A “social logistics” provider – KLU students support the Hamburger Tafel

The Hamburger Tafel is above all known for its social engagement. In fact, however, the non-profit organization has since evolved into a “social logistics” provider – day in and day out, its volunteer staff drive to every corner of Hamburg to get donated food to as many hungry mouths as possible. In order to fulfill its mission even better, after 30 years the Tafel went looking for help with optimizing its logistics processes – and found it at KLU: the university’s student-run corporate consulting service Advisupply promptly began searching for the perfect solution to optimize route planning, deliveries and workflows.

“When we started out, we were on a social mission – to give people the help they needed. But the scale has since grown to such an extent that we now see ourselves as ‘social logistics’ providers,” says Jan Henrik Hellwege, Managing Director of the Hamburger Tafel. “But for a small team like ours, implementing optimizations is no mean feat.” Through word of mouth, the Tafel ultimately got in touch with KLU. “It’s a good feeling to know that there’s someone out there taking a professional approach to improving the work of our non-profit organization,” says Hellwege. In this regard, the project with Advisupply is just the first step in a planned long-term collaboration between the Tafel and KLU. “We’re delighted to support the valuable social work done at the Hamburger Tafel with our expertise, which also helps our students gain valuable practical experience,” says KLU President Prof. Andreas Kaplan. “The Tafel is an excellent example of the countless key positions where logistics are involved, and of how society as a whole can benefit from optimally planned logistics.”

Consulting from KLU students

In early 2024, which marks 30 years since its founding, the Tafel’s logistics were in dire need of an overhaul: “The scale of our work has grown so much that we can only complete our core tasks by improving logistics – so that we can help more people in need while using the same resources,” says Hellwege. In addition, by collaborating with KLU, the Tafel’s goal is to demonstrate that it manages donated funds responsibly. “Here, we’re acquiring expertise that we ourselves can’t offer, to help achieve better cost-efficiency and be able to offer more help for Hamburg’s citizens.”

Specifically, it was Advisupply – an organization created by KLU students, which, as a student-run corporate consulting service, attends to projects for a range of clients – that took on this challenge. The students gain practical experience, while the client companies receive a professional and academically sound analysis – a major win for both sides. “At first, it was fairly difficult to get the ball rolling, to gather all the information we needed, and to understand the competition. But the more we got down to work, the easier and clearer it was,” says Max Adam, a bachelor’s student at KLU and project manager at Advisupply.

Wanted: professional transport management

When it came to the Hamburger Tafel, the main task for Advisupply was to make a lasting improvement to route planning, e.g. by digitalizing it – saying goodbye to jotting down notes on paper and “learning as you go,” and implementing systematic route planning and meaningful statistics that could also accommodate last-minute changes. Once the Advisupply team had started, it soon became clear: smaller tools that would only improve e.g. route planning wouldn’t be enough. Instead, they recommended the introduction of a comprehensive Transport Management System (TMS).

To find the ideal software, the students tested various candidates on the basis of several categories. How user-friendly are the tools? What does the driver app look like? What analytical features are there, and are real-time data and updates integrated? Plus, how should the different categories be rated in relation to one another?

Of the roughly 20 software products considered, only four made it to the next round, with one from the provider Routific ultimately emerging as the clear winner. “The software really shines in the most important categories: routing, real-time updates, and user-friendliness. When it comes to this combination of features, it’s the ideal solution to meet the needs of the Hamburger Tafel,” says Menart Paci, a bachelor’s student at KLU and consultant at Advisupply.

Further collaboration planned

“I couldn’t be happier,” says Hellwege about the results of the collaboration. “In my view, thanks to the consulting offered by the students, we’re going to actually achieve our declared goal.” And the journey is far from over: in the next step, the outcomes of the consulting are to be implemented – tentatively, once again with the support of Advisupply. Further, the Hamburger Tafel and KLU plan to continue working together on logistics issues beyond these specific projects.