Rarely has there been a more aptly described “hidden champion” than Erwin Renz Metallwarenfabrik GmbH & Co KG. Both the main office and largest factory of Europe’s leading letter- and parcelbox manufacturer are located on the edge of the placid town of Kirchberg an der Murr, Germany. Visitors entering the foyer, which doubles as a showroom, are greeted with an extraordinary range of products, award-winning designs and meticulous details. It’s a display of consummate specialisation deep in the heart of the Schwabenland, as this region of Germany is affectionately known. The latest development in particular is something to write home about: a digitally controlled parcelbox cluster, complete with an app that provides residents of multi-flat houses with a simple way to receive and send parcels—regardless of which parcel service is used—and much more.
Since 2007, Renz has been producing and selling mechanical parcelboxes designed primarily for single-family homes. These boxes allow families to receive packages even when they’re out and about, without having to rely on a neighbour. In 2013, Renz began developing electronic parcelboxes and combination letter/parcelbox systems for multi-flat houses and larger residential complexes. The purpose of the new systems was to leverage state-of-the-art technology in order to take full advantage of shared parcelbox clusters and enable a broad range of delivery and pick-up options. The first web-managed, touch-enabled pilot system was taken live in Stuttgart in autumn 2015. Just six months later an updated version, featuring advanced on-board technology and an app, was scheduled to launch.
Renz parcelbox clusters are linked to a web portal for all of the system’s back-end processes, such as new-resident registration and data exchanges with parcel services. Property managers can also use the portal for insight into the usage rate and status of one or more clusters. To pick up or leave a parcel in one of the boxes, users identify themselves using an RFID chip, app or code. Recipients are informed by e-mail, text message or push notification that a package is waiting for them. This singular solution can be used by any parcel service to pick up and deliver packages. It even goes beyond letters and parcels, enabling registered residents to receive a variety of deliveries, for example from pharmacies or other local providers. Users themselves and other individuals can also store and retrieve objects securely.
“Bechtle supplied us with invaluable support for key components of our project, both as a procurement partner and as a skills provider. Our previously rewarding partnership in the traditional area of IT infrastructure paved the way for us to tackle this innovation with success.”
Stefan Würtemberger, Leiter Informationstechnologie, Renz Group
Clusters with the latest control technology can accommodate up to 500 letter or parcelboxes. Expanding beyond Renz’s core activity of equipping new and renovated buildings, these clusters are also aimed at as-yet untapped market segments. More and more opportunities are presenting themselves, not only to upgrade existing letterbox clusters but also to branch out into entirely new usage scenarios. For instance, rental companies can increase the appeal of their properties through the added value these installations offer. Also, the ability to make ordered goods available for pick-up outside of business hours—known as click and collect—is an alluring advantage for wholesale, retail and specialist shops. This makes it even easier to closely interweave online with local services. As another potential beneficiary, businesses are able to streamline in-house delivery processes and even allow employees have personal orders shipped to their place of work.