Scope & Op­por­tu­ni­ties in Hu­man­i­tar­ian lo­gis­tics


Hu­man­i­tar­ian Lo­gis­tics is a spe­cialised area of lo­gis­tics which gives em­pha­sis par­tic­u­larly on ar­rang­ing the de­liv­ery and ware­hous­ing of sup­plies dur­ing nat­u­ral calami­ties or sud­den emer­gen­cies to the af­fected ar­eas, com­mu­ni­ties and peo­ple who ac­tu­ally need the help. But to the con­trary, when­ever we talk about lo­gis­tics, peo­ple al­ways have this thought in their mind that lo­gis­tics is for the com­mer­cial pur­poses, how it can help the mankind. And se­ri­ously this think­ing here has to be bro­ken, be­cause of course lo­gis­tics can proved to be one of the most vi­tal tools in re­lief and dis­as­ter man­age­ment.

When­ever we hear the news the news of any nat­u­ral calami­ties, whether its earth­quake, land­slide, flood or tsunami. We sigh, think­ing how peo­ple were cop­ing with this. The truth is we can't avoid the nat­u­ral calami­ties, or can con­trol the mother na­ture, but we can keep the tools of lo­gis­tics pre­pared well enough to cope up or help peo­ple across the globe.

Hu­man­i­tar­ian lo­gis­tics or re­lief-op­er­a­tion man­age­ment in­volves very dif­fer­ent peo­ple, who may have a di­verse back­ground in terms of cul­ture, pur­poses, in­ter­ests, man­dates, ca­pac­ity, and lo­gis­tics ex­per­tise . In this sec­tor key play­ers can be cat­e­go­rized as fol­low: gov­ern­ments, the mil­i­tary, aid agen­cies, donors, non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions (NGOs), and pri­vate sec­tor com­pa­nies.

Nowa­days the need for hu­man­i­tar­ian lo­gis­tics is in­creas­ing rapidly also be­cause of the cli­mate change, nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, pop­u­la­tion growth, con­flicts etc. To cope up with this many hu­man­i­tar­ian or­gan­i­sa­tions are com­ing up with the idea of ex­pand­ing their work and col­lab­o­rat­ing with the pri­vate sec­tor. It will give new di­men­sion to this lo­gis­tics sec­tor.

With the ad­vent of glob­al­iza­tion, the growth of global sup­ply chains, in­ter­na­tional cus­tomer and em­ployee bases and greater sig­nif­i­cance on the neg­a­tive global ex­ter­nal­i­ties of busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties. Many big or­gan­i­sa­tions are also re­al­iz­ing the sub­stan­tial ben­e­fits of en­gag­ing in hu­man­i­tar­ian work. As hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis have be­come more fre­quent, more in­tense and more vis­i­ble than be­fore. Me­dia high­lights the sig­nif­i­cance of hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tiv­i­ties, which in­cludes risk man­age­ment, civil pro­tec­tion and pro­vid­ing the peo­ple with re­lief op­er­a­tions, which in turn not only pro­motes cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity (CSR), but also can be a worth­while in­vest­ment for the com­pany.

As ev­ery com­pany has to take some re­spon­si­bil­ity of the so­ci­ety too, and ad­dress so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues not only busy in mak­ing prof­its. In In­dia, ac­cord­ing to The Min­istry of Cor­po­rate Af­fairs (MCA) has no­ti­fied Sec­tion 135 and Sched­ule VII of the Com­pa­nies Act, 2013, which is re­lated to cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity (CSR) that will be ef­fec­tive from April 1, as part of the new Com­pa­nies Act. The norms will ap­ply to com­pa­nies with at least Rs 5 crore net profit or Rs 1,000 crore turnover or Rs 500 crore net worth. From now on these com­pa­nies will have to spend 2 per cent of their three-year av­er­age an­nual net profit on CSR ac­tiv­i­ties in each fi­nan­cial year.

This will in turn in­crease the com­pany's fo­cus on new emerg­ing Hu­man­i­tar­ian Lo­gis­tics, as it re­quires high lev­els of pro­fes­sion­al­ism and skills in the whole hu­man­i­tar­ian lo­gis­tics em­ploy­ment and ca­reer devel­op­ment. Mean­while, the man­agers of dif­fer­ent lo­gis­tic com­pa­nies are in­ter­ested in re­cruit­ing lo­gis­tics pro­fes­sion­als with skills that trans­late into high em­ployee per­for­mance and lo­gis­tics ex­cel­lence. Fu­ture em­ploy­ees of­ten ap­pear to be un­aware of the re­quire­ments of their job which helps to ex­plain why ware­house man­agers in­clude ba­sic ac­tiv­i­ties such as or­der pick­ing in their re­cruit­ment ap­proaches, from job ad­ver­tise­ments to the test­ing of can­di­dates, need to re­flect func­tional and con­tex­tual job re­quire­ments.

Dif­fer­ent types of soft skills of man­age­ment with func­tional lo­gis­tics skills are re­quired in hu­man­i­tar­ian lo­gis­tics. Within these two ma­jor skills, four groups of skills can be dis­tin­guished: gen­eral man­age­ment skills, prob­lem-solv­ing skills, in­ter­per­sonal (peo­ple man­age­ment) skills and func­tional lo­gis­tics skills.

Gen­eral Man­age­ment skills in­clude Fi­nance and ac­count­ing, In­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, Change Man­age­ment, Mar­ket­ing Project Man­age­ment, Strate­gic Man­age­ment, Cus­tomer Re­la­tion­ship Man­age­ment, Sup­plier Re­la­tion­ship Man­age­ment and Risk Man­age­ment. Prob­lem Solv­ing Skills in­clude Prob­lem Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, In­for­ma­tion Gath­er­ing, Prob­lem Anal­y­sis, In­for­ma­tion Shar­ing and Prob­lem Solv­ing. In­ter­per­sonal Skills in­clude Lis­ten­ing, Oral Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Writ­ten Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Peo­ple Man­age­ment, Meet- ing Fa­cil­i­ta­tion, Ne­go­ti­a­tion, Stress Man­age­ment, Hu­man Re­source Man­age­ment and Lead­er­ship. Func­tional Lo­gis­tics Skills in­clude Le­gal, Cus­toms, Im­port and Ex­port, Trans­porta­tion Man­age­ment, In­ven­tory man­age­ment, Ware­hous­ing, Pur­chas­ing and Pro­cure­ment, Fore­cast­ing, Re­verse Lo­gis­tics, Port/Air­port Man­age­ment and Lo­gis­tics In­for­ma­tion Sys­tems. A can­di­date should have BTS (2 year higher ed­u­ca­tion course) in pro­cure­ment / lo­gis­tics / trans­port, good knowl­edge of telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, elec­tric­ity and me­chan­ics in or­der to ful­fill the cri­te­ria for job in hu­man­i­tar­ian lo­gis­tics.

A Lo­gis­ti­cian is re­spon­si­ble for equip­ping the base and the pro­grams. To­gether with the lo­gis­tics team who are hired lo­cally, he/she is in charge of pur­chas­ing, ware­hous­ing, trans­port, man­age­ment of ve­hi­cles, com­puter sys­tems and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, as well as se­cu­rity. Lo­gis­ti­cian has a large team to man­age in­clud­ing driv­ers, se­cu­rity guards, as­sis­tants, a ware­house man­ager and even a ra­dio-op­er­a­tor. Pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence of team man­age­ment is prefer­able.

With the emerg­ing com­pe­ti­tion for fund­ing among ma­jor re­lief or­ga­ni­za­tions, the heads of lo­gis­tics tend to each fight their own bat­tles with lit­tle col­lab­o­ra­tion. In or­der to over­come this sit­u­a­tion e lo­gis­ti­cians are re­quired for get­ting the job done un­der the most ad­verse and ex­treme cir­cum­stances. Com­mon train­ing and the use of tools like e learn­ing would open up the pos­si­bil­ity of cre­at­ing a cadre of lo­gis­ti­cians in the field, and so pro­mote stan­dard­ized lo­gis­tics prac­tices and in-coun­try lo­gis­tics ca­pac­ity.

We can see a great op­por­tu­nity for ad­vance­ment of the field and of the hu­man­i­tar­ian mis­sion if the in­sti­tu­tional knowl­edge is dis­sem­i­nated in an or­ga­nized way. So, the time has come to strengthen the in­fra­struc­tures of hu­man­i­tar­ian lo­gis­tics and ex­per­tis­ing in tech­nol­ogy and re­sources with the help of cor­po­rate and aca­demic com­mu­ni­ties as this sec­tor re­quires ex­treme re­quire­ments in terms of time­li­ness, af­ford­abil­ity and over­sight.

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