Humanitarian supply chains are set in place to meet the demands of at risk people in the aftermath of disasters. In order to be successful, they must find the most cost and time effective way to get these vulnerable citizens the supplies and goods they need that can save their lives. These humanitarian aid (HA) organizations have to be prepared for the unknown and are expected to work rapidly and accurately. The case study “Humanitarian Aid Supply Chains” describes humanitarian logistics with the task of “acquiring and delivering requested supplies and services, at the places and times they are needed, whilst ensuring best value for money”.
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Supply chains, in general, are used to solve the customer’s problems in a timely manner while also providing them what they want, when they want it, where they want it, and how they want it. Humanitarian supply chains must meet this criterion, but in their instances, the “wants” are actually human needs for survival.Humanitarian aid supply chains must respond to tragedy, which is random and unpredictable. The logisticians have the challenging task of switching the organization from a steady-state to taking rapid action to send supplies and aid. This is the case for many supply chains, but the aid supplied by humanitarian aid organizations include things that are necessary to human life such as water, temporary shelter, food, and medicine. To make things even more difficult, the information on the random situation can be unreliable and broken at times due to the disaster disrupting communication. Language barriers may also be an issue between the supply chain and the people it needs to contact.
HA organizations have to reach multiple countries making information vital in order to know the amount of relief needed, the type of goods and products to send, type of packaging to use, the method of delivery, amount of workers allowed to give aid, etc. In some cases, the deliveries have to move across several borders, which continue to add to these issues. The aid must be cleared by each location and documented to make sure all relief reaches the final destination. Not only can this method become time consuming, the multiple stops and locations add variables that can lead to delays in delivery. This is no excuse, as the humanitarian supply chains’ actions of delivering these necessities must still be as accurate and precise as possible in order to impact and save as many lives as achievable. The organizations’ results and reputations have a direct affect on the amount of resources they have available due to their sourcing.
Humanitarian aid organizations can be funded by the government, in-country operations, regional organizations, disaster response organizations, other humanitarian aid organizations, the media, beneficiaries, and donors. Having to rely on donations and charitable work requires the humanitarian supply chain to throw resources they do have into public relations in order to gain more stockholders, allowing them to have more resources. Along with preparing and carrying out saving lives, humanitarian organizations have the added responsibility of making their donors feel involved and connected with operations in order to stay funded.
The relationships within the supply chain play as big of a role as these outside relationships. The different tiers of the business must be working together in order to achieve the goals set by the organization. They have to share a level of trust for one another not only to get the job done, but also to allow the organizations’ goals and benefits to be evident to individuals, governments, and businesses willing to donate. A humanitarian aid organization must overcome all these challenges in order to be a successful supply chain and save lives.
Customer supply chains also have to satisfy their customers with high quality goods while maximizing profits, but have key differences when being compared to humanitarian supply chains. In customer supply chains, the supplier and customer have set expectations of the “wants” that the company needs to meet. This allows customer supply chains to have a more fixed and predictable idea on what they need to accomplish to keep their customers pleased. The information given to customer supply chains is reliable, set, and usually stated in a contract between the supply chain and their clientele. This will include what product and good needs to be made, where it will need to be sent, the type of packaging that needs to be used, the amount that needs to be sent, etc., which all may be unknown for the humanitarian aid organization when a disaster takes place. When these wants are not met and the contract is not fulfilled in customer supply chains, both parties deal with a loss of money and maybe product. The material given from a humanitarian supply chain is vital for life, so can lead to a loss of life. Humanitarian supply chains, therefore, have far worst consequences for not meeting expectations than that of a customer supply chain. As long as the customer supply chains continue to deliver the product and satisfy the customer, they will continue to get paid. Their customers are the source of their income. They gain these customers by being competitive with pricing and services offered. Humanitarian supply chains do not have this luxury, as the recipients of their goods and services do not fund their businesses. Having set income allows the customer supply chain to continue to fund their business with more employees, equipment, and other needs that will help their process become more effective. With the humanitarian aid organizations relying on contributions and stockholders, they don’t have this benefit. A lot of these organizations rely on volunteer aid and workers in the time of crisis, because they cannot afford to hire as many workers they may need.
As mentioned earlier, these humanitarian supply chains do not have a set numbers on the amount of workers that will be needed to help supply the aid until after the disaster takes place, and they still have other factors to consider such as where it took place and who is allowed there. The two supply chains have the ultimate goal of delivering their goods and services as time and cost effective as possible, but have a lot of differences in the ways in which they meet that goal. Humanitarian supply chains make a big difference and play a key role in saving lives during a disaster. They overcome many challenges in order to continue supplying quality aid with the tools they are given. During unpredictable times of trouble they reach out to help vulnerable people from suffering and death. Humanitarian aid organizations carry high expectations and are of great importance to society.