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Experimenting with parcel services for the future

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Hanne de Kesel

VP Future Lab & Group Innovation Director

bpost’s Future Lab experiments with the way in which we will receive parcels in the future. It detects trends and novelties and tests with partners such as Zalando or Coolblue what works and how it works.

In a semi-industrial building in the fashionable Antwerp South district, a trendy racing bike hangs on a concrete wall. Colourful armchairs fill the meeting room. It is a cosy place. But here, people also work hard – on innovation. “When you are busy with your daily business, it is not always easy to think about the future and its possible impact on your organization,” explains Hanne de Kesel, VP Future Lab & Group Innovation Director. “When you get the opportunity to distance yourself from all of that, you forget about the context and you create an environment where innovation can grow faster. That is why we chose physically for a different location. And that works. Colleagues from all over the organization come here for creative sessions or workshops. This cool location has grown into an innovation spot for and by bpost.”

Naturally, innovations play a role in the other bpost offices too. “But colleagues there are more engaged in optimizing processes, improving existing services, etc. which is at least as important for our business. We focus on a different type of innovation. Our approach is different. We look outside the box. What is awaiting us in two, five or ten years and what impact will it have? What kind of opportunities does that entail for our organization? Those are the insights we will address.”

“What is awaiting us in two, five or ten years? What kind of opportunities does that entail for an organization such as bpost? Together with our customers, Future Lab looks for the answers.”

Hanne de Kesel VP Future Lab & Group Innovation Director
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Making innovation physical

The Future Lab team consists of ten innovators, some of whom come from the US and Canada. “They are all specialists with at least ten years of experience in innovation. Two years ago they decided to focus completely on bpost. You cannot categorize them. They do not have a marketing or a technological profile, they have an innovation profile. Their field of expertise consists of paving the way for a particular product or service. Their starting point: emerging customer needs. Of course some have more affinity with design, others more with technology or business.”

bpost’s Future Lab’s approach? To experiment. “That is the only way to make innovation tangible. Everyone can read reports from major consultancy companies or listen to inspiring speakers. We work pragmatically with small experiments to find out what they mean to us. If all works out positively, we get started with teams from the organization to turn it into a new product or service.”

“As a team, you cannot claim innovation. We only do a small part with a clear approach. Our colleagues also do very nice, interesting things. Our task is also to support them. It is of course not up to us to determine what they do, but we do help by making the right tools available.”

“Experimenting is the only way to make innovation physical. Everyone can read reports from the major consultancy companies or watch the inspiring talks. We will work pragmatically.”

Hanne de Kesel VP Future Lab & Group Innovation Director
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In the trunk of a car

A striking Future Lab experiment last year was the in-car delivery. “We are increasingly ordering online and many parcels are delivered at the workplace. Easy, because you don’t have to be home or you don’t have to drive past a pick-up point. But companies with many employees are sometimes flooded with parcels. That is why we experimented with in-car delivery,” explains Hanne de Kesel.

“Employees of a company could have their parcels delivered in the trunk of their car while they were working. When our postman arrived, he scanned the parcel and was shown a map on his device with the location of the employee’s car. The postman could also open the trunk of the car with his device. When the trunk was closed again, the employee received a message that his parcel had been delivered. “

In the end, bpost decided not to pursue the in-car delivery. Hanne de Kesel doesn’t mind. “We got the flow of it, we saw how the app could look, and we experienced the end users’ reactions. When the market is ready for it, we will have our learnings and be able to get started right away.”

The Future Lab barely spent two weeks developing the app. “We strongly believe in prototyping. We don’t develop anything, but we make things look real to an extent that people believe it and can give an opinion about it. So we can test things quickly and cheaply instead of spending months in developping them.”

No vacuum

One of this year’s largest focus areas is sustainability. “Last year’s climate marches were just the beginning. 2020 will be the year in which companies will add their piece of the puzzle, step by step. We are increasing those efforts for the rest of the organization. And that goes further than using electric delivery vans or bamboo packaging. Here, too, we start from the perspective of opportunity and – very important – we do it together with our customers, the senders.”

“Innovation is not in a vacuum. Our customers are also facing increasingly faster moving market evolutions which they often cannot solve by themselves. Together with the Zalandos and the Coolblues of this world, we are looking for new models to meet changing consumer needs. In addition, we are also noticing more and more interest from smaller start-ups in the logistics sector. Together with them we look at how their solutions can work within bpost.”

How sending parcels will evolve over the coming years is something Hanne de Kesel cannot predict. “That is the 1-million-dollar question … If I knew the answer, we would not be here now. What I do know: people will also be an important focus in the coming years. We see topics emerging like the gig economy, for example. What are the new expectations of the employee vis-à-vis the employer and how can we creatively fulfil it in the organization? “

“Innovation is not in a vacuum. Together with the Zalandos and the Coolblues of this world, we are looking for new models to work more efficiently.”

Hanne de Kesel VP Future Lab & Group Innovation Director
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Future Lab in 2019

  • Winner of the Final Mile Innovation of the Year award
  • In-Car Delivery experiment
  • Launch EcoLab
  • More than 20 workshops with customers and colleagues

Downloads

Annual report / Activity report 2019
download bpost reports 2019
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anual-rapport-2019

Annual report

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Chapters
Message to the stakeholders
P5-7 (152 KB)
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Shared value creation
P8-9 (352 KB)
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Corporate governance statement
P11-36 (3 MB)
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CSR report
P37-59 (563 KB)
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Financial review
P60-73 (119 KB)
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Financial consolidated statements
P74-167 (658 KB)
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Activity report

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Chapters
Strategic leadership
P4-9 (1 MB)
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bpost-as-a-service
P10-21 (2 MB)
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Innovation & technology
P22-33 (2 MB)
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Digital transformation
P34-39 (1 MB)
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Human force & group culture
P40-47 (1 MB)
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Business transformation
P48-51 (964 KB)
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