Friday, 19 December 2014

Helping the Hungry by Improving Processes

Helping the Hungry by Improving Processes (Press release)

The O.R. (Operational Research) Society runs a Pro Bono O.R. scheme which provides third sector organisations in the UK access to free O.R. consultancy that can help increase efficiency and effectiveness.  In April 2013 Welcome Centre food bank received support to help them to prepare for an increased demand on their services.

The rise in the number of people using food banks has increased dramatically in 2014. David McAuley, the chief executive of the Trussell Trust, says that in reality half a million people are struggling to feed their families.   

The Welcome Centre in Huddersfield provides emergency food and toiletries packs, household goods, bedding and clothes to people in crisis.  As proved to be the case in 2014, The Welcome Centre was expecting a big increase in demand and needed to know how the operation could be improved both in the short term and for the future when new IT and accommodation could be found.

The consultants studied documents relating to the Centre’s operation, and visited to see it in practice, its constraints and difficulties. They devised a questionnaire which was sent out to management, trustees, staff/volunteers, donors and referring agencies seeking initial views on problem areas and possible solutions.  They used the responses to the questionnaires to design a half-day workshop which was attended by a mix of trustees, the manager, staff and volunteers. The  workshop discussed problems and potential solutions, then considered ‘ideal ‘business processes for the future, to assist the trustees and management in designing systems to be used after the Centre’s move to new accommodation. Each group looked at a different set of processes: receiving, sorting and storing goods, and handling referrals, sorting out packs and handing to client. A report recommending quick wins and longer term plans was delivered and discussed by the trustees.

Outputs from the study included a management report which was discussed by trustees, suggestions for new IT systems and a summary of: problems faced by staff & volunteers, outcomes from workshop, quick wins and recommended future processes.

The benefits to the food bank were enhanced communication between all parties, appreciation by trustees of day to day problems facing staff/volunteers and vice versa, a clear list of problems together with simple quick solutions and process maps detailing: current processes and an outline of recommended future processes.

The Chair of Trustees said ‘With your input we feel we are more equipped to deal with the expansion of the organisation’.

The current feedback from the Welcome Centre is that things are much improved for two main reasons – improved accommodation with more space and the introduction of a new client database.  Many of the recommendations have been implemented and there is now a satisfaction with how things operate. 

For further information about Pro Bono O.R. and to see more case studies please visit: or contact Felicity McLeister (O.R. Pro Bono Project Manager) on 0121 233 9300 or email

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