2020 may be over, but public health crises don't adhere to our calendars, and we're still facing the same challenges that sprung up in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic making its Canadian landfall in Toronto. Just over a year since the first case, many aspects of life have been adjusted to compensate for these new challenges, including the way multi-residential buildings process the rising volume of parcel deliveries. We've previously looked at the smart locker systems that are helping buildings manage the rising tide of parcels, and the issue is as pressing today as it was in the first wave of lockdowns. One of the companies bringing parcel-management systems to new and existing buildings is Snaile Inc. We took the chance for a Q&A with Patrick Armstrong, CEO of Snaile, covering the growing need for such systems.

UT: Even prior to COVID-19, parcel volume for multi-family buildings was increasing at a fast pace. Since the onset of the global pandemic, what are some of the ways that these buildings have been negatively affected?

Armstrong: Canada’s parcel shipments reached 1.1 billion in 2020, and rising numbers are putting pressure on building managers to address the growing volumes of parcels. Whether equipped with a concierge team or not, buildings are not designed to handle these pandemic-level parcel demands. Front desks are piled high, the staff is overburdened, and valuable parcels are being left vulnerable to theft and damage.

Residential parcel lockers, image courtesy of Snaile Inc.

Aside from staffing and organization challenges associated with parcel accumulation, what other parcel-related issues have become apparent in multi-residential buildings in the fallout of COVID-19?

A wide range of issues, with everything from parcel liability concerns, building policies that prohibit in-person deliveries, and even fire code violations from parcel-blocked exits. A major issue is space, with many buildings having converted common areas to ad-hoc parcel storage spaces to temporarily address capacity issues.

Residential parcel lockers, image courtesy of Snaile Inc.

Explain the process of how a resident in a building with Snaile's smart lockers receives their packages.

When carriers arrive at a smart locker, they simply enter the recipient’s unit number at the locker’s ATM-style terminal, select the appropriate compartment size and deposit the parcel. This allows carriers to deposit several parcels for multiple residents quickly and contact-free, without having to travel throughout the building.  Once the compartment door closes, residents instantly receive an automated alert, via text message or email, with a confidential, single-use PIN or scannable QR code. Residents can then collect the parcel at any time at their convenience.

Residential parcel lockers, image courtesy of Snaile Inc.

Delivery of groceries and meal kit delivery services have grown more common with dining out removed from the equation. How can Smart Lockers help multi-residential buildings cope with the challenges presented by subscribers to these services?  

Smart Lockers make these services much more accessible to multi-residential building residents, offering the option of refrigerated compartments for meal-kit delivery services.

Residential parcel lockers, image courtesy of Snaile Inc.

Our readers are fairly well versed in architecture and interior design, and many can relate to their lobby and common area interiors being marred by Post-it notes, missed delivery cards, and sky-high piles of parcels. Along with the obvious de-cluttering, how does Snaile approach locker design to preserve or even improve a building's interiors?

Our sleek, stainless-steel systems are available in multiple finishes that can be seamlessly integrated into the design of any mail room or lobby. Dark and muted finishes can blend with subdued spaces, while bright white finishes work perfectly for the airy light-filled lobbies of modern condo towers. Our team is also happy to work with interior designers and architects on custom options, designed specifically around a building’s particular aesthetic—from a faux walnut finish, for example, to precision matching a specific Pantone colour.

With online shopping, expected to remain a strong part of the economy even in the post-pandemic recovery now on the horizon, can building owners and managers expect sustained demand for parcel storage systems to remain in place?

Demand has only been growing stronger. We now have installations in 24 cities across Canada, with 42 new installations taking place in December of 2020 alone, and more than 80 in the queue for just the first quarter of 2021.

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