Managing fleets and infrastructure in the charity sector using smart phone technology, sensors and the Cloud
Charity logistics can be complex, with organisations like Oxfam operating national take-back systems for processing low-grade textiles, whilst also having ‘localised’ operations where paid and volunteer drivers move stock between donations infrastructure and shops across defined regions. It is an example of reverse logistics where recyclate (textiles, books, shoes, music, bric-a-brac) is passed back from consumers to secondary markets in order to raise funds for good causes. Major charity organisations collect donations via standard routes: i) through unattended donation banks situated in supermarket car parks, community centers and other public places ii) kerbside collections from households using pre-delivered donation bags iii) direct-to-shop where members of the public can take donations direct to a charity shop iv) specialised domestic dwelling clearances and ad-hoc commercial collections.
By its very nature, charity operations can be quite dynamic, with donations following certain set patterns associated with pre and post-Christmas sorts, summer and winter fashion changes. If more real-time information could be gained from the infrastructure to inform about when stock was available or likely to be available, where vehicles were or likely to be to intercept the stock, and what fill status donation banks were currently at then smarter logistics decisions could be made to improve service levels and reduce the carbon footprint.
This project will generate a new understanding of how smartphone technology working alongside dynamic optimisation techniques and sensors can improve system efficiency and stock throughput in a charity logistics setting. Working with Oxfam as a case study, the project would:
- Use data derived from a current smartphone app developed for drivers alongside a web entry system for shop managers and historic fill data from donation banks to investigate to what extent dynamic schedules could be implemented to service the infrastructure in response to the demands identified
- Use collection trend analysis by shop, donation bank, transport and distribution/warehouse to inform and guide the transport manager regarding seasonal collection patterns and routing and transport provision
- Investigate how remote donation bank and shop monitoring might enable more dynamic servicing schedules to be derived
- Investigate to what extent such dynamic visibility of stock and vehicles improves co-operation and collaboration between and within the regions
- Understand how such data can be utilised medium-to-long-term to identify patterns of donation by region for the more optimal location of infrastructure in the community
- Quantify to what extent the reverse logistics process can be made more cost and environmentally efficient using such technology.
Applications for this PhD research project are accepted on a rolling basis and we therefore advise you to apply early if you are interested. To make your application please go to: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/engineering/postgraduate/research_degrees/apply.page
This integrated PhD project will be funded through the Center for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Infrastructure Systems http://cdt-sis.soton.ac.uk. The studentship comprises support from both EPRSC http://www.epsrc.ac.uk and an industrial sponsor.
The CDT-SIS projects are allocated once a suitable student has been found. If you are interested in a project then we advise you to apply early in order to avoid disappointment.
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