Is logistics limited to be only an important part of companies? The answer is no and that’s exactly what I would like to show along this post. Being more open minded, we’ll be able to realize that logistics is everywhere even in catastrophic disasters. Therefore, I would like to focus in the important role that supply chain coordination plays in this kind of events where the donation of support is unpredictable and more efficient and effective solutions are needed.
In first place, the humanitarian logistics involves those activities where goods and help are provided to relieve some needs and also is included the fast assistance to a population that has been affected by a sudden disaster, whether natural or induced. In these cases a high coordination in the supply chain management is needed by all the parts involved (government, humanitarian organizations, civil society and military) to guarantee a high efficiency regarding costs and speed.
When a disaster takes place, the supply chain is activated along with everything that entails. The first step to carry out is to determine which services and goods are necessary to start asking for and receiving donations to supply these needs. Trained staff to deliver the donations and specialized teams composed, for example, by doctors and nurses among others are also needed. In addition, it has a great relevance the building and maintenance of infrastructures. This include the existence of warehouses where store the supplies and inventory support. In humanitarian logistics not always the suppliers are known. They can be vendors, donors or both which generates a big uncertainty about what will be provided from the latter and what will have to be secured by vendors. Regarding to the inventory, this can be hard to manage but it is interesting for the humanitarian agencies to have an inventory policy to ensure a steady stream of supplies from warehouses to its points of distribution. Another significant aspect is the distribution network where the transportation and distribution varies depending on the location of the disaster and the possible ways to arrive there.
Figure 1. Information chain
To sum up, a great uncertainty is related with humanitarian logistics despite sometimes can be anticipated which allows a best use of the resources available and a greater acquisition of them. Moreover, collaboration and coordination are the keys for a successful response on this kind of events where the speed is the main driver of the gear.
Below you will be able to watch a short intro about the role of logistics in dissaster events.
Tomasini, R., Wassenhove, L., 2009. From preparedness to partnerships: case study research on humanitarian logistics. International Transactions in Operational Research, 16(5), pp. 549–559.
International Aid and Trade, 2004. Geneva Palexpo Conference and Exhibition Centre, 28-29 January 2004, Geneva.