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STRAIGHTSOL - Oxfam Demonstration

The Straightsol Oxfam Workshop held on 23rd April 2013, provided an overview of Oxfam: Remote 'bring-site' monitoring for more reactive and sustainable logistics.

The demonstration focuses on Oxfam textile banks across the UK, and the remote monitoring of these assets, information monitoring will allow Oxfam to make more informed business decisions, such as the expected level of donations in a given bank and if the clothing bank needs to be ‘serviced’ emptied.

Oxfam clothing and shoe bankOxfam’s collections from the 1300 donation banks are currently made at fixed intervals, which are largely dictated by the servicing needs of Oxfam's 750 high street shops. The banks and shops are serviced with the same fleet of vehicles resulting in some banks being visited when few goods are available for collection. The study aims to reduce wastage milage by reducing the number of unnecessary trips to banks. Another issue is identifying when a bank should be visited, because a full bank could result in either lost revenue, where potential donations were taken elsewhere or the donated materials being dumped outside the bank.

The trail focuses on the improvement of the legacy schedule supply chain. Oxfam are equipping around 75 of their banks, in an area (~11,000km2) to the north and west of London, with infra-red remote monitoring sensors, developed by Smartbin These sensors measure and report how full the banks are at regular time intervals (twice daily), with the data being transmitted via GSM and stored on a central web server. Equipped with this data, visits to banks can be scheduled according to the banks' true servicing needs, while maintaining the required shop collections at the same time.

Further benefits of monitoring the clothing banks are:

  • Identify ‘Leakage’ or theft from banks
  • Monitoring postcode regions generating the best quality stock regions generating the most contamination.

An algorithm developed specially for the task by the University of Southampton Mathematic Department has supported vehicle routing and scheduling. The algorithm ensures that visits to banks are not scheduled until the bank fill level has reached a specified threshold value; extensive offline testing suggests a threshold value between 50% and 60% is optimal, for profit maximisation. The algorithm can also maintain fixed shop, if desired, or can allow flexible collection days, as for the banks, which provides greater scheduling options and has been modelled to increase profit by 5%.

Expected outcomes of the demonstration are:

  • Significant savings in fleet miles from optimising collections
  • Increase in value (avg £/tonne) as a result of strategic locating of collection banks to generate ‘better’ quality donations


If you would like to find out more about Oxfam or donate please visit:



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This Project is being funded by the European Commission, 
Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under Grant Agreement No. 285195