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Cedarville University installs smart lockers for package pickup

Ohio’s Cedarville University has replaced student mailboxes on campus with automated, smart lockers in an attempt to expedite package pickup and help reduce COVID exposure. Every time a student receives a letter or package, the university’s new TZ Smart Locker system sends the student an email or text directing them to an assigned smart locker where their package has been placed.

It’s well known that college campuses are being inundated by packages, with flat mail — or letters — dwindling by comparison. The rise of online shopping, coupled with an internet-native student population, is forcing campus mailrooms to start looking for inventive service models.

According to a report from In-Plant Impressions, Cedarville’s search for a smart locker solution began nearly two years ago with the goal of finding a storage system that could both send push notifications when packages were ready for pickup, and leverage the student ID card for locker access. Then the arrival of COVID last year made the smart locker install an even higher priority.

“When you’ve got 1,200 packages a day coming in, trying to find those packages can be a challenge,” says Tammy Slone, director of Retail Services at Cedarville University. “Students were waiting in line 30 minutes to pick stuff up.”

“When COVID hit, all of a sudden social distancing and the lines that are a part of the postal operation became a glaring problem,” adds Slone.

In September, the Cedarville University signed a contract with TZ SMArt Lockers. By December, 392 smart lockers and 220 smart mailboxes were installed and functioning.

Cedarville students now scan their campus card or enter their PIN code at a kiosk screen in the student center mailroom to retrieve their packages. The smart lockers will hold assigned student mail for 48 hours, after which any unclaimed mail will return to internal mail storage. Beginning this month, the lockers will also have an optional mobile app available to open the lockers.

At least part of the inspiration for Cedarville’s install came from a visit to the mail center at East Tennessee State University, along with a host of other campus visits where newer mailroom operation shave been implemented.

Following a familiar formula at those reinvented mailrooms, Cedarville students no longer have assigned mailboxes. Instead, all student mail is now assigned to a smart locker when it arrives to campus. After the letter or package is picked up, each locker is then made available for the next student’s mail.

TZ specializes in smart campus delivery solutions, headlined by the company’s TZ SMArt locking device technology. The company’s university-specific offerings are designed as complete hardware and software solution that automates student package delivery.

The TZ SMArt Lockers can be enabled for 24/7 access, and can be implemented across campus for delivery, exchange and storage applications inside or outside residence halls, libraries, bookstores, rental storage and food-service centers.

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