Project Open Hand

Project Open Hand

“More than anything, Samsara has shown us how reliable our team really is—it really boosted leadership’s overall confidence in our drivers and distribution teams.”

MICHAEL MCCORMICK, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS FOR PROJECT OPEN HAND

San Francisco-based non-profit Project Open Hand provides meals for vulnerable populations and operates as an essential emergency service during the COVID-19 outbreak. They rely on Samsara to maintain vehicle health, coach drivers on safe driving habits, and gain visibility into their operations. 

  • Real-time GPS location data gives Project Open Hand visibility into the locations of their drivers and vehicles, ensuring routes are going smoothly and deliveries are made on time.

  • Preventative maintenance helps Project Open Hand keep vehicles on the road longer and identify any mechanical issues before they derail deliveries. 

  • AI dash cams provide insights into driver behavior and create opportunities for customized driver coaching.

Meet Project Open Hand

Project Open Hand began in 1985 with the mission to bring nutritional meals to San Francisco’s HIV and AIDS residents. 35 years later, the non-profit has expanded its impact to serve an average of 2,500 meals a day to critically ill and vulnerable populations in the greater Bay Area.

Built on the belief that food is medicine, Project Open Hand helps sustain communities battling illnesses in San Francisco and Alameda counties with nutritional meals and educational programs that teach community members about the holistic benefits of a healthy diet.  

Serving upward of thousands of people a week across 16 community nutrition and individual client sites in San Francisco is a challenge under normal circumstances. But operating during the COVID-19 pandemic has created unique dependencies for the staff at Project Open Hand. To keep their critical services running in uncertain times, it’s imperative that the operations team stays in tune with the whereabouts and safety of their drivers and vehicles. That’s why Project Open Hand relies on Samsara GPS technology to make sure their team is effectively and efficiently making their deliveries.

"As we continue operating through this pandemic, it’s critical that we have visibility into all the moving pieces,” said Project Open Hand’s Director of Operations, Michael McCormick. “Samsara lets us see where our vehicles are, their maintenance levels, and even whether or not drivers are operating safely. This has become mission-critical as an essential emergency food provider for vulnerable populations.”

Visibility into driver locations keeps essential services running

Project Open Hand includes two major initiatives. The first is the Wellness Program which provides grocery pick-up or delivery to community members battling illnesses ranging from HIV/AIDS and diabetes to congestive heart failure and COPD. The pick-up spots—located in Oakland and San Francisco—serve as grocery centers for clients well enough to leave the house but include the option for an at-home delivery if the client is not well enough to go outdoors. The second initiative is the Community Nutritional Program, which feeds seniors and adults with disabilities in locations across San Francisco. Both of these programs provide a meal to community members and employ the help of a dietician who either partners individually with a client to create a unique food plan or simply provides more general nutrition education. 

While these programs form the backbone of Project Open Hand, the organization has had to remain flexible as the COVID-19 outbreak has led to unique operating circumstances and a significant surge in demand. Though the team has had to change congregate sites—or any site where clients share a meal together—to strictly pick-ups due to shelter-in-place orders, meal delivery requests have increased by 93% and grocery deliveries jumped by nearly 200% since citywide lockdowns began in March.

In order to successfully manage this spike in demand while also ensuring vehicles and drivers are effectively carrying out their routes, Project Open Hand uses Samsara GPS technology for visibility into their operations. Samsara helps them understand where their drivers are at any given point, ensuring that meals end up in the right hands quickly. In addition to this intel on driver whereabouts, Samsara has also reduced the amount of back-and-forth phone calls that were previously required to make sure everything was on track—time that can be reinvested into other parts of the business. 

“Now, our Distribution Manager will get an alert to see that a vehicle left our facility and be able to see exactly where it’s headed, even if they didn’t have a chance to check-in with the driver beforehand,” McCormick said. 

While this visibility is helpful with day-to-day operations, GPS tracking has also become a resource for the team in the scenario that there is a COVID-19 outbreak among their own staff. “If we did have a positive COVID case with a driver, we could easily use GPS tracking to backtrack which locations that driver was at to help trace movement and alleviate community risk,”  McCormick said.

Implementing preventative maintenance to increase vehicle lifespan

Project Open Hand runs a tight ship. Their 21-vehicle fleet is responsible for covering a significant number of routes across the greater Bay Area. During COVID-19, each driver delivers meals to upward of 150 clients every day—up from around 90 deliveries a day just a month prior. This means if just one of their 21 vehicles experiences unforeseen mechanical issues or a sudden breakdown, a considerable number of routes and clients are impacted.

To help prevent an issue like this from happening and keep their vehicles in service, Project Open Hand uses Samsara to better understand the health of each vehicle. By viewing the maintenance status of each vehicle in the Samsara dashboard, McCormick gains at-a-glance insights into key stats such as engine state or oil pressure. 

“Samsara has allowed us to increase the lifespan of our vehicles by helping us to better understand if something is wrong, allowing us to budget and manage our time better,” McCormick said.

Today, when McCormick receives a check engine alert from Samsara, he’s able to see exactly what is wrong with the vehicle in his dashboard. Whereas in the past Project Open Hand might have delayed servicing a vehicle when a check-engine light turned on, now they know exactly what is happening and they can address issues immediately. 

“There was one vehicle, in particular, that was giving us a lot of flags,” McCormick said. “Based on what I saw in Samsara, I knew we had to take it to the shop or take it offline. I think we probably could have lost that vehicle if we kept driving it—something we would have ordinarily done had we just seen the check engine light on.”

A safety-first culture built on driver coaching

Project Open Hand has not experienced a single collision in 20-plus years—a feather in McCormick’s cap that speaks volumes to the organization’s approach toward safety. While this safety-first culture has served Project Open Hand well historically, it’s become an especially critical part of how they operate during COVID-19.

“Our mission is to keep our clients healthy and safe,” McCormick said. “That becomes even more of a priority when we’re operating during a pandemic.”

One way Project Open Hand implements safety best practices into their operations is with proactive driver coaching. Thanks to Samsara dual-facing AI dash cams, Project Opens Hand’s Manager of Distribution, Leslie Smith, is able to detect harsh events—like sudden braking or turning—while also capturing in-cab activity. This visibility into driver behavior serves as a jumping-off point for coaching, something Smith depends on to help her drivers stay safe on the road.

By leveraging Samsara safety tools, McCormick has more visibility into Smith’s work as well as a greater understanding of how Project Open Hand’s fleet is performing. “Samsara has given me greater insight into our fleet and has allowed me to better understand Smith's work, too,” McCormick said.

Continuing to support vulnerable populations

Project Open Hand continues to depend on their small but mighty staff to help support the critically ill and vulnerable. This is especially true in the time of COVID-19, when those communities are perhaps more vulnerable than ever. Though they’ve partnered with Samsara for tools to help them operate more efficiently, at the end of the day, it’s their staff that gets the job done.

“More than anything, Samsara has shown us how reliable our team really is,” McCormick said. “It really boosted leadership’s overall confidence in our drivers and distribution teams.”

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