—Overall, while courier work is a perfect fit for a lot of people and their lifestyles, for some it might not make as much sense. Self-employment means having to sort out mundane things like taxes and pension contributions, while work volume can shift depending on customer demand. Having said that, couriers benefit from a very unique level of independence which allows for greater flexibility around their schedule, while the nature of the job means that no day is the same and you’re always meeting new people.
Apart from the a handful of messages we’ve received about a few of our couriers, no one ever finds logistics sexy.
If you are expecting me to change your mind with this blog post, please prepare to be disappointed. Nonetheless, we are super proud of what we’ve managed to achieve with our latest feature rollout. This thing touched nearly every facet of our product line. Our customer mobile app remains unchanged as our webapp bookings still dwarf our mobile app bookings so it always takes priority.
The whole project took about 12 weeks to complete and necessitated a complete restructure of how our backend works, as well as webapp UI and courier app UI.
So what are multi-drops and why are they such a big deal?
Basically, multi drops are the ability to book one courier to go to one pick up to gather lots of packages to be dropped at multiple delivery points – hence ‘multi-drops’ (also applies to multiple pick-ups going to one delivery point). This leads to more efficiency and therefore a cheaper price for the customer.
Our entire backend platform was geared toward optimising for single jobs, both at the point at which they are assigned as well as when they are in progress (more on that here). Having this set up means the system is set up for fluidity. So dropping a daisy chain of multiple pick ups and drops as part of one job is a little like running a set of train tracks over some sand dunes. In other words; hard.
Added to this, we had only ever designed our booking process for one job at a time. And because we don’t have controllers to manually sort out the most optimal routes for any given run, all this needed to be handled during the booking process itself, adding another layer of complexity.
So we needed to completely rethink the user interface whilst making other improvements we’d been meaning to do for some time.
So why did we do it?
So how does it work?
A big downside of our previous UI was users could only receive a quote at the very end of the booking process when they’d entered all the details of the job they were booking.
We’ve now improved this by providing a quote as soon as the first pick up and delivery points are submitted. And you can keep submitting pick up and delivery points before optimising the route to get the best possible price. Only at that point do we ask for contact and consignment details.
The rest of it works more or less the way it used to. Now that I’ve written that last (and very short) paragraph out I’m wondering how we managed to make something so complex look so simple (it wasn’t). Such is the beauty of software development.
If you have any questions about this (not related to backend and routing etc, secret sauce and all that 😉 do let me know in the comments or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tracking everything that is going on all the time related to what you do in any given business is huge pain. Even on a personal level I tend to mute a few of the WhatsApp chats I’m in simply because it can all get to a bit too much. Slack can be a distraction machine like that, however on the balance of things it’s been invaluable to how we work here at Gophr.
It’s no exaggeration to say it’s underpins everything we do. Enabling everyone in the company to understand exactly what’s going on at all times.
I thought it might be useful to share some insight into how we use Slack here at Gophr. How it drives feedback loops and spark off ideas that affect and improve our product development cycles.
We’re still a relatively small team (8 strong) so not all of these approaches may apply to your company. However I think our approach is broad enough that any organisation should find something useful in here.
We’re very lucky in that when we started the company some 2.5 years back when Slack was starting to hit everyone’s radar. The inherent genius of making a chat platform easy to integrate with other platforms has been well covered elsewhere, contributing to their meteoric success and record-breaking growth.
The timing of Slacks emergence couldn’t have been better for us. It’s become central to Gophr’s company culture since our inception (as I’m sure it has for many others!). I’ll share how our channels are set up, what they are for and list out integrations where relevant. Some of these will be self-evident by the names
This leads to the entire team understanding what’s going on with the business right across the board. Giving the team a deep understanding of which areas need improvement. And the context to understand where those improvements should sit within our list of priorities. The two channels that are the most valuable from this point of view are #feedback and #ideas.
Everything we’ve shared in those channels has formed the basis for our customer and courier facing product roadmaps, as well as how we see the long-term vision of Gophr playing out. It gives everyone in the company an opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way.
There’s not one us who has yet to share some thought on how to improve our product, current systems and processes for the greater good.
How did this first kick off? We were inspired by a blog post we read on Kissmetrics and latterly Freshdesk and as a result we insisted that everyone in the team including developers should be get involved in solving customer and courier issues so which drive solutions that will save us time in the long-run.
These ideas (and a lot of hard work) have led us to develop a platform that has a level of depth that we don’t believe is rivalled by anyone else in our space (more on that here).
If you have any other suggestions for using Slack let us know in the comments section, email (email@example.com) or Intercom. And if you have any other interesting things to add please share in the comments.
A question we often get asked is: what’s so different about Gophr when compared to every other on-demand delivery service out there?
Well, most other on-demand delivery tech companies out there are B2C delivery solutions, usually focused on delivering food. This requires a totally different approach to the market sector we are focused on; traditional B2B courier services.
In B2C, you generally deal with food deliveries. For obvious reasons, food needs to be delivered immediately. The courier will go to the restaurant, pick up the food while it’s still hot and go straight to the delivery point before it has a chance to get cold. Although perfect for this sector, it does lead to an inefficiency problem which is the #1 nightmare of traditional courier company; ‘dead miles’.
“Dead miles” are miles travelled that have not been paid for by a customer. A dispatcher’s (a.k.a. controller’s) job at courier company is to drive efficiency by linking up jobs going in similar directions to cut as many dead miles as possible. All whilst still hitting their customers required pick up and delivery deadlines.
On top of these service requirements you need to be able to track how much a courier is carrying, versus what he has capacity for.
There are more variables to this, but for simplicity’s sake let’s just stick with those four core principles: distance, direction of travel, deadlines, and volumetric capacity.
We built the Gophr platform to be a B2B delivery solution from the ground up, with these core principles driving the entire system in real-time.
Gophr’s platform takes into account all of the current couriers working on the system, their direction of travel, pick up and delivery deadlines, as well as current and future consignment loads versus their stated capacity. It uses the totality of this information to then choose the most optimal courier for any job at the time it’s required. The system doesn’t just do this at the point before it sends the notification to the most optimal courier, but also during the entire life cycle of any given job.
This opens up a whole world of opportunities, particularly at scale. Both in driving efficiencies in real-time, and greater flexibility in how any item can be delivered.
This is where we see Gophr making a real difference going forward. Not just to couriers and customers, but any business that has a fleet that could do with be optimised for greater efficiency.
We’re very proud to announce our partnership with two highly innovative British Tech companies to undertake the largest air pollution research project ever to take place in London. Gophr is providing cycle couriers with CleanSpace tags and Inmarsat LORA moats to track air pollution levels across the city as they carry out their courier delivery jobs, enabling them to conduct the most detailed study of air quality levels ever undertaken in the city.
The partnership came about when Lord Drayson of Drayson Technologies and Freevolt – makers of the CleanSpace tag – and myself were introduced through a mutual friend who had the rather brilliant idea of us working together to this end. Inmarsat approached us separately within weeks. We invited everyone around to meet and decided to pool all our resources together to get the best possible outcome.
Results of the study will come about in September. More on that when it comes about. In the meantime if you’d like to take part you can always purchase a CleanSpace tag here, and if you cycle a lot of miles per week please get in touch with us to get involved. There are some pretty snazzy cycle jerseys up for grabs too (see below).
CleanSpace™ is an IoT sensor network to monitor air pollution. It uses a machine-learning network of connected smart sensors powered by Freevolt to create the world’s most advanced map of air pollution to enable people to “see the air they breathe” and to help enterprises and municipalities implement projects that improve air quality. CleanSpace was designed and built by Drayson Technologies and launched in the UK in Q4 2015.
For more information on CleanSpace please visit:
Inmarsat plc is the leading provider of global mobile satellite communications services. Since 1979, Inmarsat has been providing reliable voice and high-speed data communications to governments, enterprises and other organizations, with a range of services that can be used on land, at sea or in the air. Inmarsat employs around 1,600 staff in more than 60 locations around the world, with a presence in the major ports and centres of commerce on every continent. Inmarsat is listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE:ISAT.L).
For more information, please visit:
We’ve not done one of these in a while. Mainly because we’ve been hard at work behind the scenes building awesome stuff and getting ready for what’s coming. More on that in the coming weeks/months.
For now, suffice to say we’ve just released a major new update to our desktop booking app that gives you more access to info around your job and your courier than ever before, so you know exactly what your courier is doing and when.
We were told that this was a very bad idea, and would only result in more complaints and customer service issues. So we only released it to a handful of you, then 10% a week later all the way up to 50% last week. Given we’ve had only positive feedback we’ve decided to put it on general release …at least until the point that everyone starts kicking off as initially predicted, but we’re feeling pretty good about this not happening. If you need to get a hold of us just hit us up on Live Chat anyway.
So why is this update any good?
Well, everything looks a bit smarter for starters, but here are more details:
As ever, if you have any feedback do let us know. You can always hit us up on live chat. We love hearing from you.
Check out our new desktop app here
Note from Seb: The first courier I ever met in London after I first had the idea for Gophr was Clarence Takunda Chodofuka. I got introduced to him after walking into Full City cycles asking them who the best person to speak to would be. We’ve now had the good fortune of being able to hire Clarence to come work for Gophr. Four weeks ago he got into a crash whilst on the job so we brought him in to work in the office, to monitor at how our automated dispatch system worked and to give us feedback on it. Whilst he was there he offered to write a blog post on what it’s like to work with the Gophr system and the glimpse it’s given him into future of couriering. Here it is…more