Deployment Guide/Logistics

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3. Logistics

Lead time: Many components of a deployment have relatively immutable lead times. These lead times must be taken into consideration when developing a deployment schedule. For example, in order to minimize supply-chain costs, OLPC is required to give the factory a three-month lead time on all orders. Other long lead-time items include: new keyboards—approximately two months after the design is complete; factory QA of new software—approximately two weeks; shipping—typically one month by sea; etc. A new power adapter might take up to 6 months, since it involves industrial design, tooling, and safety certification. Some of these lead-times can be run in parallel, e.g., a keyboard can be designed during the three-month manufacturing lead time for laptops. Others are by their nature serial, e.g., obviously shipping must follow manufacturing.

Logistics includes everything from delivery of the laptops in country to their distribution to the children and teachers. Laptops can be delivered ex works, in which case the laptops are available for pickup at the door of the factory in China, or delivered through our partner DHL Global Forwarding, who can manage/coordinate all aspects of logistics, including transportation to the destination country, through customs, to regional distribution centers, or even, in some cases, all the way to the school, while taking into consideration customs and import duties, insurance, etc. Depending upon the country or region, another partner, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), may also play a role. OLPC will be happy to help with this planning process, but the ultimate decision-making and responsibility lies with the organization doing the deployment, be it a ministry of education or a non-governmental organization, such as an educational foundation.

Things to be considered:

  • How will the laptops be shipped: by sea, by air (this is expensive, but sometimes considered as a means to shorten the time it takes to first get laptops into deployment)?
  • How will customs be handled?
  • Have all of the safety certifications been applied for and obtained? (OLPC will work closely with you in regard to any special certifications needed in your country.)
  • How will the inventory be managed once it is in country? (An inventory list that correlates individual laptops with individual schools is required by our anti-theft system. Someone on the country deployment team needs to be appointed by the country team to be trained by OLPC in the use of our “Activation Key” generation system.)
  • What are the school selection criteria?
  • How will the laptops be distributed regionally? (The Activation Keys must be delivered through a separate, “trusted” channel.)
  • How will the laptops get from the regional distribution centers to the schools?
  • Where will spare parts be inventoried? How will they be managed? (Note that 1% extra units are included in your order as the means of warranting the laptop. A plan is necessary for where these units will be stocked and how they will be distributed. Please consider that the laptop is designed such that most service can be done by the children themselves—empower them!)
  • What is the policy regarding activation leases? What is policy regarding laptop replacement? etc.
  • What is the policy regarding taking the laptops home? Keeping the laptops over the summer? etc.

The distribution of laptops, of course, requires a detailed plan: how many laptops to which schools in which order.

Note that because of the lead-times involved, the software image in the laptops arriving in country could be up to four-to-five months old. It is very likely that in the early stages of deployment, more current, localized software and content will be required. Where this software is loaded onto the laptops and by whom is an important consideration.

A further consideration is software and content updates. While these can be automated by the OLPC build system, in most cases it is something that should be gated by the in-country team, e.g., software development doesn't necessarily follow the academic calendar—it may make sense to do updates during vacation times. Also to be considered is the mechanism by which updates are delivered. Network bandwidth is often a limited and expensive resource. Pushing updates out or delivering them on physical media, e.g., USB memory sticks, is something to discuss with OLPC. (Caution: while most USB memory sticks are compatible with the laptop, please be sure to test them before making a bulk purchase.)

In regard to scheduling and resource allocation, note that software updates and activation are largely autonomous actions: e.g., you can upgrade/customize the software on the laptop in the warehouse prior to activating them. Activation can happen in the field, when the laptops are distributed to the children. (Note that after reflashing a laptop—which involves overwriting the entire image rather than upgrading a portion of it—it will need to be reactivated.) There are procedural details about reimaging, activating, and registering laptops in Appendix VII.

Next Section: Localization