This article aims to broadly cover how Gophr works, by explaining how the system chooses and finds vehicles in real-time. If you were going to build a platform solution to manage and balance same-day logistics customer demand vs courier supply and do it automatically and in real-time, how would you go about it? Throughout 2013 and 2014 we started by looking at both sides of the equation and their desire for how work should be handled. We then listed those out in terms of priority. This is not to say that everyone’s priorities on each side of the customer/courier divide were the same but they nonetheless broadly broke down like this: Demand side
  • Ensure the item is handled and transported safely
  • The item gets there at the time specified
  • That the price is fair
  • There’s total oversight over the delivery process (tired of not knowing where stuff is and getting spurious charges)
  • Good courier to deal with (generally means likeable and presentable)
  • Flexibility in approach should changes need to be made
Supply side
  • Job should pay in accordance with the level of time and/or work being asked
  • Item is suitable for vehicle
  • Job is convenient (meaning you shouldn’t have to pick something up in Glasgow if you live in London)
  • All the information needed to complete the job quickly and successfully, should be provided
  • Customers are nice to deal with
Once you understand both sides motives you can then move into the thinking about how the platform should work and informational building blocks which will enable you to pull it off. These informational building blocks become ever more important as the platform scales; the higher the accuracy of the information going in, then the greater the overall efficiency produced overall. With logistics the devil is in the details. And these details shouldn’t just help to build the most efficient platform, but will also go a hell of a long way towards future proofing it. Broadly speaking (and for the sake of brevity!) the details needed on supply and demand side are as follows: Demand side
  • Location (Pick up and delivery)
  • Contact information (for pick up and delivery)
  • Timing (Pick up and delivery)
  • Consignment information (Size, weight, characteristics of item, number of items)
Whether you are sending a bank card, a 3 piece-suite, or a fleet of cars on the back of a HGV these variables will broadly stay the same. Supply side

Constant

  • Information on driver (includes credentials)
  • Information on vehicle (capacity is key)

Variable

  • Direction of travel
  • Status of each jobs
  • ETA’s for all stops relating to jobs
  • Load capacity status relating to jobs (current and future)
Now, the one big thing that’s missing here compared to how most traditional courier companies operate when dealing with the customers is: “what type of vehicle are you looking to do this job?”. In the traditional courier space the vehicle drives the price, followed by the pick up and delivery location. This approach has always made sense because it was far too difficult to try and price individual items when customers booked jobs over phone, and exacerbated by the fact that courier companies couldn’t really police what was actually being sent. Since the advent of mobile phone cameras clearly this is now less of an issue. It’s far easier to provide instant photographic evidence that the item the customer said was only the size of 24 pack of beers is actually much closer to the size of large Canadian moose. Putting aside a 1200kg moose, it makes sense that couriers should be paid more to carry a box weighing 50kg into their vans than a similarly sized box that weighs a fraction of that – the 50kg box is more work to carry and is more likely to put your back out. This kind of thinking is accepted wisdom in air freight where the weight and dimensions of consignments is absolutely crucial to managing work. Barring a few exceptions, that thinking hasn’t quite made its way back down into road freight. The truth is, as long as whatever vehicle is sent is suitable to meet the customers idea of what should happen (and is as environmentally friendly as possible) asking them the type of vehicle they want should actually be pretty irrelevant. This became very clear to us in our early customer research when we found huge amounts of people booking motorcycles to send envelopes less than 2 miles away. The assumption being made by those customers was that motorcycles are faster and should therefore get there quicker. The truth is that over those kinds of distances a cycle courier will generally trounce a motorcyclist for pace over those distances and beyond. If you’ve ever seen a professional cycle courier at work (I use the word ‘professional’ here to clearly separate them from students on bicycles delivering food) this should come as no surprise. This kind of thinking directly affected how our booking engine was designed: customers enter the pick up and delivery location for the job they want. The characteristics of the item then need to be defined, at which point they are provided with a list of suitable vehicles with the fastest, cheapest and most environmentally friendly automatically preferred. They are still free to change to whatever they wish. Once requested the Gophr system then scans all the available active couriers that are suitable for the job, prioritising those that are close by and travelling in the same direction. It does this by looking at their existing pick up and delivery locations (including ETA’s and deadlines) as well as their current and future capacity. The idea being that if there’s any risk a courier won’t be able to complete the job to the customers specific requirements then the courier will not be sent the job notification. An image that would be very familiar to anyone we've ever pitched to There are many other factors that come into play for this fraction of a second calculation to take place – needing to take into account whether one courier is busier that is further away, or reducing the time a customer may need for the item to be picked up are just two examples – but broadly speaking this is how it works. The key here is direction of travel and capacity. We’ve been doing it for over 3 years and it will always be a work in progress however we feel that this logic allied with our API and with all the other elements we’ve built are putting us in a very strong position to deliver some game-changing innovations going forward. We’ll share those when the time comes 😉
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LIVE REPORTING & JOB HISTORY

Within the JOB HISTORY section you can find all the details pertaining to your job including what time the courier arrived at the pick up point, picked up your parcel as well as arrival at drop off times. The courier also shares additional information such as who it was left with, their signature and what part of the building it was dropped off at. You can even ask for a photo to be taken at drop off for additional security.

All of this information is shared with you in real-time as soon as a job is completed.

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TRACK YOUR DELIVERY, HAVE MORE CONTROL

Once live, every job booked is tracked in real-time in the ACTIVE JOBS section. Once selected, each active job will show you your jobs current status. You get access to your couriers route including all pick ups and drops, with ETA’s for each as well as his name, contact telephone number and a photograph. You can share a secure tracking link with anyone else who may find the information useful too.

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CHEAPER, FASTER, GREENER

During the booking process it’s important to define the individual package or consignment size and weight as accurately as possible. Based on this our booking engine will automatically quote for the cheapest vehicle option.

Once booked, our system will assign the most optimal vehicle for your job based on its into stated capacity and current load. This ensures that we send the right vehicle every time.

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SIMPLE, QUICK, RELIABLE BOOKING

Designed with simplicity and speed in mind we built our user interface to make it as familiar as possible to use. Based on Google Maps, searching by company name or street name and number gives highly accurate results.

From there you can also input multiple addresses for pick ups or deliveries before optimising your route to get the best possible price for your delivery.

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SPEEDY SIGNUP

On the registration or login page simply click the Facebook, LinkedIn or Google Plus buttons for one-click sign in. Better still, if you are setting up a company account register using your company email address.

If you’re interested in some of our business invoicing solutions let one of our team know and we’ll take you through the options.

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 problem

Difference between food delivery and traditional courier services

“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.