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World Vision

How Knack helps a nationally distributed team
manage an internationally distributed nonprofit.

World Vision

Keeping Things In One Place

Managing logistics is never easy. When you’re doing so for a sprawling non-profit operating in more than 90 countries, even robust enterprise software may not get the job done.

World Vision logo

Sometimes a custom application is just what you need.

Kevin Horrocks is a logistics manager at World Vision, a global Christian relief and advocacy organization dedicated to working with children, families, and communities to overcome poverty and injustice.

His team is responsible for ensuring the delivery of gifts-in-kind products for development programs and humanitarian emergencies all over the world.

From donations to distribution centers, warehouses to ocean containers, there are a lot of products and processes to track.

When Enterprise software was proving too complex and cumbersome, Kevin turned to Knack to build a custom application to simplify inventory management and empower his distributed teams.

We just found Knack very easy and simple to use. All the information that the team needs is in one simple view.

A Simple Solution for a Complex Process

Kevin’s team works with the transportation flow of donated product as it’s directed to World Vision’s national or international offices. They need to track and arrange the transport from donors to warehouses to final destinations, which are found in over fifty countries.

A pallet prepped and ready for shipment.

Prior to finding Knack, Kevin’s team had launched an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to manage their shipments and sales orders. However, there were too many features that didn’t align with their needs, the routing system was too advanced for their requirements, and using the system was difficult.

Knack offered a more straightforward solution. Kevin found it easy and intuitive, even creating the database basics within an hour of setting up his account.

He ultimately distilled multiple complex modules into a few simple views. This enabled the team to trace all the components around logistics and freight activities in one place. It’s far simpler to navigate and provides greater visibility.

One of the “Manager’s Dashboard” reports that shows volume of shipments to overseas countries.

Kevin explains: “We just found Knack very easy and simple to use. All the information that the team needs is in one simple view.”

Simplicity alone isn’t sufficient if the app can’t handle the functional requirements. Fortunately, Knack’s wide range of features could accommodate the complexity of a modern logistics process. For example, World Vision’s app aligns planned shipments with demand, while also tying in logistical details like ship dates, ETAs, and freight costs.

It may have started out simply, but thanks to Knack’s power and flexibility the application has continued to expand. According to Kevin, this is a good thing: “It has grown far beyond what we’d originally intended.”

Knack has proven to be a powerful tool to disseminate information across teams.

Empowering a distributed team

Due to the ongoing growth and nationwide disbursement of the logistics team, Kevin needed a cloud-based system that could grant access to multiple people at once, from anywhere in the world.

World Vision’s main logistical hub is their international distribution center in Pittsburgh. Kevin used Knack to build a dock schedule calendar that grants visibility to workers across World Vision sites, making it far easier to schedule shipments and transfers. Users can view their site’s daily workload and see at a glance how busy they’ll be during the coming week or month.

Finalizing a container to ship to Burundi.

“It’s better sharing, but on a global scale,” Kevin explains. “We’re sharing information internationally through Knack.”

This increased visibility also helps communication and collaboration between World Vision teams. They’re able to use the shared data to create reports that can be easily and quickly distributed — reports that otherwise they would have had to create manually in spreadsheets.

In short, Kevin says, it’s proven to be “a powerful tool to disseminate information across teams.”

Calendars show when international containers are loading and are color-coded by distribution center.

User Roles & Usability

User roles are another particularly useful feature for World Vision, as they allow for tailored views and dashboards, as well as granting a certain team access to shipping and dock calendars as needed.

When a user inputs a status change, that update automatically feeds into other people’s views — so a change in one place updates across multiple pages, views, and user-based dashboards.

This connectivity eliminates duplicate data entry and keeps everyone up to date with the latest data in real time.

Kevin even built a user role specifically for their 94-year-old volunteer, Tom. Tom tracks ocean container shipments and was very familiar with the team’s previous system. Kevin was able to create a similar view in Knack, using only the necessary fields. This made it far simpler to navigate.

Tom, a 94-year-old volunteer, helps with container tracking.

Tom now jokes that they’re going to have to find more work for him to do, since Knack has doubled his efficiency!

This improved usability of the Knack application also means better engagement from staff and volunteers.

For example, Kevin’s team sorts a lot of medical products, and their ERP system doesn’t capture that information in an effective way. Knack enabled them to create a medical sort tool that is more user-friendly for volunteers who are inputting the medical products.

These simple changes add up to make a big difference. In the past, it was troublesome for them to learn the high-powered ERP system, but “Knack has helped with engagement by making things simple for our volunteers.”

In short, Kevin says, it’s proven to be “a powerful tool to disseminate information across teams.”

With Knack we are only using exactly what we need without paying for features that don’t fit our business. For the price and ease of use I would have a hard time finding a replacement.

“It fills a significant gap in our business”

“Knack fills a significant gap in our business,” Kevin says. “It allows us to capture only the data we want, and make it available to stakeholders in custom formats based on their needs.”

For Kevin, the value is evident. Knack lets the team focus in on just the features they need. What’s more, having unlimited users means they can expand the app without costs skyrocketing from expensive user seat licenses.

Kevin explains: “With Knack we are only using exactly what we need without paying for features that don’t fit our business. For the price and ease of use I would have a hard time finding a replacement.”

Knack’s support and assistance also played a key role. World Vision doesn’t have a team of developers on hand, which means they have little time to build and maintain the system they’ve created.

“The ongoing support and app assistance have been integral to helping us keep up our database,” he explained.

When they started using Knack, Kevin and his team weren’t sure how long they’d need this type of system. But thanks to the product’s flexibility, that growth shows no signs of slowing down: “We’ve been having more discussions with other teams on ways to expand its use.”

Inventory and logistics are complex aspects of any company, and for a vast international organization, they are especially so. Yet for Kevin Horrocks and World Vision, “all those needs are met in Knack.”

All images © World Vision photo