Humanitarian agencies under pressure to save lives during crises -- and satisfy donor efficiency demands -- get vital digital help from logistical partners.
Success of humanitarian relief in crisis situations is foremost measured in lives saved and containment of suffering from underlying calamities. In the aftermath, however, stakeholders also scrutinize operational efficiencies and effective use of resources as they prioritize funding to organizations that make best use of limited donor contributions. Mindful of both considerations, freight forwarders serving humanitarian clients are developing an array of data gathering and communication tools that enhance the efficiency of aid transport and logistics, and provide valuable performance information to relief agencies and donors alike.
Achieving the essential objectives of data sharing and visibility requires deployment of cutting-edge digital capacities in remote and economically developing crisis areas – and doing so with the same effectiveness as in thriving business environments.
In doing that, freight forwarders continuously improve and share their own digital tools to provide a complete and up-to-date picture of transport and logistic options available as crises arise. By including detailed criteria that include cost, speed and geographical locations within that pool of information, supply models can be assembled and tailored to the specifics of each operation -- whether as a response to emergency or as a long-term program.
Upstream application interfacing with clients' data systems – using in part Internet of Things tracking -- also permits identification of where, what kind and volumes of available customer supplies, as well as their readiness for shipping. That information exchange quickly allows the most appropriate, expedient and cost-effective means of getting the right kind of aid moving to crisis zones.
Once that's underway, freight forwarders and transport partners log and transmit data at each possible step of conveyance to enhance visibility of aid deliveries – and as close to real-time possible. That flow provides managers of humanitarian operations updated location and status of materials, and verifies special handling, security and delivery of particularly sensitive supplies like medicines.
"This interfacing of transporters, actors on the ground, clients and our IT systems builds and transmits data that permits increased and continuing supply chain efficiencies and accountability during on-going operations -- and in general terms over time," says Emilie Clavier, Innovation Marketing Manager for global freight forwarding service provider Bolloré Logistics in Paris. "As our predictive IT capacities advance, meanwhile, we'll provide customers ideal solutions for changes about to happen, or anticipated events that have yet to occur."
The accumulation of deep, reliable and securely stored data also helps donors verify their funds have been effectively used – and influences how much and where those finances are renewed and redirected in future.
"Performance visibility of non-governmental organizations and other humanitarian actors is non-negotiable today," notes Eric Sanchez, Senior Vice President Development Africa with Bolloré Logistics. "One of our responsibilities in that is enabling data gathering, sharing and analysis that clients can use to increase their own operational efficiencies. But it also serves as performance reporting that's absolutely vital to donors in determining where to they direct their limited contributions."
Those decisions are critical for humanitarian aid groups already operating on about 35% of the funding needed to respond to the world's crises each year. Part of that shortfall is rooted in misperception that aid programs are largely short-term, which tends to undermine donor support for extended periods.
"A refugee camp remains in existence for an average of 17 years," Mr. Sanchez notes by way of example. "Aid activities require long-term investment and solid donor commitment, so it's paramount to consider private sector stakeholder perspectives in that effort. Quite obviously, our primary objective in strengthening data collection and transmission in humanitarian logistics and transport is to help rapid relief action. But it also enables longer-term operations to become increasingly efficient and responsive, and provides stakeholders with critical operational performance data."