National Terms of Reference for The Further Phase 2 Trial of Ford Mobility Software Manchester CDO
Royal Mail and the CWU are both committed to investigating and using innovative solutions and technology for the benefit of all and as a result Ford Mobility, a subsidiary of Ford Motors, approached Senior stakeholders within RM and CWU in 2021 with a view to participating in a small Proof of Concept (PoC) Trial using Ford Mobility software.
Royal Mail already has the lowest environmental impact per parcel of any carrier and intends to proceed with investigating ways to reduce further all the environmental impacts. As parcel volumes rise and cities become more concerned about congestion, air quality and global warming, it is appropriate to investigate new delivery methods for cities. In line with the above, we have previously carried out a Phase 1 trial of the Ford Mobility software in Manchester and there is now a desire to extend this into a further second phase trial.
The previous phase 1, 2-week joint Proof of Concept Trial was undertaken in Sept 2021. This captured the item number and delivery address information from all the larger parcels for part of the M4 postcode area in Central Manchester DO, and ran that information through the Ford app. This allocated the ‘fall to earth’ of parcels into efficient pedestrian routes and a second scan of the parcel advised the sorter which container to sort the items to. The containers used were polypropylene “cubes” and the foot-couriers used a prototype trolley based on the High Capacity Trolley chassis to carry 2 cubes at a time. A panel van provided replenishment support, and also undertook direct delivery of very large parcels and containers of multiple items to heavy receivers (eg: businesses or apartments with concierge).
Key findings from the first phase 1 trial:
- Van demand was reduced (previously 2 drivers with vans now covered by 2-3 foot couriers with 1 van)
- Mileage reduced by c30% and fewer stops and starts of the van
- Outdoor time was slightly slower than the traditional van delivery method, but as parcel volumes increase the parcel stops will get closer together meaning that at some point walking becomes favourable (as it is with core delivery)
- Indoor time was considerably higher than our traditional sort and route-prep methods mainly due to:
- Having to capture the address information for all parcels when this is not always held in the item barcode (meaning manual entry was necessary)
- Items needed 2 touches. 1) To capture the item no. and the address detail, and 2) To scan them for the app to advise which container to sort them to. This double handling was the dominant issue.
- Trolley was maneuverable and easy to use. For speed of production, it did not have many security features in the prototype model but was accompanied around the route by observers during the trial period.
- The cubes worked well for loading into vehicles, unloading, transferring the next parcels for delivery and retrieving parcels from. The only issue was the height which made reaching in for the parcels at the bottom awkward, especially for users with shorter arms.
Picture of prototype trolley used in first trial in Sept 2021
Next steps – Phase 2 Trial
The approach of using foot-couriers with van support showed a significant environmental opportunity and to reduce the number of vans in use, which would also reduce congestion and risk of road traffic collisions. This is therefore something which Royal Mail and CWU would like to evaluate further, and examine and to assess reduction to the indoor workload.
A second joint trial will take place within the M4 postcode section of Manchester CDO which will employ a modified route-preparation technique where the aim is to reduce the number of items needing two touches by making some of the sorting to container a fixed relationship based on address.
The trial will run for a 4-week period from late Feb/ early March and will start with 2 of the 4 van driver areas used at present and will then aim to progressively expand into the other driver areas of M4 postcode sector for the 3rd and 4th weeks.
In addition to the reduction in double-touches for parcels, there are also some opportunities to modify equipment to streamline the indoor process. The first is to trial a shorter cube (height reduced from 780mm to 580mm) to make it easier for individuals to reach inside. The second is to experiment with some racking/frames which hold the cubes in order to reduce the amount of walking which the individuals/sorters, have to carry out to access multiple cubes.
Additionally, Royal Mail have modified the trolley with enhanced security features whilst also retaining the ability to fold the trolleys down in order to convey them to the delivery area in the van. The trolleys will also have some under tray storage for OPG’s personal items.
This new equipment will be fully assessed and certified in line with our normal procedures, which will involve RM specialists such as Ergonomics and the full involvement of the CWU Health, Safety & Environmental department before use.
The aim of the trial is to evaluate and determine whether the modified approaches narrow the time and cost difference between the current operational method within this postcode area of the unit and the pedestrian parcel delivery method utilised within the trial.
The key measures will be the time taken indoor and outdoor for the volume of work and user feedback on the indoor and outdoor process. Additionally, we will jointly monitor vehicle usage compared to the baseline. The aim is to get closer to comparable cost for an environmentally better delivery option. As well as local representation, the trial site will also have a full local and Divisional Rep CWU involvement.
This second trial within the unit will be jointly reviewed (expected after Easter 2022), with all the information and data generated from the trial shared with CWU. Local managers and CWU representatives will also be fully involved in any issues related to trial activity in order to resolve them. The final outputs from the Trial will be jointly discussed, along with any lessons learned, recommended next steps and potential progression of the concept which will be jointly evaluated and agreed. Any expansion of the trial or future rollout will be subject to further National joint discussion and agreement.
The trial will be carried out in line with those aspects outlined above and is subject to the IR Framework with any issues that cannot be resolved within the locality to be raised to the signatories of this agreement for National resolution.
Any queries to the content of the above please contact the Outdoor Department reference 300, email address: email@example.com
CWU Assistant Secretary