Parcel lockers Australia: Case Study – Student Residence

This case study shows the benefits of automated parcel lockers in student residence. These insights are beneficial for those in the Australian student accommodation industry involved in management, operations, and student experience. (First published in Student Accommodation, June 2019)

Parcel deliveries are a growing challenge in the management of Australian student residences. Students are among the most prolific online shoppers worldwide. Most facility operations for handling incoming packages remain manual and inefficient. 

The problems created by manual processes and high parcel volumes only continues to grow. Parcel volumes are rising 10% per annum in most Asia-Pacific markets. Parcel lockers are desperately needed.

In the second Semester of 2018, Groundfloor™ partnered with the student residences at Swinburne University of Technology. The aim was to study the impact automated parcel delivery management has on operational efficiency and the student experience. 

A Groundfloor™ parcel locker system was installed on the ground floor of the SPS building at Swinburne Student Residences in Melbourne. The system serves the entire residential community of 600 students. 

Parcel locker case study project details

Duration

16 weeks over Semester 2, 2018. 

How parcel lockers changed processes

Previously, parcels were delivered together with mail to the mail centre. Operations staff would manually sort items and deliver them to the residences’ reception on that or the next day. Reception staff would then notify each student via email.

During the term of the project, the parcel locker system served the delivery and collection of parcels. Delivery personnel and staff would deliver packages into the system and students were automatically notified via SMS with a unique access code for collection. 

Launch of student parcel locker system

Groundfloor™ provided communications material to assist staff in notifying couriers of the change in process and how to start using the smart parcel lockers.

This was run as an opt-in program. Students’ details were collected for the recipient registry. Giveaways incentivised early registration for a smoother transition at launch. 

(Note: our student residences and other buildings now enjoy integration between the smart parcel lockers and their community portal. This provides a seamless experience and immediate use of the system.)

Groundfloor parcel lockers at Swinburne Student Residence

A launch event was set for the first day of Semester 2.

  • Pre-launch communications: 
    • Aligned with move-in week
    • Included Facebook, email, signage at the lockers and throughout residences
    • Mailroom and residences staff provided with communications for couriers
    • Chocolate giveaways to drive early registration 
  • Installation: 
    • Initial configuration based on typical parcel volume: 3 towers, 31 doors
    • Visible, high-traffic location near reception
    • Staff were familiarised with the administrative portal, delivery app and lockers
  • Launch event:
    • Decorations announcing system live and ready 
    • Attendance by Groundfloor™ team to assist final registrations and first deliveries
    • Prizes distributed through the system post-launch

Case Study Goals

The goals of the case study were:

  1. Enhanced student experience
  2. Operational efficiency 

Refinement

Refinement of the system was acknowledged through monitoring utilisation of the system. Groundfloor™ and Swinburne agreed another locker tower was needed. An additional 16-door tower was added five weeks into the project.

Case Study Statistics: High parcel locker use

Statistics from data gathered during the case study provided insight into high use of the parcel lockers. A total of 1735 parcels were delivered through the parcel locker system over the duration of the study. That’s an average of 97 parcels per week. 52 per cent of those parcels were collected within the first 3 hours. What was also interesting was the distribution of parcels received per student. 69 per cent of students received more than one parcel delivery. 10 per cent of total students receive 10 or more parcels.

Outcomes show benefits of student residence parcel lockers 

The outcomes of the case study show clearly the benefits of parcel lockers in Australian student residences. We separated these outcomes into two categories that aligned with the goals of the study: enhanced student experience and operational efficiency.

Enhanced Student Experience

  • Reduced delivery time by up to 24 hours by cutting out mailroom process
  • Provided unrestricted 24/7 parcel pick up (not just during office hours)
  • Eliminated time wasted waiting in line 
  • Increased parcel security and traceability 
  • Improved privacy for items received
  • Provided a bit of fun each time a parcel arrived

Operational Efficiency

  • Eliminated manual parcel logging and notifying of students
  • Eliminated office storage of parcels, improving aesthetic and workplace safety
  • Reduced interruptions to residence staff, improving their productivity
  • Reduced liability for misplaced or damaged items
  • Hours of staff time saved and able to be allocated to higher value tasks

Considerations for parcel locker implementation

University mail processes

Some universities have custom arrangements with delivery companies that may need to be altered. Support of operations and mailroom management is needed to assist in a smooth transition. 

Concerns for risk

Ahead of the change, mailroom operations may be concerned of risk or interruptions to mail for other recipients, particularly university management. Providing a distinct address for parcels and communicating with delivery companies removes risk.

Personal information

Residence privacy policies may not have explicit permission from students to provide the required personal details to a third party. We provided an opt-in process in this instance. The university has since made consent part of their general terms. (Note: this is another benefit of utilising integrations with community portals and systems)

Student wellbeing

Student wellbeing is a top priority in the management of student residences. Staff were concerned of losing touchpoints with students who would no longer needed to collect from reception. The project revealed, however, a vastly uneven distribution of parcel deliveries to students, highlighting ‘collection at the reception desk’ as an unreliable touchpoint. 

Survey results

At the conclusion of the project, SSR conducted a survey to gauge user satisfaction. The system received an overwhelmingly positive response, with more than 98% of respondents saying they preferred using Groundfloor™ over picking up parcels at residence reception. Swinburne residence staff told us they had never before seen such a response to a student satisfaction survey.

student-parcel-lockers-case-study

Conclusion 

The Swinburne Student Residence project managers primarily saw this case study as an opportunity to provide their students an innovative amenity. They were thrilled beyond expectations at the benefits for staff, particularly the time the system saved them. 

Time saved by staff could then be better spent on more meaningful activities that reach all students in a more widely balanced manner. 

This case study also showed creative applications of technology are welcomed by the students, whose survey responses communicated excitement and gratitude. 

The volume of items going through Swinburne’s Groundfloor™ system has since doubled, with mail now also being distributed through the system. The Swinburne team have communicated they cannot imagine now how they used to “do it the old way” and where they had found the time to do so.

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