Hundreds of millions of people are currently struggling due to famine, natural disasters, conflicts or forced migrations, among many other hazards. According to the Global Humanitarian Overview, more than 128 million people across the world will need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2018, and more than US $24 billion in funding will be required to address these challenges.
International relief agencies are committed to giving rapid response to these emergencies. Unfortunately, logistical and operational constraints often prevent provisions from arriving correctly and on time to beneficiaries, causing gaps in providing vital necessities such as food, water or medicines to the most vulnerable populations.
At this point, how can we give support to our aid agency clients in building a more efficient humanitarian response? There is no single answer to this question but I believe Supply Chain Management (SCM) is one of the key elements to be addressed. Why? Mainly because the central feature of humanitarian aid is to effectively assist people whose lives are at stake. This effectiveness is basically reflected in how well logistics operate at all levels, from planning and selecting vendors to distribution of commodities. We should also understand that the effectiveness of humanitarian action is challenged, not only by the increasing demand for crisis assistance, but also – and especially – by the increasing complexity of conflicts. In this context, the dimension and presence of aid agencies is expanding to address the new challenges of humanitarian logistics. These challenges vary from not being able to track relief items to barriers related to local procurement or governmental restrictions. Thus, responding effectively to emergencies should encompass the optimisation of all supply chain processes and the mitigation of risks regarding the goods and services being procured, transported and distributed to those who need them most urgently.
Our experience gathered in the field, especially in countries with humanitarian needs such as Nigeria and Somalia, has allowed us to identify the many challenges that still hinder the proper functioning of our clients’ supply chain unit. In quite complex contexts, that often include the danger of remote working environments for both regional and local offices, we provide solutions to critical processes that directly affect various functions within SCM, such as:
- Digitalising and delivering the latest technologies to supply chain processes, which transforms long-lasting steps to smart procurement and warehousing, autonomous logistics and advanced analytics, among others;
- Optimising the supply chain process through methodologies like Lean Six Sigma, which helps to decrease waste, prevent defects and improve overall performance, obtaining excellent results in terms of process efficiency and costs reduction;
- Improving supply chain internal coordination, which helps to avoid inefficiencies during contract implementation;
- Improving the due diligence processes, which helps to mitigate and assess risks associated with vendors and guarantees their compliance with the requirements needed to properly conduct procurement from the very beginning;
We have also seen that, even though harmonising processes is indispensable to achieve SCM efficiency, every country deserves special attention in regard to local barriers such as vendor availability and proximity in the area, or even social and political conflicts that may exist, such as clan disputes or the presence of armed groups. Consequently, both harmonisation and adaptability are essential features that stem from supply chain reengineering. On the one hand, it guarantees the coordination of common processes. On the other, it considers the uniqueness of each country office and regional bureaus, which is key to addressing the difficulties that staff and vendors face on a daily basis.
In this sense, everis offers the opportunity to help humanitarian organisations seek new approaches that strengthen SCM by providing solutions to their changing needs and demands, especially for projects in business transformation, efficiency and effectiveness-led rationalisation, and change management. At the end of the day, humanitarian response is a matter of a coordinated action, and everis’ key backstage role is based on providing effective “assistance to the humanitarian assistance”.
Note: Cristina Oteiza and Julia Turón provided words and eyes on the field, the basis for developing this article.