April 23-24, 2007
Ramada Park Hotel, Geneva, Switzerland

“Linking Logistics to Global Initiatives Through Capacity Building

The Humanitarian Logistics Conference has become a venue for logisticians from humanitarian organizations around the world to discuss both the challenges facing their profession, and ways to address these challenges collaboratively. This year marked the five-year anniversary of Fritz Institute and the fifth HLC Conference. The 2007 Humanitarian Logistics Conference included representatives from 35 organizations. Discussions from the event will help Fritz Institute develop a roadmap for the next five years.

At the first Humanitarian Logistics Conference in 2003, the key challenges to humanitarian logistics were identified as: (a) the lack of recognition of the strategic role of logistics by top managers and donors; (b) the shortage of skilled and experienced logistics professionals in the sector; (c) the limited amount of collaboration between organizations relative to the logistics function; (d) the inability to build a strong business case for logistics through metrics; and (e) the insufficient leveraging of technology to assist logisticians in the execution of a complex array of tasks they are charged with in an operation. Since 2003, Fritz Institute has worked with logisticians and heads of emergency management in the sector to address these issues, which form the key themes for each annual conference.

The conference kicked off with participant introductions. Participants were asked to describe whether logistics is considered a pivotal function in their organizations and if not, what can be done to elevate logistics to a strategic function. The majority of participants agreed that logistics is gaining credibility within their organizations but that progress is slow and will take time. In addition, a few key themes were identified:

Need to Increase Coordination and Ccollaboration:
Collaboration among organizations and among functional groups within organizations has helped increase recognition of logistics as a strategic function. However, to develop scale as in other sectors, there must be greater interaction and cooperation among organizations. As logistics gains visibility, part of the new responsibility is to share lessons learned and find out how other organizations have addressed challenges. HLC provides a forum for leveraging the learning of organizations.

Need to Consider End Beneficiaries in Delivery of Aid:
A challenge and opportunity for humanitarian organizations is to engage more with the beneficiaries for whom aid is being provided. The challenge is to build capacity to do the right processes in the right ways for beneficiaries. Frequently this means using local resources to support and work within the local economy.

The Path to Professionalization of Humanitarian Logistics

Certification in Humanitarian Logistics
In response to discussions at previous HLC meetings, Fritz Institute collaborated with an advisory committee made up of representatives from ICRC, IRC, MSF & Holland, Oxfam GB, Save the Children US, UNHCR, UNICEF, and WFP to develop the Certification in Humanitarian Logistics Program. Members of the Advisory Committee presented on the launch of the Level I program and the development of Level II.

Since Level I formally launched in September 2006, more than 300 candidates have registered online for the course and 80 people have already begun submitting assignments to their coaches. The first pilot candidate completed the program in February 2007. The participant profile indicates that the program is reaching its target audience of field logisticians, with 55% of the participants in Africa. In this competence-based program, students and coaches interact closely as students provide task answers that apply their knowledge in a very practical scenario.

Level 2 targets a different audience than Level 1, including middle managers and graduates of the Level 1 course, and will focus more on strategic issues of supply chain planning, operation, and improvement. As a starting point, it was critical to understand that a middle manager operates in four directions: up to senior managers, laterally with internal and external partners, and down to the people they manage. The Level II curriculum will address the management challenges of operating in these directions. Level 2 will have more complex and larger units than Level 1, with a heavy emphasis on planning, based on experience of the advisory committee and survey results. There will be fewer but more in-depth tasks. Candidates have to demonstrate competencies with written work, as that will be a key part of engagement with senior managers. The learning units will be developed between now and December 2007 for a pilot launch in early 2008.

In the long term, we want to establish CHL as the qualification in humanitarian logistics and to expand the reach of the program by leveraging networks effectively.

Presentation: Certification in Humanitarian Logistics    

WISE: Women in Supply Chain Excellence
When organizations think about the steps required to respond to an emergency situation, there is often something missing from consideration: the end recipients of aid. Benefit surveys have indicated that humans affected by disaster are a diverse group, and women in particular have special needs that are not always met by disaster relief.

The mission of Women in Supply Chain Excellence (WISE) is to support institutions to improve effectiveness and capacity of NGOs and other organizations. By sharing experiences, WISE hopes to impact processes, staff, and actions to be more sensitive to the specific needs of women. In addition to building a cadre of female logisticians, WISE looks to create opportunities for women affected by disasters to acquire skills in logistics and supply chain management, so that they are more able to contribute when a disaster hits.

Presentation: Women in Supply Chain Excellence   

Donor Perspective on Logistics Challenges
Donors play an increasingly important role in the delivery of aid. Representatives from ECHO and USAID shared their perspectives on and priorities for the future of humanitarian aid.

ECHO is one of the largest single donors of humanitarian assistance, and it is increasing its funding annually. ECHO' s objective is to provide assistance to individuals impacted by crisis outside of the EU. It can be considered as a major NGO whose activities are not dictated by EU foreign policy.

ECHO is impartial and driven by needs that are based on its assessments. It has a commitment to "forgotten" crises - those that do not get enough funding from other agencies. ECHO works with many partners, including all NGOs and internationally mandated agencies. In total there are over 200 implementing partners.

ECHO is moving towards thematic funding to support core capabilities of humanitarian agencies. In the last 4 years, ECHO has provided nearly 62 million Euros of this thematic funding. ECHO is 13 years old and is currently reinventing itself, including its framework partnership agreement. The organization believes that consolidation of capabilities in the sector will happen and that the sector can not continue to be small kingdoms with small capacities. ECHO will focus on providing money to build capacity in logistics and procurement.

USAID is similar to ECHO in terms of being an active donor. At present there are 150 people at headquarters and 40 in the field. USAID is not operational, but relies on implementing partners. USAID wants to see an immediate impact of its donations but realizes that in certain situations, such as in logistics in particular, this can be difficult to demonstrate. With the CHL program, for example, it may take several years to see tangible benefit. There are often intangible benefits, though, like increased collaboration among agencies.

Presentation: ECHO Donor   

Humanitarian Logistics in the African Context
In recent years there has been an increase in the challenges in Africa with a resulting high concentration of global relief efforts in that region. In this context, there are a number of questions worth consideration. Do supply chains require collaboration with the private sector? What challenges exist for both local and international organizations?

Transportation is a particularly challenging aspect of logistics. Among drivers, there is a 54% and rising incidence of HIV/AIDS, resulting in very high driver turnover. Railroads are nationalized, so there hasn't been much investment and pilferage is a problem. Across borders, there is no standardization of gauges, which makes cross-border transportation very difficult if not impossible.

Other logistics challenges and costs include a lack of skilled logisticians; economic infrastructure constraints with basic industry enablers, reliable electricity, telecom, water supply; currency fluctuations; lack of storage capacity for both specialized and regular items; and high transaction costs.

In South Africa there have been a number of trends and innovative solutions emerging in response to some of these challenges. These include an increased appreciation of and investment in improving logistics, and a number of rural grass roots efforts to study economic links and logistics analysis.

A number of development programs aimed at improving local trade through logistics have been targeted. One initiative is a harmonization of gross vehicle mass (GVM) standards: at present different GVMs make cross-border transport difficult. The task team is also looking at consolidating road data with GIS mapping. There is also investment in corridor development along the Maputo to South Africa corridor. Finally, there has been an increase in logistics education and there is growing awareness that it has to be quality based education. Professional organizations like CILT and CSCMP have helped in this effort.

It should be noted that there are good logistics programs in Africa, too. Capacity building can be more than just training government people. Most successful programs have been those that have influenced environments. Payment models or schedules, customs, legislation, etc. can all be areas that organizations try to influence,. Most progress has been in programs where organizations work closely with local counterparts, who know what they need better than the aid agencies do.

Presentation: Logistics in African Context    

Buying from Africa for Africa
In the context of challenges in Africa, more organizations are looking for solutions to providing aid while stimulating local economies. The International Trade Centre (ITC) is the technical cooperation agency of UNCTAD and WTO. Its goal is to support development of small and medium enterprises in developing countries. The Buying from Africa for Africa program began in 2001 as a means of linking efficient distribution of aid with economic growth of local populations. The main objectives are to increase African trade and to facilitate the goals of humanitarian organizations.

Aid agencies face challenges with limited budgets and growing demand, questions about aid effectiveness, and promoting local participatory approaches to aid. Many have tried to address these challenges by decentralizing procurement, increasing their local procurement and supplier portfolios, and strengthening the logistics function.

Gaps in perceptions exist between aid agencies and local companies. Agencies think Africa-made products are poor quality and expensive. Local enterprises think agencies don' t know local supply and that the humanitarian aid market is complex. Agencies lack the time and means to identify and qualify local markets. There often isn't time during an emergency to seek local supply, and priorities shift after emergencies.

To address these challenges, ITC developed methodologies for supplier evaluation. ITC visits companies and selects them. On the other side the organization works with aid procurement specialists to qualify suppliers. Agencies get information about markets in countries of operation, quantities of products, and specifications according to specific criteria.

Going forward, ITC wishes to formalize and initiate programs so that agencies aren't just engaging during emergencies. The goal is to develop knowledge and training on local/regional procurement best practices that benefit both agencies and suppliers. Overall, the goal is to strengthen operational efficiencies, facilitate cooperation, and develop advisory committees and networks.

Presentation: Buying From Africa for Africa   

Addressing Challenges Through Technology
Technology emerged as a major issue for humanitarian organizations in previous HLC meetings. This year IFRC and World Vision shared their implementation experiences with HLS and HELIOS.

There have been a number of developments in the past 3-4 years at the IFRC secretariat, including implementation of HLS and a new logistics strategy. The impact of this strategy and how it is measured are linked to HLS. Logistics performance measures are particularly important in fulfilling IFRC's agenda.

To implement the new logistics strategy, IFRC needed standards, forms, and emergency catalogs; HR policies; infrastructure; and the right IT system. Functionally, a system was needed with need identification, mobilization, procurement, tracking to warehouse, and records. By July, IFRC will have an integrated warehouse system, and by the end of year full tracking to beneficiaries. Various units can interlink and help each other as operations get set up; all units are linked.

IFRC relies on different types of indicators for different audiences, reasons, and times: 1. balanced scorecard for logisticians and senior managers; 2. continuous development from baseline review introduced at the end of 2006; 3. measurement of impact as a result of logistics strategy, comparing Indonesia, Pakistan, and Yogyakarta responses; and 4. competition in the form of benchmarking against commercial organizations. To be successful in the future, IFRC must continue to measure the organization to see how it is improving.

World Vision piloted HELIOS to find a better way to gain visibility over supply chain data in its national and global offices and to improve the linkage between logistics and programs. Historically the organization has had almost no visibility to supply chain information. Prior to the pilot, World Vision was using an Access-based WMS system that couldn't be shared. The organization needed the ability to give quick responses to enquiries, but most of the information exchange was paper based.

World Vision Somalia is currently using HELIOS Version 1. Using HELIOS, World Vision is able to generate orders, do bid analysis, and issue RFQs. The request, warehouse, and procurement modules are live. Training was recently delivered on the request order module so that planners can start to use the system on their own. World Vision is now able to track what is going on and share information with field offices with quick access to information. With the data, the organization is able to do variance analysis and make its staff more accountable. HELIOS is available both on-line and off-line, such that it can be used in the field and then reconciled with the main server. HELIOS provides flexibility for modification and customization as required. It can be linked to other systems like finance. As a next step World Vision is planning to work with other organizations in East Africa.

World Vision captured a number of lessons learned during the implementation process. It is critical to involve end users from the initial stages of implementation and to follow process discipline. For training purposes, employing a "train the trainer" approach is essential. Projects like this need a champion user or users, people who are part of the project throughout the entire process.

Presentation: HLS - IFRC   

Presentation: HELIOS   

Humanitarian Logistics Association
At HLC 2005, many participants signed the Marco Polo initiative to kick-off the development of the Humanitarian Logistics Association. Now, two years later, HLA is proposing to be much wider and broader in scope than the current initiative. The goal is to eventually develop a wide membership body that will participate in developing programming across diverse projects. The Steering Committee presented on the goals and value of the HLA as well as solicited feedback on actions moving forward.

Broadly, the mission of HLA is to build a community of practice for advancing the humanitarian logistics profession by promoting cross organizational learning and collaboration. More specifically, HLA will be the leading independent organization of humanitarian logisticians and provide a forum for understanding the field perspective and providing potential solutions to the challenges.

The value proposition of HLA is to: support professional development; leverage combined knowledge and experience of humanitarian and commercial logisticians; enhance collaboration among different actors; link logistics activities to programs; and foster innovation.

Moving forward, the Steering Committee and broader HLC audience will need to determine how to work with each other as well as with other organizations outside the sector. This could take the form of coordinating research with academics, for example. HLA can provide a central body that will analyze field practices and propose solutions for continuous improvement. With any coordination, the HLA should look at complementarities of organizations.

Last year the Steering Committee defined programs and priorities within those programs. For each program category, there is an opportunity for the HLA to truly own and improve the logistics function. The Steering Committee recommended developing a regional technical workshop and a website as tangible first projects for the HLA.

Presentation: HLA   

Path Forward
Over the last five years, Fritz Institute has worked in partnership with and listened to humanitarian logisticians. Through HLC, we have been able to gather logisticians together, identify pain points, document them, describe them more broadly, and develop tools. Today logisticians have the opportunity to collaborate with a broader environment, including universities, Fleet Forum, etc.

The HLC participants agreed that Fritz Institute will work with the HLA Steering Committee on a transition plan for HLC as well as Fritz Institute-incubated programs. The group agreed that tying logistics to programs is an important element, but that this bridge will take time. In the next year there is a great need to continue to capitalize on the momentum of the things that have been accomplished over the last few years. For 2008, Fritz Institute will look at recommendations for HLA, work with the Steering Committee, and define strategies. Concurrently Fritz Institute will start engaging with senior members of participant organizations. In 2009, HLC will formally transition to HLA.

More Information
For more information about the Humanitarian Logistics Conference 2007, please email
Jane MacDonald at

- 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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