6th Sense Oxfam app being trialled in Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Dorset

The 6th Sense Transport Oxfam app was rolled out for its first trial in the Hertfordshire (21/3/13 – 28/6/13) where the area manager, van driver and three shop managers thoroughly bug tested the system and some useful data on system performance were collected. During May and June 2013, it has been rolled out in Dorset (area manager, depot manager and van driver) and Cambridgeshire (area manager, 3 drivers and 7 shop managers) with both trials still on-going.

The drivers are the backbone of the system, using the app daily to log all of their collections from textile and book donation banks, shops and ad-hoc commercial or house clearances. They also use it to record all deliveries of goods made into shops and cascade movements of stock where unsold items are moved from one shop to another.

Initial findings from the Hertfordshire and Dorset trials have shown that a much greater appreciation has been gained on how time is utilised by drivers and how donation banks and shops are performing relative to each other (Figure 1).

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Figure 1. Typical time utilisation (minutes) by activity type. (Watford area van driver)

A key benefit for the area manager has been the visibility of bank fill levels over time afforded by the app with the driver logging the mean fill level before emptying at each site. This married to the actual yield of donations in each case has helped to identify bank sites that are under performing relative to others in their area (Figure 2). Servicing intervals are now being revised in the Watford area as a result.

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Figure 2. – Estimated net value per visit for donation banks, 21 March to 16 May (Watford area)

Initial findings: Driver, area manager and shop manager perceptions

Using data from the Watford and Dorset trials, the ways in which the app is being and can be used to improve community communication is being investigated. A series of interviews were undertaken with the trialists two weeks after they started using the app to iron out any last bugs, gauge opinion on usability and obtain examples where the functionality has been positively used. Using a five point likert scale (‘strongly agree’ – 5; ‘agree’ – 4’; ‘uncertain’ – 3; ‘disagree’ – 2; ‘strongly disagree’ – 1), the users gave their initial opinions on the app. The three shop managers, depot manager and area manager disagreed with the statement that the app did not provide them with any extra visibility of the driver’s activity over what they had before (1.8 mean score) and their understanding of the drivers daily activities had improved as a result (3.8). They felt that their ability to communicate with the driver had improved (3.6) and that decision making had been better informed with the data presented through the app (3.6) although all recognised that it was still early days in the trial. Understanding of donation bank performance (3.6) and shop delivery/cascade patterns (3.4) also showed improvement but this was primarily by the depot and area manager who need this information more than the shop managers. In terms of understanding how time is used in the business, all managers felt that the app had had a positive affect (4.2 mean score out of 5).

The depot manager commented on the ability to know exactly where the driver was at any time and should be in the immediate future had had an immediate impact on the way the round was conducted.

‘Like today, I can see where he is in relation to Shaftesbury because he needs to go there before it shuts and he was on his way back from Keynesham and if he’s not going to make it back in time I can call the Shaftesbury shop and let them know’.

An Area Manager also found this feature very useful for better planning rounds, because for the first time, live van fill level data are available which helps pinpoint spare capacity during the days activity.

‘Knowing where the driver is and where he is likely to be is enabling us to re-organise the route because we can see where there is spare capacity in the round. We can now see what is in the van in real-time and get updates on where he is in the network through the notification messages. Knowledge of how time is used in the business has improved. The driver is going out earlier since we started with the app and seems to be producing more’.

In this specific case, the information provided through the app showed additional capacity on a specific day which lead to a re-organisation of the round and the addition of a shop service.

‘This is solely due to the real-time information and being able to get the notifications of round transactions to build up a picture of time use.’ Previously, the transport operated very much on an ‘allotted time per task’ basis. ‘The visibility of where he [the driver] is and where he is likely to be is very helpful in planning activity. We are using real information instead of thinking – he might be, he might be’.

A paper outlining how the app has been designed and applied along with initial findings from the Hertfordshire case study are being presented at the Logistics Research Network conference on the 5th September.

Cherrett, T., Shingleton, D., Norton, B., McLeod, F., Forey, C., Dickinson, J., Winstanley, C (2013) Managing logistics with a Smartphone – developing an app for visualising temporal opportunities in the charity sector. 18th Logistics Research Network Conference 2013, Aston University. 4-6 Sept.

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