Gone are the days where receiving a parcel was a once-in-a-while occurrence. With the growth of e-commerce purchases over the last decade, and recent stay-at-home order that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, the volume of parcels coming through residential lobbies has grown significantly. 

Much about life has now returned to normal, though some habits will likely remain for the long haul—e-commerce consumer spending in particular. With this influx of purchases being delivered to the mailboxes of residential lobbies, the current mailroom system is at risk of being overwhelmed, with parcels being lost, stolen, or damaged. Pre-pandemic lobbies were designed to handle much lower volumes than what has since become normal, and concierges can become overwhelmed, unable to tend to their other duties, and as a result, issues arise. Snaile Inc. is hoping to make this process a lot smoother, with the implementation of its smart parcel room system—but how does one choose a parcel locker?

Locker Installation at Montreal's Tour Des Canadiens Condominiums, image courtesy of Snaile Inc.

When choosing a smart locker provider, it is a good idea to choose one that has official contracts in place with all major carrier companies. That way, it is not left to chance as to whether or not a carrier will use the system as carriers who have a contract are contractually required to do so for each and every delivery. The agreements also ensure that the carrier companies have tested and approved the system and share in parcel liability, that they are aware of each site even before it is launched, and will direct their carriers accordingly.

In reality, parcel rooms are less effective than they may seem. A common issue is that carriers tend to leave deliveries for multiple residents in the parcel room without notifying either the concierge or resident that each has arrived. Packages then pile up because only the resident whose details the delivery person used to gain access to the room is notified that their package is there. The rest of the parcels accumulate, causing confusion, theft, and potential damage. The use of individual parcel lockers solves this problem by having the delivery person individually deposit each item into a compartment, notifying the person that ordered each package that their delivery has arrived. 

Locker installation at a Toronto Shiplake Property, image courtesy of Snaile Inc.

In addition to receiving packages, parcel lockers can be used to ship packages out, as well as for other essential services such as dry cleaning and laundry. For this to work, parcel locker suppliers must have contracts in place with parcel carriers, as well as integrated software, so that carriers are notified if there is a pickup request that they need to respond to.

The preservation of personal data is another crucial component, and therefore makes the cloud data hosting location an important factor in choosing a parcel locker system. In Canada, Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is strictly protected under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), but data must be hosted in Canada for PIPEDA to apply. It is important to make sure the chosen supplier can prove its data hosting location—this should be kept top of mind when choosing a locker system.

For a parcel locker to send out pickup codes and reminders to end-users, they will require access to PII. If the building's parcel lockers are integrated, usually by API, to the property management or building automation system, only the building software will need to be maintained. The building's parcel lockers will simply sync with the resident management software at regular intervals for updates. If software is not integrated, two software systems will need to be maintained—both the property management software and the parcel locker resident roster.

Contactless QR code collection, image courtesy of Snaile Inc.

The parcel locker supplier will need the following insurance policies that pay out in Canada: Commercial Product Liability Insurance, Cyber Insurance, and Professional Liability Coverage.

It’s best to deal with the company that owns, develops, hosts, and maintains the software and the hardware of the locker system so that there is never an issue with service and fixing problems that may arise: choose a locker supplier with Canadian staff with adequate experience to provide the hands-on help needed to install smart lockers and deal with any issues, and be sure that support is not outsourced outside of Canada, because this can cause issues and inconsistencies down the line. 

Parcel lockers are electrical devices. With parcel lockers coming into Canada from all over the world, it is essential that products comply with the Canadian Electrical Code and have independent certification. This is important because in this country, any electrical device that does not carry an approval is subject to a one-million-dollar fine. The best advice is to choose lockers with a cUL or a CSA certification. In addition to complying to the electrical code, parcel lockers installed in commercial premises and as a permanent fixture must also adhere to fire codes.

Lockers must also be accessible to all, and offer options for those who have physical and non-physical disabilities. For the visually impaired, a raised home key on the keypad to help them use the screen is helpful. A 24/7 bilingual call centre is also available to provide assistance. 

Outdoor Installation. Snaile lockers can withstand Canadian Winters -40º, image courtesy of Snaile Inc.

The composition of the compartments is another important factor, especially to avoid theft. More important than the thickness of the metal is the construction of the doors. The best lockers have an inset compartment door design, which has the door sit within the frame. An inset design is preferred because there is no lip to pry the door open from underneath. Locks are another way to prevent theft–look for a parcel locker supplier that uses motorized locks as opposed to solenoid locks. Motorized locks have a motor to open and close the lock, which has much more power to release the latch, even when there is pressure from inside the locker, such as an oversized package.

All parcel lockers should also have content detection. This is technology that resides inside each compartment of the parcel locker so that the locker computer knows whether or not there is an item in the locker. This guarantees that a delivery was physically dropped off and picked up, and not stolen.

Over 200 developers and landlords across the country have already signed contracts for Snaile systems. Developers including Concert in British Columbia, Saroukian Group in Quebec, and Minto, Starlight, Oxford, Tridel, and Menkes in Ontario, have all joined the movement towards efficient and secure parcel delivery.

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