This project explored a service design solution for potentially improving urban air quality. By looking at ways in which the delivery industry could be optimized, we developed a solution that provides economic, environmental, and societal value to its community.
It has been developed as a requirement for the completion of the Alliance for Collaborative Education Urban Air Quality Challenge between January and July 2018. This initiative was created with the understanding that a complex problem like air pollution in urban areas cannot be solved by a single person, yet a more promising effort could be achieved by grouping students and experts from diverse backgrounds in order to combine efforts to exchange and generate ideas.
This project was a collaboration with Sara Grisales, Abhisek Soni, and Lauren Wong.
This project examines the last mile delivery system as a point of intervention within urban settings to alleviate air pollution. The transportation and delivery industry is significant in its role as a contributor to urban air quality issues, yet, the industry is slow to change to greener and less polluting options. When combined with the expected rise of ecommerce deliveries, this system needs to be revisited in order to ensure healthy urban spaces. Primary research done by the team members shows that there are opportunities to reorganize the traditional delivery system in order to cut back on emissions. Our project shows such an alternative that has been preliminarily validated with customer surveys and the comparison of the amount of emissions of certain pollutants with the current conditions and with our proposal implemented. This project hopes to encourage further discussion on the matter of urban air pollution.
With this research project and design initiative we are investigating the transportation and logistics sector’s contribution to the deterioration of air quality and putting forward a proposal for an intervention that will reduce the amount of emissions resulting from deliveries.
Our research question is “how might we reduce the production of air pollution by adopting an integrated solution that better addresses last mile delivery from business to consumers?”
As part of our methodology we conducted a thorough literature review, created a systems map, completed a foresight horizon scan, recorded air pollution data in Eindhoven, explored business model canvases, explored value proposition canvases, created journey maps, business blueprints, conducted a survey, completed expert interviews, and did collaborative brainstorming.
Our service concept is called Plankton and it is an urban last mile delivery service. It operates via a network of neighborhood hubs (Plankton Hubs or “Pubs”), an integrated digital portal, and an accompanying network of zero-emission transportation modes. We took a holistic approach, from a delivery point of view as well as in methods to make it environment friendly and affordable without having to pit ourselves against the big corporations but rather having them as partners.
First, a shopper places an online order. The order can be placed with a partnered retailer, or with a non-partnered retailer. When placing the order, the customer can choose to “deliver with Plankton” which will initiate a business and logistics process that will fill in the shipping location to be the nearest Plankton Hub with enough storage (assuming the customer already has an account with Plankton and has provided their home address).
The regular logistics model retrieves the parcel from a fulfillment center and delivers it to the indicated Hub. At the hub, the courier heads to the Plankton locker. There they scan the parcel code which recognizes the end-customer. If another parcel has been received for that customer, the parcels are placed together in a single locker. The system now knows that the parcel has been received and in which locker it is placed. The automated system sends a message to the recipient of the parcel, alerting them that their parcel is ready for pick-up. The customer now has a choice to either opt for self-pick-up which is free, or to arrange a delivery with a bike courier or electric vehicle (depending on weight and size).
If the customer selects a delivery method, the system sends out a delivery request to a network of pre-approved couriers. Plankton has a strict zero emission policy for its couriers. Once a courier accepts the delivery request, they are provided with the location of the Hub. Once at the hub they scan their identification tag which will then let them know which locker to open - no code is required, the system is able to verify the courier via facial recognition.
Once the parcel has been retrieved, the customer is notified and can monitor the delivery of their couriers progress (similar to ordering on UberEats). The customer greets the courier and receives the parcel(s). The payment is processed through the app when the delivery is placed. It is a variable delivery fee based on demand, timing, weight and size of the parcel.
Another way Plankton is able to incur revenue is by charging the customer a late retrieval fee if they do not pick-up their parcel from the locker within 15 days. For every day the parcel is left in the locker beyond that limit, the system charges the customer a daily fee.
Additional to our added value of environmentally friendly delivery system, Plankton will have partnerships with retail shops, restaurants and local businesses to incentivize the use of the service. Every time a customer uses Plankton, a certain amount of TON Rewards will be granted to them, which will be calculated based on the delivery option they chose and the reduction of emissions associated. This way, the clients will accumulate points and will be able to redeem them in exchange for benefits in the partnerships’ stores. The benefits could include discounts, coupons, free products, or free deliveries from Plankton. When designing this service our team completed a service blueprint to better understand the various interactions between the touchpoints of the service and the customer segments.
Each neighborhood would be peppered with local neighborhood hubs that act as pick-up and drop-off locations. Businesses could apply to become a Plankton Hub and receive a Plankton Locker which would then be set-up to the Plankton network. These lockers would be placed behind the businesses (in a back alley) or in front of the business, providing the couriers with 24 hour access to the parcels.
When a business signs on to be a Plankton Hub, they receive a locker which a team will professionally install on the outside of the company. The lockers have to be accessible 24 hours a day.
Through the app, customers are able to keep track of their deliveries, specify a delivery time and location, and pay for the services. Much like UberEats, the consumer is able to track the delivery of their package in real-time, pay for the services within the app, and provide feedback.