SINGAPORE - While usage of the nationwide locker service for parcel delivery has been low, logistics partners have reported productivity gains for the one-year-old initiative.
The locker network is deployed, owned and operated by Pick Network, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), and was launched at the end of April last year.
On average, only 13 per cent of the lockers were used between January and March, said Pick on Tuesday (July 26).
However, logistics providers have seen their average productivity increase by three to 19 times, said the network operator.
Mr Ray Chou, country head of Ninja Van Singapore, said: "Pick Network's islandwide coverage provides increased convenience and accessibility for consumers who prefer to self-collect.
"It also allows logistic players like Ninja Van to increase our last-mile efficiency by enabling us to deliver more parcels within a shorter period of time.
"Ninja Van has been with Pick from the start and we look forward to continuing working closely together."
Mr Kooh Wee Hou, Ninja Van Singapore's head of commercial, said: "As long as you can have more than 20 parcels to one location, you are optimising the location very well... it saves us a lot of time actually."
Pick chief executive New Soon Tee said his team has been focusing on expanding the network of lockers in the first year of operations and will now look at boosting its partnerships and educating the public on the benefits of its service.
Mr New said: "It (the utilisation rate of 13 per cent) is not a small number to start with because the infrastructure is built to last seven to 10 years. We have demonstrated the benefits, the productivity gain, the convenience, and the consumer feedback has been positive. The adoption is a matter of time."
He added that Pick's network of lockers helps to minimise the environmental impact from delivery services as fuel consumption and the number of repeated trips due to failed deliveries are reduced.
Pick expects to reduce service providers' carbon dioxide emissions by 600 tonnes a year, said Mr New. The challenge is to increase this awareness among Singaporeans.
"We have been doing a lot of engagement with the public to create awareness of the convenience and security of Pick. Carbon footprint is another area that a lot of people among the younger population is concerned about. Therefore, it will resonate with them."
He added that Pick will have to further educate the public on how the company can help with sustainability so as to help change behaviour.
Pick Network was giving an update on its performance during a celebration and networking event for logistics providers in One Farrer Hotel on Tuesday.
Eleven awards were given out to partners in categories such as Most Productive Partner and Most Supportive Partner.
Pick said there are now more than 1,000 lockers deployed across Singapore - in community clubs, Housing Board estates and public transport nodes.
Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Tan Kiat How, who was the guest of honour at the event, said the network is ready to serve 80 per cent of Singapore's residents, allowing them to "pick (up their parcels), any time, anywhere".
He added that Pick has been able to provide convenience to consumers and improve the productivity of the logistics sector.
"By aggregating deliveries to a single locker station instead of consumers' doorsteps, Pick's lockers are able to reduce the strain of manpower crunch and increase cost savings," he said.
"Individual drivers have also benefited from the network. Drivers say that Pick lockers have allowed them to be more efficient by reducing time spent waiting at lifts and contacting customers.
"They have also given feedback that the OTP (one-time password) system enhances security, and have found the option to choose the appropriate locker size to fit parcels useful."
A Pick locker station usually has between 40 and 50 lockers in six sizes, from extra small, which can contain one shoebox, to extra large, which can contain a 21-inch medium-size suitcase.
Over the next three years, Pick intends to deploy another 150 lockers across new residential areas and areas with high utilisation rates.
The company is also looking to introduce parcel returns.
Dr Seshan Ramaswami, associate professor of marketing education at Singapore Management University, said locker services throughout the island, not just in the heartland, need more promotion.
He said: "Apart from the lower carbon footprint, they also offer the great convenience to shoppers of being available for 24/7 deposit and retrieval...
"That said, many Singaporeans have a helper or a family member who is at home throughout the day, so the increased convenience of off-office hours delivery may not be that critical a pull factor in switching to the lockers.
"Also, not every e-commerce site offers locker deliveries. Some e-commerce operators do offer free delivery to pickup locations like convenience stores and pharmacies, which are easily accessible throughout Singapore."