Title COU.R.I.E.L - COUrier Routing through Innovative Emulation Learning program
Project Number 2008-1-GR1-LEO05-00607
Project Type Transfer of Innovation
Postal services and especially courier services environment constitutes one of the most developing business sectors in the urban transport services. Main characteristics of these services are the increased complexity in transport planning and execution, as well as the provision of high quality services to the customers. Courier companies deal with a varying and large number of customers that need to be served each day and, therefore, planning and execution of routes is one of the most crucial logistics operations. The operational cost of planning and execution of routes and quality of the provided services is significantly affected by the human factor. Consequently, the development and use of an integrated learning program for postal and courier personnel seems to be vital, in order for the courier companies to adopt best practices and methods for the planning, execution and monitoring of the transportation work, aiming at the further training of the personnel and as a result the improvement of customer service.
The project is addressed to courier services employees who are involved in the task of routing planning (coordinators) and execution (postmen) and it includes the development of an innovative training application- in the form of a “simulation” game- through which the employees will be trained at the handling of their route- scheduled and dynamic/ ad hoc itineraries (through appropriate scenarios)- and will assimilate the methodologies of best routing and evaluation of their performance.
The project team of the proposed learning program structure was designed and implemented in order to accommodate specialists and experts in the postal/ courier training - learning area (KEK ELTA), appropriate users of the proposed learning program (ELTA SA, ELTA Courier SA, RomaniaPost, Hungary Post), as well as a scientific institution with important expertise in the transportation sector in order to ensure the scientific, theoretical, educational and technical requirements of the project (University of the Aegean).
This project is expected to lead to the creation of a modern, innovative and flexible training framework, for the evolution and the development of skills adapted to the postal companies’ continuously changing and more demanding needs, particularly in the courier services field.
The project implemented on a basis of six (6) Work Packages, through which all the required steps and actions of the project are implemented.
WP1: Identification, analysis and evaluation of the partners- users’ demands and training needs in the field of innovative programming and planning of routing, distribution, collection services, etc.
WP2 : Bibliographical research in the field of innovative programming and planning of routing, distribution and collection services. Planning of the necessary training specifications and development of the theoretical material (syllabus, training material, etc.)
WP3: Design and development of an interactive emulation system which will be the main pillar of this innovative know-how transfer program, containing:
Practical cases and scenarios, which will be simulations of the various real situations that emerge during the pickup and delivery procedures.
The design and development of the emulation system. All practical cases and scenarios will be incorporated in the system and several reporting tools and KPIs will be included for the evaluation of the users’ performance.
WP4: Implementation of the trainers’ training program, before the final pilot testing training of the users, in order to evaluate the system’s performance and to proceed to corrective actions (if necessary).
WP5: Dissemination of the project’s results by relevant actions throughout the project in two levels:
Internal: communication of information and results within the Project partners
External: communication and promotion of the results at interested parties in national and European level.
WP6: Coordination and project management actions by all partners within the project’s timetable.
Utilization and distribution of results
Open and distance learning
Transportation and Storage
Administrative and Support Service Activities
Other Service Activities
open and distance learning
material for open learning
program or curricula
--RESEARCH AND EDUCATIONAL MATERIAL.
The theoretical material that was developed for the purposes of the project was structured properly in order to incorporate a wide range of theoretical and practical knowledge for the overall processes performed by a courier company. Through this framework, courier personnel obtains general and more specialized knowledge that cover the following issues:
General knowledge in terms and definitions, procedures, logistics planning and operations (design and execution) with emphasis on transportation and distribution issues
Specialized knowledge in postal/courier distribution procedures and operations
Theoretical knowledge and background in routing issues, both in route planning and execution
General and specialized knowledge in distribution procedures’ evaluation through KPIs and specialized reports
Knowledge and familiarization in specialized information technology (IT) systems
Requirements analysis of WP1 played significant role in the development, range and complexity of this WP, through the identification of the current background of the potential trainees.
The development of the theoretical material includes the analysis and presentation of various scientific issues (e.g. Network design, theoretical routing & scheduling problems and methods, etc.), along with the presentation of solution methodologies of relevant problems through the use of mathematical models, operations research and decision science models. The aforementioned framework is expected to increase the mathematical and basic background and skills of the trainees in science and technology. Additionally, these skills in science and technology are further enhanced through the training in basic and specialized information and communication technology (ICT) issues and systems. All of the above contribute to the development of a suitable training framework which enhances and boosts the learning skills of the trainees in their business.
Additionally, from the requirements analysis and meetings with the project participants, it was decided to not include examination material and sessions in order to make the conduction of the education more user-friendly to the trainees.
--PRESENTATIONS AND CASE STUDIES.
The theoretical material itself (Result 1) was structured in such a way in order to provide a flexible and ready-to-use material (for presentation purposes), as a source for theoretical and practical knowledge and case studies. The length of the chapters of the theoretical material and its contents, were design in order to provide a wide source of material for the development of suitable presentations that a trainer could develop according to the requirements and background level of the audience. Therefore, based on the available training horizon and background level of the trainees, the trainers will be able to choose specific chapters or parts that they want to emphasize, covering with this way the various training needs each time.
In order to complete the contents of the theoretical material, special case studies were developed. These cases studies present indicative IT system implementations in the logistics, postal and courier field and concern large institutions / companies with global presence, and demonstrate the usage of IT systems in supporting routing procedures and fleet management procedures
--DEVELOPMENT OF AN INNOVATIVE INTERACTIVE EMULATION LEARNING SOFTWARE.
The Innovative Interactive Emulation Learning Software that was developed in this project was the base for the overall innovative learning program. The software operates in a “game” fashion and a user-friendly environment, through which the trainees absorb and understand best routing and scheduling practices in order to further enhance their knowledge on their core business functions. For that reason, the developed software provides a practical application of the theoretical training on routing procedures. In order to ensure that, the software was developed in a series of discrete categories and scenarios that aim to train the participants on basic routing procedures on different real-life cases. The software were divided in two (2) major categories:
1.Simple routing methods/algorithms
2.Different routing scenarios
The first category consists two simple and most commonly used heuristic methods (algorithms) in a manner of a “live-tutorial” game. A step-by-step procedure guides the user through the routing methods. The users can understand how routing algorithms work and can observe some advantages and disadvantages of the specific heuristic procedures.
The second category was divided in two different routing cases: a) the static case and b) the dynamic case. Each one of those cases was divided in various scenarios based on various operational characteristics. Different practical operational challenges are met by each scenario, allowing the trainees to understand the significance of decision making in the routing efficiency. Each one of those scenarios incorporate benchmark solutions that can be compared to the ones of the users and motivate them to understand their suboptimal solutions (if any), or award them in case they found the best solution.
Finally, the emulation software includes an evaluation report after the end of the interactive training, which provides an evaluation of the user’s solution in comparison to the best ones proposed by the system. This feature allows the users to self-evaluate and see on which scenario or case they need to be improved.
The overall software met the expectations of the participants and contributed to the overall objectives of the project by making the participants to:
•Assimilate basic routing concepts, methods and best practices
•Acquire basic routing principles and knowledge and further enhance their current operations
•Develop mathematical, systemic and algorithmic thinking.
--DEVELOPMENT OF AN EMULATION INSTRUCTION MANUAL
The instruction manual accompanies the emulation learning program and is available to both the trainers and trainees. Its purpose is to allow the trainers to understand how to use and operate the software, and to be able to teach and support the trainers during the training lectures. Additionally, the trainees can use the software manual by their own for self-training.
The manual is written in a simple and very tangible way and guides the users using a step-by-step procedure, along with figures of the software. Given that, all users/trainees can utilize the software within the training/educational program, or as standalone in order to evaluate their performance in routing procedures.
Note also, that many help instructions, hints and tips as well as routing advices per each scenario of the software are directly incorporated within the emulation learning program in order to provide a more user-friendly environment.
--ENHANCING TRAINING USING STATE-OF-THE-ART ROUTING AND SCHEDULING TOOLS.
A suitable routing software (ORTEC SHORTREC®) was purchased, among several evaluated commercial products, to support both in the educational needs and training purposes (demonstration & practice) of the COURIEL project. Using the selected product the trainees are provided with an actual application of the theoretical material and are able to evaluate by themselves the benefits gained by utilizing routing software in their daily operations. The trainees are provided with an explanatory guidance on how-to-use relevant routing software and are provided with skills on using IT and routing technologies.
The presentation of such a software helps in understanding how their daily distribution operations can be implemented with the help of routing software. The trainees can compare their current practices and understand why and how such systems can minimize the trivial daily workload, leaving more time for the personnel to deal with critical operations.
In addition, an analytical manual was developed for the trainers, in order to learn to use the suggested software. During the lab sessions, the trainees were able to use the software by their own, with assistance from the trainers.
Based on the aforementioned, the selected system:
-Was easy, not complex and with a friendly user interface in order for the trainees to understand quickly its basic routines
-Included several modules that are critical and very useful in routing and distribution (such as geocoding, reporting, etc.)
-Explained how all the operational and business constraints of the daily routing operations can be modeled through a commercial system, and
-Generally, covered the educational and training needs regarding practical applications of routing and scheduling and consists of a solid starting point for understanding routing IT software and how to use them.
--DEVELOPMENT OF AN APPROPRIATE WEBSITE
The development of the website was conducted within the originally scheduled deadlines of the project. It was development and incorporated in the current website of the project coordinator on the url: www.kek-elta.gr. The website contains significant information regarding the project, such as content, context, results meetings, conferences and open days and any other information regarding the project course and objectives. It also contains a downloadable version of all project deliverables, along with the training material. There are also project related information regarding the partners meetings/workshops in Greece, Romania, Hungary and relevant publications involved during the project’s dissemination activities. The same information has also been published in the official Hellenic Post’s website, while corresponding information also exists in the websites of all the other partners (Magyar Post, Posta Romana, University of the Aegean).