“Just wondering why the stock levels don’t update”

A Jump partner recently sent me a note wondering why the stock levels didn’t update in his Jump Register after he had submitted a couple of Profile Forms.

I was pleased to receive this message because it confirmed that this partner was (a) completing profile forms; and (b) monitoring their Jump register to ensure that the GSheet record aligned with the actual number of modems they were holding.

I suspect his question arose from a misunderstanding about our back-end processes, which in all fairness, we have probably never explained. It’s all about timings.

Alistair schedules this activity into his daily calendar, and on most days, completes everything the same day, but he doesn’t work at the speed of light (like a computer does), so this means it could be up to 24 hours before the updates take effect.

The Profile Form is a Google Form that automatically populates a Google Sheet.

Alistair, one of our DIAA team, works diligently every day transferring selected information from the Jump Profile GSheet to individual Partner Jump registers. This then updates partners’ stock counts. If this triggers a re-order alert, Alistair then places an order for the supply of more modems.

Alistair also drives DORA, our mobile learning centre, and on days when he is moving the bus, he might not get to do the updates until the next day. But he never lets us down and in that sense he is undoubtedly more reliable than a computer.

Confusion about when to order Jump modems online

When two or more partners ask the same question, then it is time for me to post to this blog.

The modem shortage is causing some new issues; we currently have over 900 on order, and it will take at least 3-4 weeks to catch up, by which time we expect to have another 900 on order. As a result of this delay, partners have asked if they should use the home delivery process when they run out of modems.

Our short answer is no! We prefer that you create a waiting list – one partner this week advised us that they have a waiting list of 27! The modems we use for home deliveries come from the same supply pool as that used for partners and our priority for the online pool is for customers who cannot get to a local partner to collect a modem and for replacing faulty modems.

Our guideline for home delivery orders is that partners should only use this for customers who for some reason can not go to a local Jump partner.  We much prefer that they come to a local delivery partner where you can give them help to set up their accounts and make sure they know about the Jump app. 

However, we do encourage you to lodge an online application for people who do not have coverage or are in areas where there is no Jump capacity.  We do double-check that there is in fact no service at this address, but mainly we use this to keep Skinny updated on unsatisfied demand.

So when it is just a case of modem shortages, we encourage you to keep a waiting list, and get back in touch with your customers when further stocks of modems arrive.

Jump coverage checker updates

Partners may have noticed some changes in the messages they receive when the Skinny Jump address checker returns a negative result.

There are now three different messages you may receive when checking a customer’s address for Jump availability:

(1) No coverage or low coverage: this means the customer is totally outside a Spark 4G coverage area or is on the fringes. This means that customers would receive no service or a very poor service.

(2) No capacity: this means that the cell tower serving this location is at capacity and Skinny is not legally allowed to connect further customers; if they do so, existing customers would experience a degradation in service that could lead to complaints to the Government regulator.

(3) Antenna plan only: this is not available to Jump customers as there are significant costs in installing a wireless antenna. The purpose of the antenna, which connects to some modem types, is to boost the signal to a level that ensures reliable internet speeds. This service is only available to regular Skinny customers, who may be willing to pay the extra costs.

The good news in all this is that coverage and capacity is improving all the time, so customers should continue to be encouraged to check for any changes from time to time.

Resetting Jump Smart Modems

As part of the fault assessment process, The Skinny Care Team may ask a customer to do a ‘factory reset’ of their Jump modem. This involves using a SIM eject tool or a paperclip to push in the Reset button (located just below the two small black buttons on the back of the modem). The Reset button must be held down for up to 10 seconds, while all the lights on the front of the modem turn themselves off. When the Reset button is released, the lights will progressively turn back on.

This process is what is termed a ‘factory reset’, when all the settings are returned to their original state. If the Wi-Fi password or Username have been changed, they will revert to the default password and username printed on the modem.

If none of the lights come back on make sure the modem is plugged into mains power and the power on/off button (also on the rear of the modem) is “on”, i.e. pushed into the ‘in’ position. If the green power light on the front of the modem doesn’t come on, this would suggest a problem with the power supply.

Date formats matter for Jump modem counts

Everyone has their own way of writing dates, e.g. 5-Jul-2022, 05/07/22 (or if you are of North American heritage 07/05/22), 5 July 2022, 5-7-22, etc.

And for most things to do with Jump, you have been free to choose whatever format you prefer when entering dates in your Google registers.

But our new cunning plan to dynamically adjust your modem re-order triggers to reflect the number of modems you have issued during the last few weeks does care about date formats. We wondered why the trigger formula wasn’t working for some partners, when everyone had identical formulae.

A bit of detective work revealed the date problem – only dates in the 5-Jul-2022 format (our preferred format) were being recognised, so partners using other formats to record dates when modems were issued were being ignored.

Now I would like to say that this is the only reason why 80 partners are waiting for further modem supplies – but that is not the case. We have identified a small number who were using different date formats and have corrected these.

But the main problem continues to be with the supply chain, stretching right back to the manufacturer in China. It is now 3 weeks since the last batch of modems were supplied, which means many of you will have run out. I’m afraid the solution is not just a simple matter of correcting date formats.

Over 1000 modems are being supplied every month, but we know this is currently not enough to keep everyone stocked at an optimum level. We are hoping our new dynamic trigger system will help to direct modems to partners who have the highest turnover, but there are still mitigating circumstances outside our control.

So, please instruct all staff issuing Jump modems to make sure they use the preferred date format (5-Jul-2022) when recording the date of issue in your Jump Google registers.

Towards a better approach for supplying Jump modems

Every day I receive emails from at least one of our 300+ Jump delivery partners saying they have run out of modems. Our goal is for this never to happen and despite the supply chain challenges caused by Covid, we have tried a variety of approaches to smooth the flow.

We appreciated the support of many of our partners in March this year to redistribute modems they were holding to partners who were desperate for further supplies. But after a month of modem shuffles we became reliant again on the supply of new stock from Ingram Micro.

At any point we have up to 2000 modems in the pipeline, between the time of ordering and the time they arrive at a delivery partner. The challenge is to ensure that supplies arrive, where they are needed and when they are needed, without spending too much time sitting on partners’ shelves.

So today, we have implemented a new approach, called dynamic triggering. Historically our approach has been to set fixed re-supply trigger levels – when a partner’s stock dropped to the trigger level, we automatically placed an order for more supplies. This worked reasonable well when re-supply times were measured in terms of days, but now that we face up to 3 weeks (or at times even longer) to replenish stocks, this approach is not working that well.

Our new approach is to continuously adjust the trigger level, based on historical data. The trigger level for each delivery partner is now based on the number of modems they have issued during the last 3 weeks. For example if a partner has issued 10 modems during the last three weeks, their trigger level becomes 10. Assuming a relatively smooth distribution of modems, the partner should have adequate supplies to last for a further 3 weeks. If delivery times reduce, we can adjust the trigger level to a shorter period, say 2 weeks.

Partners can monitor this themselves in their Jump registers by viewing cell G2 (the dynamic trigger point) compared to their current stock levels (cell H2). When the stock level equals the trigger point, a new order is generated.

We recognise that customer demand will not always be as smooth as the above algorithm requires, but we think this is worth a shot. In particular we expect this will drive supplies to the partners with high turnovers, while minimising the amount of stock held by partners with low turnovers.

BUT, and there is one very big BUT, this does depend on partners ensuring that Profile Forms are completed for every modem issued. We need these to record the number of modems issued, which directly impacts when new orders are placed.

My measure of success will be the drop in emails to jump@diaa.nz requesting further supplies.

Updated Modem Return Form to replace old forms on 20 April 2022

An updated Modem Return form is being introduced from the start of business tomorrow (Wednesday 20 April). This replaces the three previous forms used by delivery partners for modem returns, i.e.

(1) Skinny Jump Account Delinking & Modem Reprovisioning – Delivery Sites & Care Use Only – originally developed for modems that were returned mainly because they were no longer required and could be remotely de-linked from customers’ accounts and rest, ready for re-issue.

(2) Faulty Jump Modem returns – originally developed for modems that had been remotely tested by Skinny and customers were advised that the unit was faulty and should be returned to a nearby Jump partner. We have recently consolidated this form with the standard Delinking Form above.

(3) MOE Modem Activation and Returns – originally developed for modems issued by the Ministry of Education.

The new consolidated form is to be used by Jump Delivery Partners when they receive any Jump modem returned by a customer or if they require a particular Jump modem to be re-provisioned for any other reason. The Skinny Care Team may also use this form when a customer reports they have a modem but there is no coverage or capacity at their address.

The purpose of this new consolidated form is:
(1) to make it easy for Delivery Partners to get a modem de-linked from a customer account and then reset in a timely manner, so that it can be re-issued. This form provides a direct communication channel to the Skinny Support Team who are responsible for delinking any Skinny Jump accounts and resetting modems. Jump Delivery Partners should never call the Skinny Care Team on the customer 0800 number, as this Helpdesk team is not able to delink accounts or reset modems.

(2) to recognise modems issued as part of a special Jump Plan – MOE, CIENA or RED CROSS – and ensure these are recovered or correctly re-provisioned.

(3) to record customer details for the collection of unwanted modems or at locations where there is no network coverage or capacity.

The information provided in this form authorises the Skinny Support Team to delink an account and reset the modem. Faulty or defaced modems that are not suitable for re-issue are to be marked as “faulty” in the form and this triggers a response from the Digital Inclusion Alliance Aotearoa (DIAA) team to send a courier bag to recover the modem for repair or recycling.

Once the modem is reset, an advice note is sent to the Delivery Partner at the partner email entered at the end of the form.

WANTED: Modem Recovery ideas

We are looking for a Jump delivery partner to join a small working group to brainstorm and test some ideas for recovering unused Jump modems.

Our original Jump distribution model was based on library systems that lend books (and other things) for limited periods. Our proposal was for Jump customers to keep their modems for as long as they like, but return them to their nearest delivery partner if they become faulty or if they are no longer required. The modems could then be repaired or simply reset and reissued to another customer.

This has been fairly successful with over 1500 modems being returned for repair or reuse during the last 15 months.

However, our records indicate that many customers do not bother to return the modem when they no longer need it and we are looking for new ways to encourage this.

While we are seeking someone who is currently actively involved in handling recovered Jump modems and who is able to participate in the working group during April, we welcome ideas and suggestions from all partners.

Need some more Jump modems – who are you going to call?

Well not Ghostbusters, that’s for sure. Not Skinny (refer to my earlier blog post). Not the Spark Foundation. Not a Spark retail store. Not Father Christmas.

Well then, who you might ask. Digital Inclusion Alliance Aotearoa (DIAA)- now you are getting warm. But not Eleanor. Not Leilani. Not Sue (although she seems to be the hot favourite!). Who else is there?

Laurence, Alistair and Shelley of course! Laurence handles modem inquiries through DIAA’s Jump email hotline (jump@diaa.nz) and Shelley handles modem inquiries through DIAA’s phone hotline (0800 463 422). And
Alistair handles our back office systems that keep the supply of modems flowing to you.

So please DO NOT CALL OR EMAIL anyone else on the DIAA team if your inquiry has anything to do with modem supply or distribution. This just creates an unnecessary clutter in voicemail and email in-boxes.

We have weathered the Covid storm by putting our shoulder to the wheel and creating new delivery options to ensure the modems keep flowing, so even when partners have had to shut up shop, we have simply expanded our home delivery option. But we don’t have super powers and have no control over issues in the global market such as microchip or neon shortages, resulting from Covid lockdowns in China and the war in Ukraine, respectively. Neon gas is a vital component in the laser lithography of silicon chips, and around 50% of the global supply comes out of Ukraine.

Nor can we solve New Zealand modem suppliers problems caused by large numbers of their staff having to self-isolate. Unlike many of us who can continue to work from home, these staff are hands-on, provisioning and packaging Jump modems.

What all this means is that we are all going to have to be patient. You will run out of modems. Customers waiting for home deliveries will call you to find out when their modem is going to arrive.

Please use the systems we have put in place to keep you and your customers informed:

(1) Make sure you are completing a Jump Profile form for every modem issued – this controls the re-stocking process.

(2) Check your Jump GDoc to find out when further supplies have been ordered, either from Ingram or transferred from another Jump delivery partner.

(3) Use the NZ CourierPost tracking number associated with each modem shipment to monitor progress with the delivery of modem supplies.

(4) For individual home delivery inquiries, please email jump@diaa.nz and we can give you a status report. But please note that we currently have a 7-10 day backlog with over 150 households waiting for a modem. By the time we get further supplies this backlog will have increased to over 200. We expect to make these deliveries next week.

(5) Any partner with surplus modem stock, please contact Shelley. During the last week, she has arranged the transfer of nearly 100 modems between delivery partners. Thank you to those partners who have assisted with this. She is still looking for another 200 modems to transfer.

Toy Libraries are not eligible for Jump

We regularly receive inquiries about whether community groups such as toy libraries, scout groups, rowing clubs etc. are eligible for Skinny Jump. I can understand that a low cost pre-pay service such as Jump would suit the needs of many community groups, who only require internet access from time to time.

But Jump is a highly subsidised service supported by the Spark Foundation and intended for households that can not afford monthly ‘on account’ internet plans. Eligible groups are clearly identified in Jump promotional material as well as on the Skinny Jump website.

Partners are asked to explain this to any community groups that might apply. We have heard stories from some partners that community groups can be quite argumentative when they are turned down, claiming that other similar groups are using Jump connections. If this is the case, a mistake had been made in issuing modems.

We suggest you ask for details of groups who are claiming to have been provided with Jump modems and by whom so that we can correct this misinformation.