January 26-27, 2004
Ramada Park Hotel, Geneva, Switzerland

The purpose of the annual Humanitarian Logistics Conference (HLC) is to create a forum that fosters communication and learning among logistics professionals of the humanitarian world, with the goal of increasing collaboration and professionalization in the sector.

The objectives of the 2004 conference were:

  • To provide opportunities for networking and benchmarking among logisticians.
  • To identify joint projects that can form the basis of ongoing dialogues and collaboration.
  • To establish a community of practice and share ideas.
  • To review the pilots on two topics, metrics and training, initiated at the 2003 Humanitarian Logistics Conference.

Panels, Presentations and Break Out Sessions:
Discussion topics were chosen to reflect the largest issues of concern to the logisticians in the humanitarian sector, efficiency, metrics and training. The objective was to allow the participants to critique the proposals for web-based metrics benchmarking and logistics certification, and suggest next steps.

Panel Discussion: Collaborative approaches in the humanitarian community to improve efficiencies
Presentations were made by:
Mike Marx, USAID, "How can we work more efficiently as a community?"
Ahuma Adodoadji, Care, "Care's role in the C-Safe Initiative"
Jiddo Van Drunen, UNHCR, "Inter Agency Bodies or Lead Agency Approach; Common Services"
George Fenton, WVI, "Collaboration in Emergency Response and Fleet Management"
Hans Le Noble, EuronAid, "Interface between NGOs and the European Community"
Martijn Blansjaar, MSF, Holland, "Logistics Field Software Standards"
Max Kerley, UNDPKO, "Blurring of Roles between civil/military organizations in time of emergency relief"

The intent of the panel discussion was to have the panelists share examples of successful collaborations among agencies that are practiced today. Some of the panelists were asked to think about ways that collaboration can help in the future as well as talk about some of the challenges and constraints that need to be overcome.

Key messages shared by the panel:
  • There are initiatives such as C-SAFE and Inter-agency Logistics Group that have produced positive results through collaboration
  • There is increased demand for automation, and people are developing their own systems in the field which may result in problems such as duplicate systems, additional support requirements, etc.
  • There are ways to leverage purchasing power of multiple agencies such vehicles
  • Peacekeepers can co-exist with humanitarian organizations by creating common service agreements

Increased Collaboration may lead to:

  • Centralized logistics planning
  • Developing a tool to track commodities to beneficiaries
  • Visibility to what is available in the market and within each organization
  • Common standards and specifications for items

Presentation: IRC Pilot - Supply Chain Assessment/Scorecard
John Rickard, IRC

A review of the International Rescue Committee's supply chain was conducted by the Fritz Institute team consisting of commercial sector supply chain experts. The key objective of the assessment was to reduce the response time from the time of appeal to delivery in-country by identifying bottlenecks and root causes, and offering solutions. The team was able to incorporate commercial best practices into the IRC processes for both emergency and non-emergency response and create metrics to establish baseline for monitoring progress. The biggest success of the assessment was ..."the ability of the team to bridge disparate groups of IRC.have them not only understand the initiative but to commit fully and publicly to it.the effect has been galvanizing."

Lessons learned:
  • Important to determine the primary objective of the supply chain assessment prior to the review; strategic view versus tactical deployment
  • Need to be very clear on what is required in order to select the right people for the team
  • Critical to have access to and endorsement of top management
  • Must have access to the external team members after the assessment has been completed
  • The organization has to be ready for change; openness and trust are necessary components
  • Metrics are critical to convey progress to the organization

Presentation: Web-Based Benchmarking
Maria Rey, Georgia Institute of Technology

During the Humanitarian Logistics Conference of 2003 and Crossroads, the subject of metrics and its value was cited as one of two key topics for the humanitarian organizations. Establishing key performance measures enables the organization to align logistics strategy to the organizations' strategic objectives. Benchmarking allows the organization to determine if there are areas that need more attention and determine if there are lessons learned from others.

Georgia Institute of Technology created a web based benchmarking in order to make the exercise easier and quicker. The plan is to house the humanitarian sector of the benchmarking website in Fritz Institute's website. While the value of benchmarking was recognized as important to many, some of the participants were concerned that the comparisons may not be relevant. Fritz Institute's plan is to segment the website to enable more appropriate subsets, such as a separate category for medicine and food.

Results of the metrics exercise conducted with the group:

  • No standard definition of logistics; for some it consists of warehousing and shipping only, for others it also includes procurement
  • In terms of performance measurements, some metrics were aggregate only while some were extremely detailed
  • Velocity seems to be straightforward while quality had the most variation

Next Steps:

  • Instructions on the use of web based benchmarking will be sent via email in the next few weeks
  • Will start with 2-3 critical items and areas where community needs Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  • Will work with organizations that require further refinement of their metrics

Presentation: Brief Overview of Commodity Tracking Systems (CTS) in use today
Wally Lee, Fritz Institute

Fritz Institute undertook the evaluation of field systems in order to determine the operational gaps that exist in CTS systems today. It is widely believed that a viable field system is necessary in order to track assets, better manage logistics performance, control goods more, and access timely information. The intent of the break out session was to see if there are opportunities to share cost in future developments, build sustainable tools and create a common platform through collaboration.

SWOT Analysis of CTS:

System Strengths Weaknesses

  • Independent versions - Central, Pledges and Stock - for individual needs
  • Elaborate process coverage
  • Planning
  • Inter-modular and inter-version workflow
Microsoft -

(Save the Children / Mercy Corps)
  • Project / program orientation
  • Good process coverage
  • Suitable for food items, supports ration definition
  • Logistics management
  • Workflow integration
Commodity Tracking Systems CTS2000

(World Vision)
  • Numerous reports
  • Good process coverage
  • Context sensitivity help at screen level
  • Logistics management
  • Workflow

(Save the Children)
  • Simplicity
  • Planning
  • Procurement
  • Reporting needs
  • Logistics management
  • Insufficient business process coverage
Purchase Plus PALMAS

  • RFQ and Bid registering
  • Bill of Material and kitting
  • Fixed assets
  • Planning
  • Logistics and tracking
  • Humanitarian organization focus is absent
Log 6.5

(M�decins Sans Fronti�res)
  • Report configuration
  • Project orientation
  • Standard and non-standard item categorization
  • Auto-item code generation
  • Supports local procurement reasonably well
  • Reasonably good process coverage
  • Installation process
  • Planning
  • User help documentation for workflow details

Break Out Session on Technology:
The presentations from the five breakout teams were relatively consistent in acknowledging the state of software investment by various organizations but also recognizing the need for a basic standard system as a foundation. The consensus is that organizations should be able to operate on a common platform but must have modular flexibility to add and subtract.

  • Organizations have made investments in developing their own field systems to address specific needs but also want some form of standardization
  • Participants are interested in creating a standard system that addresses 60-80% of the needs, then customize the rest to meet their respective needs
  • One suggestion is to develop a telecommunications backbone that can link multiple agencies

Next Steps:

  • Fritz Institute to facilitate the reporting process by assisting the NGOs in defining and analyzing their requirements set by the donors
  • Review areas of common processes such as logistics mapping, coding, and categories to enable collaboration among organizations
  • Commission University of Washington to conduct a survey of technology among humanitarian organizations engaged in relief activities

Presentation: Pilot-Findings
Mark Hammersley,

The pilot was undertaken to determine the value of creating an informal network of logisticians in the field. The idea was to promote peer based interaction among practitioners where they can solve common problems and advance best practices.

Key messages from the pilot/study:

  • Communication and capturing people's attention is key
  • There is a potential for community of practice to help raise the profile of logistics, promote professionalism, advance best practices at field level
  • Oftentimes, language used in the field is different than language used at headquarters
  • Concern that people giving advice might not be qualified
  • Consensus that the process needs to be managed or overseen by a facilitator
  • The pilot will continue for another two months; the community needs to decide whether to continue

Presentation: Certification for Humanitarian Logistics
Mark Milroy, APICS

Prior to selecting APICS, several organizations offering training in either logistics or humanitarian issues were benchmarked. The conclusion was that there is no organization that offers certification in logistics for emergency relief. However, there are organizations that specialize in training for the humanitarian sector or certification for commercial disciplines. Since its establishment in 1957, APICS has certified over 70,000 professionals in supply chain management. APICS was asked to define what it would take to establish a certification program for humanitarian logistics professional.

Key messages from the presentation:

  • APICS has developed two certificate programs but with different results
  • Need to determine the strategic purpose of certification program
  • Should the approach be knowledge based or competency based
  • Must determine the stakeholders of the certification program; would it make a difference to know that people earned certain credentials?
  • Certification in the commercial world has helped individuals find better jobs and helped professionalize the sector

Break Out Session on Certification
All five groups expressed an interest in pursuing certification program as a long term goal; in the meantime, specific actions were suggested as a short term step.

  • The benefits were seen as increase in recognition/status of logistics; logistics could be used as leverage point to make a case that NGOs are efficient; increased competency among professionals
  • There is an evolution towards some form of standardization for humanitarian logistics
  • Biggest obstacle is lack of support from management of organizations because of the cultural gap between logistics and management
  • Budgetary problems are also a barrier as organizations did not have the training budget necessary for a program that may take 2 to 3 years

Next Steps:

  • Conduct a baseline survey of logistics training that already exists within organizations. Perform market survey phase of the program
  • Craft a common definition for logistics in the humanitarian world

Panel Discussion: Have humanitarian organizations done a better job in identifying and meeting logistics requirements for emergencies?
Discussion of recent experience in Bam, Iran

Presentations were made by:
Mike Goodhand/Richard North (just returned from Bam), British Red Cross, "Bam Earthquake, Logistics Lessons learned"
Pamela Malo, Oxfam, "Differences/Similarities, Lessons Learned"
Todd Horne, USAID, OFDA, "OFDA's response"
Mahfoud Bouhembel, UNICEF, "Are needs/ relief inputs prioritized the right way?"
Marin Tomas, IMC, "IMC's Perspective"
Rob McConnell, IFRC, "On the ground in BAM"

The purpose of the panel was to have the participants share their experience in Bam; specifically, how was it different from previous emergencies, what are the lessons learned, and what were the areas of weaknesses where we need to improve? We were fortunate to have Richard North of the British Red Cross who joined us immediately upon arriving from Iran to share his recent experience in Bam.

Key Messages shared by the panel:

  • Good example of inter-agency cooperation where one organization took the lead
  • Good example of coordination with local authorities
  • Bam showed much better understanding of utility of logistics; firmly established within Red Cross/Red Crescent movement
  • Uplifting stories about increased level of collaboration among agencies; organizations did a much better job of working together on the ground
  • Still a need to keep track of goods, especially gifts in kind
  • Even though it is not a perfect science, there is now a better understanding of what is needed and what is surplus; need a way to systematize

Conference Conclusions:

  • The humanitarian world is getting more and more pressure, emergencies are becoming more complex, donors are looking for accountability and transparency for their money, and there is increased competition from for-profit companies offering similar services
  • Organizations are getting better at coordinating certain activities but there is value in expanding the collaborative efforts
  • The mandate is to help strengthen the back room functions such as logistics, technology, HR/training, media and communication and finance to impact the front line
  • Organizations are decentralizing many of the functions and pushing more to the field. Necessitating an increased awareness of the complexity that localization creates

- Humanitarian Logistics Conference 2012
- Humanitarian Logistics Conference 2008
- Humanitarian Logistics Conference 2007
- Humanitarian Logistics Conference 2006
- Humanitarian Logistics Conference 2005
- Humanitarian Logistics Conference - Africa Region 2004
+ Humanitarian Logistics Conference 2004
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