The Logistics Project is very much focused on good practice and helping organisations who want to pursue excellence not only in the programmes they chose to implement but also how to implement them. As you will know from other blog posts and website pages we are building a charity capable of responding in times of emergency to support the humanitarian community in dealing with the surge of materiel arriving in a disaster zone.
From time to time we get approached by an organisations that needs that assistance in a more chronic aid situation. Rarely do we get approached by an individual working relatively unsupported in one of the most volatile aid environments in the world. Not long ago we met Ania, a young woman working in Mogadishu Somalia. We already knew of her operations as we had been asked for advice on shipping from Vancouver to Mogadishu by a donor organisation. We were introduced to Ania personally by our friends at Justice Rising. To hear her vision of distributing to the most under served in Mogadishu had our attention. When she asked for some assistance in working out the logistics of distributing one million meals with a national team we realised just how brave an individual she is.
This is what The Logistics Project is about. We are about being a resource to those who are pursuing excellence and humble enough to ask for help. Ania is one of our charitable projects; which our for profit work funds. Ania doesn’t have an organisation, but she does have a passion and a vision and that is what we are drawn to. We are crunching numbers, writing standard operating procedures and being the people at the other end of the phone or email to answer questions, encourage and support Ania. If you would like to support Ania’s work click here and be taken to a funding website.
When looking at the challenges facing an organisation that has sought our help;
The Logistics Project asks to look over the documents that govern the processes that need reviewing. We often get one of two responses. The first response is a few embarrassed glances around the room, followed by an explanation of how it has never quite happened. The second we like to call “The Beast”; it is a book so large that it requires a manual handling course prior to use. Strangely the impact of these two responses is the same. No one is working to the same process. Staff learn in a hand me down system where the current incumbents teach the new recruits; or, to ground this in an NGO setting, a hard pressed disaster relief logistician gives the new national staff member “five minutes of monologue” on receipt and dispatch. The reason this happens is because in the first instance their is nothing to refer to, and in the second, the manual is too big to use. Either way the operative applies their own “right to edit” to the process and systems break down, frustration ensues and quite often recriminations break out.
No one at The Logistics Project has escaped these experiences at some point in their career, so readers should feel no embarrassment. If you work in an organisation with a high operational tempo finding time to stand back and review processes is nearly impossible. We have however distilled a process of writing manuals that works in the hope that we never end up in those situations again.
- Discern the objective – This may be particular to a process or cover the objectives of the entire logistics system.
- Map the current system step by step – Quite often you will find us pretending to be an item of stock passing through the system.
- Review how the current system meets the objective – This needs to be collaborative between logistics operators and client departments.
- Make additions and deletions.
- Write the manual in a series of discrete local work instructions – Breaking the process down to the smallest logical part.
The benefit of this process is that the Operations Manual becomes modular. The Logistics and Supply Chain Manager will have the whole picture but it is possible to give your Goods In team just the pages that relate to them. This not only saves confusion but also gives the team a clear standard to work to. We are never shy of pictures either, sometimes a quick visual reference brings it all back.
Thought should be given to how you distribute the ops manual. The classic A4 ring binder is perhaps the worst possible option. It is never to hand when you need it. Smaller Aide Memoire that fit in cargo pants’ pockets or A3 posters around the relevant working area can be much more efficient. We have started to use iPad Apps to build interactive manuals that not only tell you what to do but link you to the resources.
Example On Line Ops Manual - A look at a the Goods In module.
If you are heading down the technology route of using tablet computers in your warehousing this is an easily accessible resource which makes checking a procedure a painless affair. If you feel you would benefit from an outside perspective on your operations or would like help in authoring a manual. Please drop us a line and we’ll be glad to help.
We know this blog is patchy at best but with projects running in Germany, Ghana, Haiti, Somalia and the UK we tend to focus on the projects in hand and this blog gets little time put into it. Perhaps we should get amalgamate this and Surely More Interesting Than Cargo Manifests ; this is perhaps our more serious side and acts more as an announcements page. In fact we are likely to rebrand this page as news.
For those of you who have followed us for a while you will be aware that the prime aim of The Logistics Project is to provide funding for a logistics charity that responds in the event of disaster. It has taken us a little while to get ourselves to a point where the charity has a name and a board but we are pleased to say we are getting closer. We have settled on the name The Humanitarian Logistics Centre and the first members of the board have agreed to take up a 6 year tenure. The is obviously very exciting for us and we will keep you posted.
Although the charity is not yet fully functional we are already making headway on some of the initiatives. We are building a searchable archive of useful logistics information, sample job descriptions and form templates on Evernote. For those of you unfamiliar with the “App” world. Evernote is a huge sensation but for us it is the perfect tool to make information available to all without having to build a huge database of our own. For a couple of samples of the types of information you will be able to get in the notebook you can click on the links below:
If there are any motivated individuals keen to translate any of the forms into their mother tongue we will gladly accept your help, publish them in the archive and credit your help; just drop us a line from the contacts form. Ideally we would like to have forms and resources published in multiple languages. Access to the archive will be free and addresses an issue in the field that many of us have found, there are plenty of templates out there but few free to download and fewer in languages outside of French and English. We think this is a truly worthwhile project and are happy to hear from any contributors.
One of the things we are most often asked to look at is job descriptions. Sometimes we are asked to write them from scratch and other times review and see if they are fit for purpose. We have a standard format that we use when we are asked to construct these from scratch. The pdf below is a sample of how we write out job descriptions, having a commonality of structure to job descriptions at all levels is something we recommend. This is a view of what our Logistics Director in Getting some basics down – Part 1 might look like.
The plan is to post some useful resources here on The Logistics Project blog. As a first post we realise that you need to know the structure we have in mind when we write these local work instructions. You may be an organiszation that is big enough to have all the posts as identified but it may be that each of these functions is held in one post. If that is the case it is important not to abbreviate the process so that you can later scale the process should you grow.
“Beware the new broom” – This was a phrase that would get whispered on RAF stations all over the world each time a new officer got posted into a supply section. The new broom referred to the enthusiastic zeal with which the aforementioned officer would arrive to sweep away the methods and projects of the previous 18 months for “improvements”. Weary Senior Non Commisioned Officers would direct the troops to “realign the daffodils” in the direction they were in just 18 months ago.
At The Logistics Project we see a similar, although not identical pattern, in humanitarian logistics. NGOs, FBOs and other humanitarian agencies frequently find they have neglected their support elements in favour of the primary task, the logistic component of their organisation is either creaking under the strain of expanding programs or has completely broken down leaving field offices and beneficiaries unsupported. At some point the pain becomes too much and up goes the cry “something must be done.”
The usual process is to look at the staffing of the logistics department and decide that there needs to be a new senior position created or a more capable individual put into this role, someone who has a lot of expertise and can change manage. To an extent this is true but all too often it begins a cycle that leads to perpetual change and even destruction. The new hire arrives and with gusto sets about making the necessary changes to logistics policy, structure and systems in line with his closely defined terms of reference; this is the up stroke of the cycle. Problems start to arise when they have completed those tasks as defined in the terms of reference. Their remit is improvement and change management but they have hit a place where stability and continuity are required. This is the beginning of the down stroke of the cycle. Having been hired as an expert logistics change manager their validation comes from rolling out new shinier solutions to the challenges facing the agency, after all they are taking a significant salary. The temptation to tinker with what is working well is too great. Phrases like “future proof” ,”long term view” and “legacy planning” start to litter the vocabulary of logistics HQ to veil a need to innovate, change and validate; meanwhile the field are running to stay abreast of the current developments and the stability they need is not forthcoming.
It is for this reason The Logistics Project offer system audit and design services. Over many years of working the “innovation and decimation” cycle in both the commercial and charitable sectors our team have come to believe having external innovators and change managers leads to a more stable and functioning operation.
External change managers come with a different mind set and agenda. They are not caught in the day to day of operations. Their remit is to bring exceptional expertise to quickly and effectively identify solutions and make necessary changes and then to move on.
The advantages of this are a clear costed project plan that once agreed becomes the arbitrator of what change is necessary. The project plan also becomes a useful fundraising tool with clear costs to tangible objectives.
The core benefit to this is removing the temptation to tinker but it also realises a cost benefit as the expertise you hire does not remain on the pay roll beyond the change project’s life cycle. Agencies like The Logistics Project also bring the advantage of having a raft of specialists who can be drawn into the project rather than one individual with a general knowledge of many of the components that make up the supply chain.
For more on The Logistics Project’s solutions management work download our brochure.
A little on our work with Partners in Health
Système Intégré de la Chaîne d’Approvisionnement (SICA)
The SICA concept is driven by the desire to improve patient care and create optimum outcomes in patient treatment and experience. For over 25 years, Partners In Health (PIH) and Zanmi Lasante, its sister project in Haiti, have been working in rural, underserved areas to bring health care to the poorest of the poor. PIH and ZL’s efforts have grown from a small clinic in the squatter settlement Cange to 14 sites across 2 health departments, including a 320-bed teaching hospital under construction in Mirebalais. With this expansion, increasing pressure has been placed on the supply chain infrastructure supporting the clinical services. In 2012 ZL and Partners In Health are preparing to focus on and invest in core logistic and supply chain tools to better serve the Haitian population.
ZL and PIH, in partnership with MIT and The Logistics Project, have reviewed the supply chain performance in Haiti and are embarking on a series of ground breaking improvements.
The SICA warehouse:
The 30,000+ square foot storage and materiel processing site in Croix de Bouquet will be among the first of its kind to be operated in Haiti. Best practices in supply chain will be implemented to ensure smoother flow of materiels to the end user. It will create jobs in construction, maintenance and operation as well as introducing new technologies.
Open Boxes Software:
PIH’s in-house medical informatics team is implementing an inventory management system to allow improved tracking of consumables and assets throughout the supply chain. This will allow supply chain managers to identify any impending shortfalls and take remedial action to ensure clinicians always have the right products available for the patient. This system will be open source and available for other organizations to use and adapt.
The SICA system:
The SICA system will build a new supply chain competency into ZL. ZL will recognize supply chain technicians as a valuable part of the healthcare team. This competency stream will have a clear career progression model and will allow those with less formal education to excel through service, training, and education.
For 25 years ZL logistics and administrative staffs have been serving the sick and disenfranchised of Haiti with a quiet resolve. This project ensures that they will be in the best position to serve them for the next 25 years, and acknowledges the vital role they play in achieving excellent patient outcomes. SICA will become a regional benchmark for supply chain operations.
We expect to see:
Improved patient outcomes through increased visibility and use of assets.
Greater ability to cope with rapid onset disasters and crises.
Greater awareness of the importance of good supply chain management.
Decreased procurement costs due to better information management, forecasting and stock management.
It has been quite a week here at The Logistics Project with a crashing web server. Hopefully we are all back to normal all be it with a few improvements including this blog.
We have been realising our multilingual potential with procurement activities conducted across French, Spanish and English for our collaboration with Partners In Health. We can now say reach lift truck in a number of languages and even be understood in some of them.
Wednesday saw the start of an interesting project with some of the students from the MIT Humanitarian Response Lab, our Director, Alastair conferenced in to a meeting looking at creating a vendor managed stock model for a health sector warehousing project.
Jonathan our project officer for The Logistics Charity has started making important connections for The GIMP and our charitable work.
We also reconnected with colleagues in Ghana for an exciting social enterprise which links Northern Ghana and Glasgow.
We wish you all the best for the weekend.
The Logistics Project Team
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