Package pickup for thousands of residential UC students goes smart

Bearcats Package Center's smart lockers provide convenient package pickup in TUC

Used to be, most packages students received while living in campus residence halls came from home, in the form of a care package. A friend or family member might send a batch of homemade cookies or treats before exams. Students might receive a few packages each term.  

Now, packages come from everywhere. Yes, there are still care packages, maybe including some homemade favorites, but in addition, students and their families can order just about anything online. And they are used to receiving the packages quickly.

With this significant increase in package volume over the last several years, processing by residence hall service centers and student pickup had become more complicated and less efficient. 

The solution? Self-service smart lockers at the Bearcats Package Center (BPC). Over 400 lockers were installed during summer semester. The BPC opened Aug. 8 on the 200 Level of Tangeman University Center (TUC), adjacent to the food court. 

Adjustments for residents

This is a new process, not just for first-year students, but returning residents who were used to retrieving packages from the residence hall service center. “We began alerting students to the new service early, not only on the TUC and University Housing websites, but also in Campus Services marketing handouts at Bearcats Bound Orientation,” says Jamie Miller, director of MainStreet Operations (Tangeman University Center). Signage was placed outside of the construction area throughout the summer, how-to instructions were developed, and wayfinding signage was created. Carriers were alerted to the new process. 

The BPC opened the week before move-in and packages had already begun to arrive. Students had gotten the message. “We were pleased to know the messages had been received by at least some students” noted Miller.

For University Housing, the package center was a dream come true, to eliminate a cumbersome activity in the service centers, some of which were not built for the age of online shopping. Carl Dieso, executive director of Housing says, “The Bearcats Package Center relieves congestion at the service centers, and provides a more efficient process for residents.”

“The lockers have created efficiencies in tracking, managing and securing hundreds of packages, and especially relieve frustrations for residents eagerly awaiting their purchases,” said Miller, but noted that there is still a learning curve, “some residents have used the correct address, but don’t always include their full name. There is no way to find which Dave to notify if there isn’t a last name for Dave on the address.” BPC recommends students use their full name and their central login (6+2) for efficient identification.

How it works from the inside out

Female worker processes packages in the package center work area

Carriers deliver to the TUC dock, with an address unique to the BPC. Upon delivery to the processing area, staff enters the package information into the tracking software and assigns the package to a locker bay. 

Packages are then taken to the control panel at the assigned locker bay, and scanned again. The system assigns a locker to the package and the locker opens for placement. 

Student scans device to open locker

Once the package is securely placed in the locker, an email is automatically sent to the resident notifying them of the package ready for pickup. The email includes instructions on which locker bay their package is in and a barcode to scan at the bay’s control panel. When they arrive at BPC, they can go directly to the locker bay and scan the barcode from their device. The locker containing their package opens automatically. 

Students have adjusted to the new process, and seem to like it. "While I have to walk a bit further, I like knowing that my package is being held in a safe place," said one resident.

By the numbers

Packages stacked on shelves in package center

Since opening, the BPC has processed over 14,000 packages. Often an Amazon delivery vehicle will arrive with nothing but packages for the BPC, and deliver on weekends even though the dock is not open.

  • Busiest day so far – Sept. 6, with over 650 packages processed
  • Busiest day of the week – Monday
  • Busiest pick-up period – 3 - 5 p.m.
  • Average daily processing – 300 - 400 packages

Bearcats Package Center serves these residence communities

Service is available to the following communities as the center begins operations: Bellevue Gardens, Calhoun Hall, Campus Recreation Center Hall, Dabney Hall, Daniels Hall, Marian Spencer Hall, Morgens Hall, Schneider Hall, Scioto Hall, Siddall Hall, Turner Hall, Stratford Heights, and University Park Apartments.

A quick view of daily operations

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