Package delivery statistics for 2020/21 make interesting reading. Volume has surged during the pandemic. Managing that incoming flow of deliveries is fast becoming a challenge for building managers and staff seeking to maintain safety, security, hygiene, and a productive work environment. It is at that final step of a complex international logistics network where a range of new building technologies are emerging to harness the power of delivery culture for the benefit of building owners, managers, and occupants. This modern delivery culture embodies the flexibility trends rising throughout society and the building plays a critical role in their continued development.
According to the Pitney Bowes shipping index, there were 131 billion parcels shipped worldwide in 2020, a 30% rise on 2019 levels due to the pandemic. However, the index also shows longer-term growth with the figure tripling in the past six years and the analysts predict the number of parcels to double again in the next five years. Through the rise of e-commerce and the diversification of global supply chains, we find ourselves in the midst of a delivery revolution that is demanding logistics management innovation from the factory floor to the doorstep of the building. Then building parcel management innovation from the doorstep to the worker, residents, guest, or visitor.
In commercial buildings, the number of direct business-related deliveries has grown as the small-scale business supply landscape becomes more like an open e-commerce experience with greater options for multiple smaller parcel sizes and numerous deliveries. In B2C, the rise of e-commerce is clear for all to see, as Amazon deliveries in particular become a part of our everyday lives. For many, that means ordering deliveries to the workplace during office hours, creating new challenges for building managers forced to create internal parcel storage and delivery systems or manage the safety, security, and productivity risk of allowing delivery people to roam the building.
“Parcel delivery volume has nearly doubled over the past two years due in large part to the boom in online shopping. As package deliveries continue to rise so too do the types of delivery locations. Today’s consumers are having their online purchases delivered not only to their residences but also to their workplaces,” reads an article by automation company Quadient, providers of the Parcel Pending storage solution. “Commercial property owners and developers must strategically plan for continued package growth among their tenants or they risk putting themselves at a serious competitive disadvantage from the burden on property managers, mailroom staff and office managers.”
Many commercial and multi-tenant residential buildings are now opting for smart package rooms or smart lockers near the entrance of the building. Couriers receive a PIN, QR code, or another unique identifier they can use to unlock the room or locker and leave the package, the recipient then receives a message notifying them of the arrival and location of the package. Smart package rooms and lockers provide a virus-friendly contact-free solution that minimizes security risks and reduces disruption to building operations and the occupant experience. These solutions also reduce delivery times for big city couriers facing major parking challenges.
“It may be time for communities to provide a separate entrance and room for package deliveries, similar to what exists for mail delivery,” reads an article by the Toronto Condo News highlighting the curbside delivery crisis in the city. “Short-term parking space is insufficient to accommodate the size and volume of delivery vehicles along with taxis, Uber, Lyft, and personal vehicles dropping off or waiting for residents. Communities lacking space may need to consider a structural redesign of their main entrance or create a separate entrance for the unending convoy of delivery vans, cars, and trucks including Canada Post, UPS, Federal Express, and Purolator all of which arrive multiple times daily.”
The city itself can do more too, of course. Considering the same increase in deliveries and the same parking problems are occurring in commercial and residential buildings across all dense urban areas, the municipal authorities should be creating dedicated delivery zones and lanes where possible to curb the delivery parking issue. Where that is not possible, smarter tracking and communication between the courier and the recipient could facilitate a secure and efficient collection of packages from the vehicle itself, at least for those recipients that are willing and able.
In the futuristic plans of greenfield smart cities, such as the canceled Toronto Quayside project by Google’s Sidewalk Labs, deliveries are made using subterranean roads dedicated to commercial and municipal traffic. These ‘service corridors’ work on highly automated timetables for public works vehicles that would tie into real-time parcel delivery schedules to create a seamlessly efficient and hidden urban delivery system. However, in existing cities, it seems likely that drone-based parcel deliveries will emerge before such major redevelops of road infrastructure can be undertaken.
“The use of drone technology and drones for delivery is inevitable. Soon, multiple industries will leverage drone technology to bring innovation to their business areas, including surveillance, research, last-mile delivery, etc,” reads a 2021 Wipro study: The Future of Delivery Drones. “E-commerce giants have been at the helm of research, development, and filing patents in drone technology since 2005. They continue to be invested in this space and are focused on bringing down the cost of operations in last-mile delivery, improving delivery time, and integrating drone technology with mobile phone applications to provide better user experiences.”
In the not-so-distant future, we could see delivery drones wirelessly unlocking rooftop parcel chutes that automatically transport the packages directly to the recipient’s desk, car, or kitchen. Amazon is promising a drone delivery time of 30 minutes from clicking order to receiving the product, which would fundamentally change the culture of online shopping and retail as a whole. Using smartphones, deliveries can also be made to any GPS location, whether that is a remote worksite, a broken-down car, or a picnic in the park, taking flexibility to new levels by putting the physical world of products at our fingertips.
The technology already exists and is in advanced trials in many areas of the world, it may be the best part of a decade before regulation and infrastructure can be established, however, at least in Europe and North America. As e-commerce and logistics companies fly last-mile deliveries into the future, our buildings will be forced to keep up. Not only in facilitating efficient drop-off, dedicated parking, and drone landing zones, but in taking on the responsibility from the last-mile to the last-meter, last-floor, last-door, and last-desk delivery in this logistical revolution.