Poland suffers from parcel locker overload

Express parcels

Changes in parcel volumes driven by the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the need for extra capacity.  As a result, parcel locker networks are continuing to grow alongside increasing demand for e-commerce and rising parcel volumes. One country where these networks prove particularly popular is Poland; according to a survey conducted by Colliers at the end of 2021, 97.0% of respondents use lockers. According to Colliers, Poland has the largest number of parcel lockers per 100,000 inhabitants in the world, with forecasts suggesting there may be around 25,000 lockers in the country by the end of 2022.

Competition amongst locker providers in the country is high. Inpost, owner of the largest automated parcel machine (APM) network, increased its number of automated parcel machines by 50.0% in 2021. The company now has 16,000 lockers in Poland and counts Amazon and Polish e-commerce firm Allegro amongst its customers. Aside from Inpost, several e-commerce companies announced the intent to enter the APM market in 2021. In January 2021, state-owned company Orlen announced the launch of 2000 APMs by 2022.The first Cianio APM appeared in the streets of Warsaw in March 2021, and in the same month Allegro announced it was it would set up its own network, with 1,500 APMs in 2021 and another 1,500 by 2022.

However, some sites are now home to three or four different parcel lockers from various last-mile operators. Marek Rozycki of Last Mile Experts described the current parcel locker landscape as a “bit of a free for all”, with companies trying to introduce as many lockers as possible, and often having to opt for sub-par locations.

Increasing parcel locker presence within the country defeats the primary benefits of lockers; to save money, provide capacity and reduce carbon footprints. According to Rozycki, lockers work well when used to maximum capacity. The existence of multiple operator’s lockers in the same sites increases carbon emissions, due to an increase in parcel drop-offs from multiple last-mile vehicles, and may even reduce capacity.

Carrier-neutral parcel locker networks may offer a solution to Poland’s overloaded network. There have been some efforts in the last couple of years, especially from SwipBox and InPost (outside of the Polish market), to promote the carrier-agnostic approach where more than one carrier has access to the same parcel locker network. According to the International Post Corporation, carrier-agnostic approaches can potentially increase the out-of-home coverage for all carriers and reduce the distance that any carrier fleet must drive to deliver a full load of e-commerce items. Ann Snitko, Head of Product Developmentat OMNIC, a parcel locker manufacturer, commented that an agnostic model is preferable as “it is very difficult for one carrier to provide a high level of parcel turnover per day on their own, which means that some of the cells are idle. In addition, in big cities, there is a struggle for locations”.

However, agnostic networks come with challenges. For delivery providers, there are concerns regarding financial factors. According to Senior Expert at DP DHL Corinna Glatz, “lockers are well utilised and so it does not make business sense for us to open up the network”. Providers are also concerned with having control over last-mile networks. Glatz stated that “full control of the network is also in the interest of our customers as we can ensure that their parcels are not rerouted due to the locker being filled with parcels from other delivery organisations”. Amazon for example has made numerous moves to expand its own delivery network to the same size as larger carriers like FedEx and UPS.

There are examples of agnostic networks working elsewhere. The Singapore government recently launched a national locker network of 1,000 locations open to all logistics players and all e-commerce platforms following successful trial in 2018. Results from the pilot showed that a driver was able to deliver up to 250 parcels per day to the parcel lockers and around four times more deliveries compared with doorstep deliveries. Although carrier agnostic networks are few and far between in Europe, this model may offer a solution to Poland’s increasingly overloaded locker landscape.

Source: Transport Intelligence, 24th March 2022

Author: Nia Hudson