In 2017 DSV wanted to scale its opportunity around providing secure lockers in safe locations where people could send and collect parcels of goods they bought online conveniently. It made sense since e-commerce and other direct to consumer services would grow substantially between 2018 and 2021, the global transport and logistics business, was leveraging its fleet of courier vehicles in combination with smart locker solutions to create a new market for itself.
But it needed a service partner to support the scale. The old provider wasn’t able to provide the level of services DSV needed to support a growing fleet of lockers located countrywide.
At the same time, Ricoh SA’s technical director, Herman Meyer, was looking for a solution to provide his field engineers with an efficient way to collect and return spares from the warehouse in Linbro Business Park in Johannesburg.
That’s when he just happened to see a DSV locker at a fuel station near his home.
“It was a pivotal moment,” says Meyer. “I needed lockers for my engineers to reduce wasted travel between the warehouse and customers, and as a result improve service levels to my clients, but I had another reason to be interested in them.”
Meyer’s engineers at Ricoh SA primarily service customer equipment, desktop to industrial-scale printers, smart projectors, smart whiteboards, and unified communications equipment that Ricoh customers use to digitalise their businesses. They pick up spares from the warehouse, service customer equipment, then return unused spares to the warehouse. It was a time-consuming process. Meyer wanted a service to ship spares to a locker nearest engineers’ homes in the evening. They would collect them in the morning en route to customers without first having to detour across town to the warehouse in Linbro Business Park. They would repeat the process in reverse in the evening, returning spares to lockers nearest them, which would then be couriered back to the warehouse.
Now for Meyers second reason to be interested in lockers. Ricoh SA falls under Ricoh Europe, Middle East and Africa, a division of the international business that employs 4 500 field engineers.
“They’re a valuable resource so we decided in 2015 to employ their skills more widely by servicing a wider range of customer needs,” says Meyer. “They have the certifications and the knowledge, so we established a programme we call Service Advantage to help customers with their service and maintenance requirements in five specific areas.”
The five services are collaborative robotics, desk-side support, digital displays, third-party technology maintenance, and smart lockers.
Service Advantage, with executive sponsorship from Ricoh SA CEO, Jacques van Wyk and Meyer, was a collaboration with Ricoh Europe to ensure delivery of a sustainable solution in partnership with DSV South Africa.
“By the time Herman came to us for his own solution we were looking for a new partner to scale with our growing need to supply, support and maintain lockers across the country,” says Brett Sauerman, GM of e-fulfilment Africa at DSV. “He just happened to ask who services the lockers, I mentioned we were out to tender looking for a new partner and was amazed to hear that Ricoh looks after the Amazon lockers in the US and Europe. The timing could not have been more perfect.”
He says that the tender process was already at an advanced stage. Ricoh SA additionally competed against established domestic and international operations with thousands of lockers under management worldwide.
“Ricoh was successful because they didn’t firmly advocate ripping and replacing all of our existing infrastructure with their own technology. They presented alternatives for our consideration because they understood our business, what we were trying to achieve, and they were prepared to use their technical capabilities to tailor a solution specifically to meet our needs,” says Sauerman.
He adds that the dividends were unexpected. Ricoh’s technical capabilities in developing bespoke software behind the lockers has provided the flexibility to meet business requirements that could not have been foreseen when DSV started its locker business.
“We expected the big e-commerce retailers to be the natural customers, but we began picking up a lot of interest from other businesses and industries. The sophisticated software behind the lockers, in some cases using the latest multifactor authentication capabilities, enables us to provide bi-directional interactions with customers at the locker. That’s a powerful business enabler, particularly in light of regulatory requirements.”
The applications are already numerous and growing in number. The financial services industry now use the service to reach their customers in a safe and convenient, but most importantly, compliant way. Retailers use them for deliveries and returns. The long distance education sector is using them for student assignments. Ricoh’s technical team uses them for spares. Other use cases are in the pipeline.
“The value offering is now motivating its own growth. The capital outlay combined with the value to our clients and their customers will see to a much larger expansion taking place over the next two years,” says Sauerman.
The locker management system is integrated into DSV business and transport management systems. That enables geolocating parcels at any time, providing customers with click-through links to maps of where the locker with their parcel is located, and messaging customers to alert them that their parcel has arrived. Ricoh has continued to develop the system for DSV so the business also gets dashboard views that instantly show which lockers are available. That same functionality ties back to the route planning system that leads to optimised driver schedules and ensures locker availability upon their arrival.
Ricoh also uses the system to manage its service level agreements (SLA) with DSV and the company’s other customers. DSV supplies retailers, for example, with lockers for their own use and Ricoh serves those companies directly to meet their unique SLAs.
DSV already has more than 300 lockers in nine provinces. Rollout of new lockers continues and the planned 450 lockers by year’s end is likely to be 400 due to the impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Ricoh runs the lockers across a fully managed network with secure servers based on a cloud hosted solution to ensure high availability and solid business continuity mitigations. The system architecture ensures that any updates, all of which are remote, to the lockers’ sophisticated software ensures maximum uptime and availability. Such an update was done, for example, when COVID-19 struck.
“Finding the right provider to show sustainability of the solution for their own business as well as ours was pivotal. Ricoh has demonstrated skill and professionalism since the beginning and that’s why this partnership is so successful,” says Sauerman.