From improving inner city distribution to creating new delivery options, smart logistics is the key to ensuring customers’ goods are moved quickly, efficiently and sustainably from collection to delivery. We help customers and consumers by producing a convenient shopping experience, developing and bringing new delivery options to the market. At the same time, further automation in our mail operations are aimed at increasing delivery quality and efficiency.
At the beginning of 2019 we introduced our returns option in the Netherlands, which lets consumers return their parcel with a deliverer who is already at the door. As well as providing consumers, webshops and e-tailers with greater convenience, the service is also sustainable as it utilises empty van space. The returns option was used over 75,000 times in 2019.
Our strategy within the @Home market is to be the leading logistics company that delivers and installs a wide variety of goods and services, from white goods and electronics to medical products and (garden) furniture. With the @Home market growing at around 15% per year, in 2019 we opened our first dedicated @Home centre in Rotterdam. The new centre increases our @Home capacity by 30%, which will enable us to better manage peak periods and create room for growth. It also helped us increase our @Home service quality.
More focus on moving towards health provision at home requires a range of (new) logistic solutions. By the end of 2019, over 11.000 customers were already receiving health deliveries from PostNL, and our focus is on developing solutions for a changing health market, using our existing logistic networks. This had led to improved collaboration between our networks. During the year we focused on strengthening our connection with the sector by executing a national campaign with the theme: Innovation in the health sector. We carried this out together with a number of other parties and through a wide range of online and social media channels. This increased focus on health led to the development of a number of concrete propositions and the continuation of existing propositions.
To meet increasingly stringent GDP-requirements and the demand from the pharmaceutical sector, we have developed a unique Cool Down Unit for our Pharma & Care network, specifically for medicines that have to be transported below a temperature of 2-8°C. We continued to deliver medical supplies to customers at home in a specially designed cool box, which is transported through our existing time-critical network. Our focus in 2020 will be on connecting additional pharmacies and hospitals to this service.
Roamler Care, operated as a joint venture with Roamler, is a home care platform that connects self-employed home care providers with sick or elderly people connected to care institutions. In 2019 we introduced a new venture through the Roamler Care platform, which aims to tap into unrealised work potential among pensioners, inactive caregivers, and professionals who want to work a few extra hours a week. We also developed a strategic partnership with the ANWB, Sanquin and Erasmus MC to create a Medical Drone Service. This service uses delivery drones to transport medical supplies, blood and other health products between locations. The next stage of the project is to carry out a trial.
In 2019 we reviewed our food market strategy, leading to a number of changes. Going forward we will concentrate on providing direct-to-market logistic services, this includes developing platform solutions that reduce the number of steps in the value chain. In line with this reviewed strategy, we shut down our Stockon activities, which was heavily reliant on marketing and fulfilment in a competitive market and for which we did not find a suitable investment partner.
We currently use a number of our networks to process customers' food deliveries, including our Parcels and Cargo networks and our specialised food delivery network. In 2020 we will begin supporting customers with the co-creation of products, and aim to develop direct-to-market food solutions as a third logistics channel for the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry, in addition to retail and wholesale. We see opportunities in logistic solutions for food specialties, which we will pursue further in 2020. Finally, our Parcel networks will continue to provide delivery solutions to e-tailers who sell food.
Creating sustainable delivery options is vital if we are to deal effectively with the growth in e-commerce. One example of how we create smart logistics solutions for our customers is our City Logistics programme, which in 2019 opened new sustainable delivery hubs in Groningen, The Hague, Maastricht, Utrecht and Nijmegen.
The aim of these urban consolidation centres is to cut the number of journeys made within cities, thereby reducing the environmental impact and congestion. We achieve this by working with third-parties and setting up urban hubs on the edge of a city. Suppliers deliver to the urban hub, avoiding the congested city, and we sort the goods into deliveries over one or more trips.
More information on our initiatives to decarbonise our networks in urban areas can be found in the chapter 'Environmental value.'