Maritime and logistics specialist Dr Eric Deans says the use of automated parcel delivery lockers in Jamaica would help to eliminate last-mile delivery. (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

WITH opposing views on last-mile delivery being an issue in Jamaica, leaders in the transportation, storage and distribution industry have suggested that the use of automated parcel delivery lockers would provide quicker distribution to customers.

According to executive chairman of Mailpac Group Khary Robinson, and Marcel Anderson who heads Zip Express, the automated locker system — which is a collection service that allows customers to have their parcels delivered to local service points for them to collect at any time of day using digital pickup codes — would be a game changer in the industry.

Their views were shared after maritime and logistics specialist Dr Eric Deans mentioned the lockers being used in Jamaica with a boom in e-commerce due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

He was speaking at the Caribbean Maritime University Conference on Thursday.

Robinson, who explained that last-mile delivery — the final stage of a product's delivery — was not an issue in Jamaica, said an automated delivery system provides convenience and better access for customers.

"No, it is not an issue for us. I find that most last-mile delivery is actually growing. If you look at all of the couriers today, a lot of them who did not offer deliveries before and only offered pickup at their stores, a lot more are offering last-mile deliveries and deliveries to home or office. So, some of the fundamental challenges that companies in the US are having, we don't have in Jamaica," he said.

"The system is something that we have had in our business for about two years, so anything that allows packages to get to customers easier, better, faster or more convenient is something that will help both the industry as well as their customers," Robinson told the Jamaica Observer.

For Anderson, there are some companies that have issues automating their entire business process.

"Most of the couriers here, they don't have engineers, websites; they do not know how to automate their whole business process. They know they need to automate it because once the package gets to the warehouse, that customer needs to have communication about their package until it gets to their hands, and that's the challenge with companies here — last-mile delivery. They don't have the automated system here to keep the customer engaged until the package gets to them.

"This feature would help in a big way as it would be available 24/7, and you can access that anytime, whenever you are available. It would also add value to your brand. People would want to know that their package is in Jamaica and they can access it as soon as it is here," he said.

On Thursday Deans noted that the automated lockers would bring ease and accessibility to retail delivery.

"With smart locker technology, retailers can maximise the number of parcel deliveries in a day and at the same time drive down the extra operational costs. It also improves the retail delivery experiences by providing ease-of-use and 24/7 accessibility to click and collect their parcel," he said at the event held under the theme, 'End to End Logistics — opportunities in an era of uncertainty,' at the Jamaica Conference Centre.

Pointing to his presentation, Deans said automated parcel delivery locker technologies have been expanding in Europe and Asia, helping to eliminate last-mile delivery — the final stage of a product's delivery — issues.

He also noted that the global e-commerce market is expected to grow by almost $11 billion between 2021 and 2025.

"What the pandemic resulted in and what logistics companies like Amazon benefited from was more people — instead of going in shops — [people] would buy things online and have them delivered to their homes. One of the major challenges for courier companies is when persons are not at home, it results in them making multiple deliveries to those customers," he explained.

"So, we have seen a growth in the automated parcel locker system which provides convenient retrieval and drop-off options for customers and couriers alike. With the APM [automated parcel machine] system and the technology involved, retailers can maximise the number of parcel deliveries they make in a day," he added.

Deans noted that the aim is to address last-mile deliveries in Jamaica by setting up a network of indoor parcel lockers.

"What we will be looking at is how we are leveraging the advantage of this future-ready approach while eliminating the risk of loss and delayed parcel deliveries," he said.

Deans, who is the founder of a logistics facility called Quantum Industrial Park, which will be located in May Pen, said the company is expected to offer quick, personalised and convenient parcel goods and services for organisations offering last-mile delivery all across Jamaica.

"From our centre, we will create a centre of 500 parcel terminals which will be located all across the country. So the control centre — which will manage all the order taking, delivery scheduling and everything — will be in May Pen, and these will be connected to the 500 terminals based across the country," he said.

"We believe APMs provide consumers with a flexible and convenient delivery option, allowing pickup for any locker at any time of the day, while keeping the delivery costs lower than the costs for traditional to-door delivery."

BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON Observer staff reporter hutchinsonb@jamaicaobserver.com

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