining popularity in China. Recipients can use a password sent to their phone to unlock a locker and collect their package at any time of the day. However, it seems that there are still not enough of them.
People pick up their parcels from self-service package lockers at a residential area in Changzhou, Jiangsu Province. [Photo: VCG]
Niu Jianming with Beijing Municipal Postal Administration says 8.9 percent of the packages were delivered through smart lockers last year in the capital city.
"The proportion is still relatively low. This contributes to the heavy workload of couriers, each of whom delivers some 150 to 300 packages every day, with a work time of 10 to 12 hours. Actually the placement of smart package lockers can ease their labor intensity," says Niu.
The request of an optimized smart package locker network has also been discussed during this year's annual session of China's top legislature, the National People's Congress.
Deliverymen sort parcels outside Shanghai Tower, China's tallest building, before putting them into self-service package lockers. [Photo: VCG]
Chai Shanshan, a deliveryman with China Post's Shanghai branch, is one of the country's legislators.
"Currently the allocation of package lockers mainly reflects the interests of related companies, rather than the needs of terminal services. Shanghai has now identified the public nature of smart package lockers, and I hope they can be included in the planning of construction land as basic supporting facilities on the national level," says Chai.
The guidelines on express delivery released by the State Council last year proposed including smart package lockers in the planning of public service facilities and encouraged the construction of terminal service sites, as well as the development of intensive terminal services.
An employee puts parcels into self-service package lockers at a delivery service center at a university in Shanghai. [Photo: VCG]
Niu Jianming says the process involves various government departments, and that Beijing Municipal Postal Administration is discussing the issues with them.
"We are striving for policy support on setting up terminal distribution branches and smart package lockers. In addition, we started last year to pilot terminal distribution parks in the city shared by different companies, in order to reduce their establishment of respective branches in one area and the occupation of surrounding public facilities," says Niu.
Employees sort parcels at a terminal distribution park in Beijing. [Photo: VCG]
China is the world's largest e-commerce market, with over 50 billion parcels delivered last year.
About 250,000 sets of self-service package lockers have been rolled out across the country, and the demand is expected to reach 750,000 sets by 2020.