An Agile, Customer-focused Approach to Logistics

Ray Lowrey, CTO, MV Transportation
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Ray Lowrey, CTO, MV Transportation

The realm of transportation logistics is going through significant change, ranging from the advent of transportation network companies (TNC) to the introduction of autonomous vehicles. In light of this transformation, it’s essential that companies apply a “voice of the customer” design methodology as they work to enhance their systems. This was critical to the success that MV Transportation achieved when upgrading the Loyola of Chicago University’s “Dial-A-Ride” service.

As part of the services provided by the university to their faculty and students, free transportation across the campus is only a phone call away. However, the past approach was open to gaps for all key stakeholders; riders, drivers, operations and university administration. In order to fully realize the benefits of a system-wide technology investment, an agile development methodology was utilized to holistically define the objectives of the new platform and highlight the key needs of the primary customers:

  • Riders–faculty and students live in a world of real-time communication with service providers and were expecting the same functionality when requesting transportation across the campus
  • Drivers–eliminating manual posting of trip information and being able to interactively communicate with both the rider and operations office was essential to streamline their process
  • Operations–the past method of phone call requests and radio communications with the drivers was prone to error and miscommunication, so automating the link between service request and delivery was essential
  • Administration–the ability to access the value of the service is critical, so detailed data on usage and rider satisfaction was invaluable for future planning

“In today’s world, we have access to very advanced development and prototyping tools which provide software teams the ability to work collaboratively across multiple time zones”

Since the development team was distributed across three time zones and an equal number of continents, it was essential that a development environment was created that focused on collaboration, configuration management and customer engagement. The key components of this approach included:

  • Agile methodology–in this case Scrum was used, which allows collaboration across cross-functional teams which was a key factor for the success of this effort
  • Daily stand-up calls–though challenging due to time zone differences, this is a fundamental part of the Scrum methodology and essential for tight, concise team communication
  • Prototyping–the ability to effectively translate user stories into screens and process flows is mandatory to keep customers engaged and providing vital input
  • Integrated test environment–the investment in this area is often overlooked, but is absolutely invaluable when dealing with multiple technology platforms acting on real-time data inputs such as GPS pings

The end result of this effort was the OneMV Shuttle platform which uses real-time vehicle location to efficiently schedule trips and provide high quality, timely service for the riders. Additionally, students can track their vehicle in real-time on the application’s map display allowing them to stay inside during inclement weather and remain in a safe location until their vehicle arrives. 

Real-time vehicle tracking and reports are also available to campus transportation coordinators using the OneMV Operations portal to give them a better understanding of how the service is performing and make adjustments as necessary. All of this is achieved in a fully automated manner, eliminating paper and time for both the driver and operations staff.

In today’s world, we have access to very advanced development and prototyping tools which provide software teams the ability to work collaboratively across multiple time zones. However, these are only effective when the critical stakeholders are actively engaged and their “voice” is reflected in both the design and deployment planning.  

In the case of the OneMV Shuttle, the student’s voice reinforced the benefits of an agile, customer focused approach; “I love it! Now I don’t have to call for a ride anymore” to and “Saves so much time on reservations”.

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