Last MileNews

Research group to launch delivery locker pilot in downtown Seattle

Pepsi Beverages is the latest company to join the Urban Freight Lab, a public-private partnership working to streamline the delivery process.

Seattle’s Urban Freight Lab (UFL) will put common delivery lockers next to transit stops in the central city starting January 1, 2020. The pilot project expands on an earlier initiative demonstrating reduced delivery times after similar lockers were installed in city skyscrapers.

“We are interested in testing out different capabilities and use cases,” said Barbara Ivanov, UFL’s director. The lockers will be located near different types of buildings and will be open to all carriers and retailers.

Housed in the University of Washington Supply Chain Transportation and Logistics Center, the freight lab brings together retailers, manufacturers, logistics companies and city agencies to address the last leg of the urban delivery process, often described as the final 50 feet.

“Our members tell us that up to 70 percent of total delivery time is spent in the final 50 feet,” Ivanov said. “There’s a big payoff in cutting that time.”

The group’s nine corporate members include Boeing’s innovation arm, HorizonX, UPS, Ford (NYSE: F) and Kroger and Pepsi Beverages North America. The latter joined the lab this month.

“We are constantly seeking new ways to operate that help our city environments reduce congestion, lower environmental impact that result from our operations, and provide consumers great access to our product portfolio,” said Ray Brown, Pepsi Beverages senior director of go-to-market technology and analytics strategy, in an email explaining why the company signed on with UFL.

Common lockers, a primer

Unlike branded lockers that are restricted to just one company (think Amazon), common lockers may be used by all retail and delivery firms, and anyone can sign up to receive their online purchases at the locker.

UFL’s January pilot builds on prior research showing that lockers installed inside downtown buildings can cut the time it takes for a parcel delivery person to do their work by up to 78 percent.

The new initiative will track various metrics – for example, how the lockers’ proximity to transit impacts the pickup and drop off process, and how a supermarket might use the locker to deliver groceries, Ivanov said.

One of the containers will be located next to a senior housing center, providing insight about amenities older residents might be willing to pick up.

“Will they feel safe and secure on city streets?” Ivanov asks. “There are some special use cases that are going to be very interesting.”

The locker system “has the potential to provide an asynchronous delivery service for our customers that offers them much greater receiving flexibility,” said Brown, while reducing “delivery dwell time in a congested environment.”

Circling for parking

Another UFL project aims to reduce the amount of time delivery truck drivers spend looking for parking. With help from a $1.5 million federal grant, the team is placing sensors in load/unload spaces in an eight-block downtown location and analyzing the data in real time.

The data will flow into an app to inform truck dispatchers and drivers if a specific space near their delivery destination is open or occupied. If its occupied the system can predict “with a high level of probability” when it will become available, Ivanov said.

These and other UFL projects get hashed out during meetings the group convenes four or five times a year with senior executives from member companies, Ivanov said. The next meeting takes place in July, when participants will walk the area to be covered by the locker study.

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Linda Baker, Staff Writer

Linda Baker is a FreightWaves staff reporter based in Portland, Oregon. Her beat includes early-stage VC, freight-tech, mobility and West Coast emissions regulations.

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