Checking the world pulse

Responding after a disaster such as the earthquake and the tsunami in Japan last week or the earthquake in Haiti early 2010 requires a strict logistics procedure. It is not about paperwork: not when the emergency response team gets to the location, that would be too late, and that would be “reacting”. That is why it is called “response”: same as in martial arts, we use the energy delivered to us and redirect it to where it makes sense.

Being logistically responsive demands a thoughtful evaluation and preparation for potential risks:

  • Political situation of the country: how stable is it? Think of the Jasmine revolution earlier this year and how any shipping, delivery, plane landing or corner store replenishment have been disrupted, without forgetting how fuel price and currency exchange have become factors to consider in a supply chain plan.
  • Geographic component: how remote is the source/destination located (including infrastructure and physical environment conditions)? What is the weather history or recent trend?
  • Determine both who will be part of the response team and make decisions in a time of crisis, and how communication will be carried out. Keeping his/her cool under such stressful circumstances can save lives.
  • Define what inventory is necessary and which one is not: that will be handy to know and to have while the crisis happens.

Now, on the human front, showing some consideration for the local habits, beliefs and customs will save time and awkward moments of any cultural or social misunderstanding, more so in a crisis situation. Being prepared and showing flexibility works outside of the written protocol: offering response-ability goes a long way, and beyond binders of documented procedures. Also, whereas commercial logistics involves commercial transactions, keep in mind that the receiving end of a humanitarian logistics response has little to do, if at all, with financial results, let alone profits. A smile, a look to express gratitude or some humble resilience represent a value that is fortunately not measurable. If it were, no commercial agreement or contract would get any close to the value of Life.

Logistics was originated in the military, looking after their supply requirements wherever the troops were going. Simple bottom line: logistics, along with its success, revolves around the Human factor, referring to resources in physical and grey matter capabilities. Staying informed with what is happening across the street, an ocean or on the other side of the world will help assembling reliable preventive logistics options and being ready in a crisis situation, channeling degrees of a contingency plan, using a 3PL or a 4PL provider.

Sending supportive thoughts to Japan.