Daria Lanz

Case Study

Launching a new digital process to unlock grocery delivery at scale

Tesco: Vehicle Allocation

Have you ever struggled to book a home delivery slot because they’re all full?
We transformed what was a completely manual process to allocate drivers and vehicles to fulfil customer delivery orders to a new, digital, fully automated process.

working at

with this awesome team

UX Lead: Daria Lanz
UI Lead: Sabrina Gayle
Client Director: Shelley Malham
Experience Director: Andy Ingle
this project identifies as

Service Design
Product Design
Enterprise Tools
The brief.
Tesco’s allocation process was a manual, paper-based process which varied across stores and fulfilment centres. It was inefficient and prone to human-error, and challenging to scale.

With over 5,000 home delivery stores across the country, 10+ click and collect models, and four different types of fulfilment centres, Tesco’s operations are complex to say the least. With organic scale and inertia, many of their locations had established “home-brew” workarounds to accommodate the varying scale and requirements across these locations. This created siloed fulfilment systems, inefficiencies and inconsistencies in service and operations.

As a first step to streamlining the end-to-end fulfilment service, this seemed like a logical starting point.
The outcome.
Through our work we unlocked scaling opportunities for Tesco to meet the unexpected increased demands for home delivery grocery shopping as a result of the Covid pandemic, while decreasing the amount of undelivered orders.

We redesigned the delivery process, leveraging automation and self-serve technologies which vastly reduced the time it takes to allocate drivers, vehicles, and routes. This freed up manager’s time to focus their efforts on resolving last minute changes before they become problematic. It also meant drivers could hit the road faster, avoiding traffic bottlenecks, and increasing the number of trips they can make in a shift.
What we did.
We kicked off our project with a series of workshops with stakeholders and managers to align everyone on our objectives, and understand the different roles, user needs, and jobs to be done within the delivery process.

Ethnographic Research

Then we dove into ethnographic research for a series of sprints, visiting different locations of varying scale across the country to observe their delivery process, to understand the intricacies involved in the job. I loved seeing behind the scenes and learning how an operation like fulfilment works, even though it meant a lot of standing around in giant freezers at 3am. In fact, I ended up speaking at a conference about my ethnographic research with Tesco, which includes tips and tricks on how to run these types of studies effectively.

From these research trips we mapped out the end-to-end experience, identifying inefficiencies, bottle-necks, knock-on effect problems and actor pain points. We wanted to identify opportunities for technology to step up. Working with stakeholders across the business, we mapped out our vision for the future as a service blueprint, identifying what role technology would play to smooth out the process, as well as necessary back-stage changes which would be required.

Our work touched the physical as well as the digital – we identified a more efficient design of the back office space to allow drivers to self-serve in the mornings. A year later, on an ethnographic visit for a different project, I saw some of the self-serve technology we’d dreamed up implemented. There’s nothing quite like seeing your vision come to life and manifest real positive change in the environment.
Enter: Covid

We’d designed and tested our happy path product solution when Covid hit. This put a wrench in our plans; We had to pause our testing while Tesco Colleagues dealt with the overnight panic buying and changes required to operate in a safe manner. My design team pivoted to working from home, running collaborative sketching sessions together over Hangouts as we worked through the unhappy path solutions.

By the end of April we were able to start remote testing to validate our designs, and eventually over the summer we were able to get back on the ground and test our designs contextually.
Early concept sketches for the product

We sketched many iterations by hand, fleshing out storyboards for the user flows to ensure we’d answered a lot of the tricky nuances within this complicated landscape.

As we’ve adjusted to working from home during lockdown and the Covid Pandemic, my process has shifted slightly. I still often start with hand sketching as I find it the easiest way to think through a problem. Quickly I’ll import my sketches into Miro or Mural and start annotating or mocking up diagrams, flows, or very rough wireframes based on the sketch concepts.

Sabrina and I had a really good rhythm on this piece of work; She was in control of the design system and component library, bringing my Miro thinking to life in Sketch (and later Figma).
This was my first forte into fulfilment and warehouse operations, so the first few weeks were overwhelming with the amount of information overload I was downloading. I had to get up to speed with the operational process quickly, and many of the locations we visited had variations in their approach, so it was hard to know what was a pain point or a cut corner.

Getting up at 2am to do the research was also a challenge, because it threw the rest of my week out of whack. I felt like I was constantly jetlagged for weeks. That being said, I wouldn’t have changed our approach. It was incredibly fun seeing how the behind-the-scenes operates, and it was crucial we be there at those times to observe the operation as it happens.

The biggest challenge though, was Covid. We began this piece of work before we’d ever heard the word “Covid”. Three months in our user testing and sprint schedule were wildly disrupted thanks to lockdown. Our testing had to be put on pause until it was safe for us to venture out in public again, and we lost access to our Colleagues on the ground as they dealt with the overnight changes in their jobs.

We were able to adjust to remote testing relatively easily, and in hindsight I think we adapted and pivoted extremely well given the circumstances. We switched up our schedules to focus on designing more upfront, then when we could we tested a backlog of ideas, designs, and features, before implementing.

During the initial Covid whirlwind, our system was also pushed to the brink, with home delivery demands skyrocketing through lockdown. I remember a few weeks where most news articles I read were about the lack of Tesco delivery slots available. I felt partially personally responsible for this, not that any of my work was resulting in the lack of delivery drivers; there was a national shortage of drivers anyways, drivers were getting sick which left shifts unfilled, and the demand for slots doubled overnight. Still, our product was going to unlock scaling opportunities for Tesco to be able to fulfil this new demand. So I felt immense pressure to push through our design process and get the new system built as quickly as possible.

It was an incredibly stressful working environment, to say the least. At one point I developed a pinched nerve in my shoulder from sitting awkwardly at my make-shift home office for hours on end. But it was also incredibly rewarding. At a time when we were all going through the shock and trauma of the pandemic unfolding upon us, I felt grateful that my work was positively contributing to the general public getting their food while remaining safe. I felt privileged to have the opportunity to contribute to us getting through the pandemic in such a direct way, and I threw myself into the work completely.
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