«F RO M L O G I S T I C S T O S U P P LY C H A I N M A N A G E M E N T: T H E P AT H F O RWA R D I N T H E H U M A N I T A R I A N S E C T O R TA B L ...»
Academicians can also contribute by supporting the association's role as a clearinghouse for academic research relating to humanitarian logistics. As detailed in the Appendix9, academics have written a number of teaching cases and articles that document and create awareness of the concerns and practices of the sector, thereby increasing the visibility and understanding of the field to new audiences.
Investing in Standardized Training It is also clear to the community of logisticians with whom we collaborate that progressive training and eventually a standardized, externally recognized certification program are needed to create a marketplace of professionals able to meet the requirements of organizations in the humanitarian sector.
The benefits of a comprehensive, sector-specific logistics training and certification program are numerous, including:
The Appendix lists selected recent articles and teaching cases related to humanitarian logistics.
9 Understanding Humanitarian Supply Chains
• Improved communication and cooperation across agencies and with donors as a result of standardized catalogs, terminology and processes
• Increased career mobility and job satisfaction for logisticians in the sector
• A pool of trained logisticians whose skills have been externally verified, providing agencies and donors with greater hiring flexibility and options Formalizing knowledge will overcome, to some extent, the lack of institutional knowledge that occurs because of high employee turnover, by capturing and disseminating knowledge in an organized way.
To the extent that the various multinational aid agencies face similar logistics tasks and similar challenges, it seems natural to approach knowledge management through a community of practice.
Common training and the use of tools like e-learning would open up the possibility of creating a cadre of logisticians in the field, and so promote standardized logistics practices and in-country logistics capacity.
The logisticians who have participated in Fritz Institute's Humanitarian Logistics Conference have embarked on an initiative to create and implement a certification program in humanitarian logistics.
The group has identified the following topics as relevant to all international aid agencies: managing a humanitarian response, humanitarian supply chains, procurement, warehousing and inventory management, transport, fleet management and import/export procedures.
This is an ideal area in which to collaborate with corporate and academic partners, who have already established formalized logistics training programs within their companies and at universities. By working together, the community can leverage previous development of course content, as well as delivery processes, to the greatest extent possible, while customizing as needed for the humanitarian sector.
Corporate logisticians and academics may also take on the training itself, by hosting e-classroom sessions on their servers and by providing live trainers. Last, academics may help by developing training materials unique to humanitarian logistics. Electronic technology providers may develop unique delivery mechanisms that work well in remote areas and at or near response sites.
Metrics and Performance Measurement In general, humanitarian relief organizations have focused on “getting the job done” and have put little effort into performance measurement other than reporting to donors on the amount of relief and usage of funds for a given relief operation. Furthermore, learning has been approached on an ad-hoc basis, through post-operation evaluations, rather than through a structured process of continuous improvement, as has been used successfully in the corporate sector since the 1980's. The transformation of logistics from a peripheral function to a strategic one in the private sector can be traced back to the time when logisticians began to be able to measure and communicate their value. The Plan-Do-CheckAct improvement process that is commonly used in the private sector could be quite useful when applied to humanitarian logistics.
As backbone information systems are implemented, aid agencies will have the capability to measure performance across operations and to use measurement information in the same ways that information
is used in the corporate world. If the use of metrics is leveraged, aid agencies will be able to:
•Use actual performance as input into future operational plans
•Identify and eliminate causes of performance breakdowns
Communicating the Strategic Importance of Logistics Having created an organizational environment in which performance is measured, knowledge is built and kept, systemic improvement occurs rapidly, and communities share and leverage their capabilities, logistics managers must take their story to all stakeholders – donors, their own organizations, corporate partners and the media – regularly and with pride. This will allow the logistics organization to showcase its contribution and garner continued support and resources to further develop and improve.
Within an individual aid agency, Logistics must update the logistics team, the operations managers and top management regularly about its performance and the initiatives that it is taking to improve performance. Logistics must position its initiatives within the context of what other aid agencies are doing. This will demonstrate to top management that Logistics is taking advantage of all available ideas and technology and is setting the organization up to compete against other aid agencies based on a competitive advantage in logistics.
Similarly, the logistics community in the aid sector must find ways to paint a picture for donors and the public demonstrating how timeliness and cost-effectiveness of relief delivery is improving over time, insuring that donations are well-spent. Logistics must detail how improvement initiatives have translated to increases in efficiency, so that donors become increasingly motivated to fund not only operations, but improvement initiatives as well.
Agencies should use communication strategies that highlight success stories. This may be done through internal presentations or through written articles and case studies that engage the media or academic world. The recent issue of Forced Migration Review10 that focused on humanitarian logistics highlighted the importance of logistics and presented many vivid examples that illustrated the role of logistics in speed and effectiveness of response. It also showcased how aid agencies were using postevent learning to shape debate about allocation of resources to logistics.
The private sector can help the humanitarian logisticians communicate the importance of logistics by sponsoring and participating in joint conferences. Humanitarian logisticians can use these venues as ways to explore new approaches and find examples to convey to their own management the strategic potential of logistics. The participation of academics can also be crucial in validating the value of Forced Migration Review 18, September 2003.
11 Understanding Humanitarian Supply Chains logistics through the publication of articles and case studies.
Developing Flexible Technology Solutions Humanitarian relief organizations have a common need for integrated information technology (IT) solutions that support procurement, distribution through a pipeline, tracking and tracing of goods and funds, flexible and robust reporting, and connectivity in the field. Procurement involves global sourcing, drop shipment, using commercial transportation and third-party logistics firms, chartering aircraft or procuring local transportation such as mules and donkeys, tracking shipments, and monitoring prices for commodities around the world. The IFRC/ ICRC catalog of relief items includes 6,000 items from cranial drills for surgery at disaster sites to plastic sheeting for shelter. The UNICEF warehouse in Copenhagen includes an inventory of US$22 million in relief supplies at any given time; these supplies are procured from over 1,000 vendors worldwide.
Despite the complexity of humanitarian logistics, manual processes still dominate and IT resources that could enhance information availability, reporting and learning are often not effectively leveraged.
Some of the deficiencies of current systems include:
• Data must be written out onto multiple forms and keyed into multiple spreadsheets
• Budget control is inadequate; funds may be misspent as a result
• Usage of funds is not tracked to the extent that donors have requested
• Procurement procedures are difficult to enforce; integrity is lacking
• Tracking and tracing of shipments is done manually using spreadsheets
• There is no central database of history on prices paid, transit times, or quantities received/purchased
• Reports are done manually, therefore little reporting and performance analysis is performed, other than reporting to donors on quantities of relief items delivered for a given operation Developing flexible technology solutions will improve responsiveness by creating visibility of the materials pipeline and increasing the effectiveness of people and processes.
Furthermore, advanced information systems will create the infrastructure for knowledge management, performance measurement and learning. Information systems can be used to provide online catalogs for correspondence and communication with suppliers and other partners, for performance measurement based on transaction history, and as a basis for collaboration.
While existing ERP and track and trace information systems may not be directly used for humanitarian relief, many individual transactions and operational processes do carry over directly. Previous work done by the corporate sector to standardize transaction, processes, and information systems may be helpful to the humanitarian community. Approaches to specifying, developing, implementing and measuring the performance of information systems also carry over. Thus, corporate logisticians and IT professionals may contribute by sharing experience and best practices, and by donating time to managing development of information systems for the humanitarian context. Corporate IT professionals may also share their experiences with communications technology used in remote areas with minimal infrastructure.
Understanding Humanitarian Supply Chains 12 CONCLUSION Learning as the Basis for Strategic Contribution Humanitarian logistics has the opportunity to increase its contribution to disaster relief and to be recognized for that contribution by implementing initiatives in the areas of knowledge management, technology, measurement, community, and positioning. While moving relief items to disaster sites will continue to be an important role for logistics, the strategic focus must be on providing timely information, analyzing that information to garner insight as to how to improve operations, and learning internally and with others. Establishing a community that shares and invests jointly in advancing the field can leverage each logistician's efforts many-fold. It is through these two mechanisms of information and community that humanitarian logistics can find its voice and create its future, rather than limit itself to responding to the present.
13 Understanding Humanitarian Supply Chains APPENDIX Case Studies on Humanitarian Logistics Managing Information in Humanitarian Crises: The UNJLC Website, Rolando M. Tomasini & Luk Van Wassenhove (April 2005) Can Heroes be Efficient?, Laura R. Kopczak & M. Eric Johnson (October 2004) The TPG-WFP Partnership II - Learning How To Dance, Ramina Samii & Luk Van Wassenhove (April 2004) Genetically Modified Food Donations and the Cost of Neutrality: Logistics Response to the 2002 Food Crisis in Southern Africa, Rolando M. Tomasini & Luk Van Wassenhove (March 2004) Moving the World: The TPG-WFP Partnership I - Looking for a Partner, Rolando M. Tomasini & Luk Van Wassenhove (February 2004) Coordinating Disaster Logistics after El Salvador's Earthquakes, Rolando M. Tomasini & Luk Van Wassenhove (October 2003) Logistics: Moving the Seeds of a Brighter Future (UNJLC's Second Year in Afghanistan), Ramina Samii & Luk Van Wassenhove (September 2003) The United Nations Joint Logistical Center: The Afghanistan Crisis, Ramina Samii & Luk Van Wassenhove (May 2003) The United Nations Joint Logistical Center: The Genesis of a Humanitarian Relief Coordination Platform, Ramina Samii & Luk Van Wassenhove (April 2003) Choreographer of Disaster Management: Preparing for Tomorrow's Disaster, Ramina Samii & Luk Van Wassenhove (2002) Choreographer of Disaster Management: The Gujarat Earthquake, Ramina Samii & Luk Van Wassenhove (2002) Articles on Humanitarian Logistics
Forced Migration Review 18: