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Logistics of Disaster Preparedness and Disaster Response

Imagine the logistics of planning the Olympics. Now imagine planning the same event but not knowing when or where it will take place, how many spectators will attend or how many athletes will compete. Disasters test the reactivity and capacity of humanitarian agencies and often overwhelm them in the first days (Humanitarian Logistics, 2009). This can be due to multiple bottlenecks ranging from funding, to security, to a lack of coordination between agencies. Improving organisations’ capacity to be prepared is a major theme of HRG’s research. Two examples of this follow.

Consider the example of the field vehicle supply chain for one large humanitarian organisation. HRG identifies the objective functions and main trade-offs for this supply chain. We also identify challenges to the field vehicle supply chain and suggest areas where operations research and management science can reduce costs which translates into increasing the organisation’s investment in the welfare of populations in need.

Similarly, humanitarian organisations need medical items both for development programmes and for relief operations. However to satisfy the needs of the beneficiaries they usually keep an excess of inventory increasing its holding cost and risking inventory obsolescence. Also sometimes humanitarian organisations plan their orders using policies which have never been assessed in terms of efficiency and cost. HRG studies the efficiency of the current inventory policies for medical items of one of the benchmark organisations in the humanitarian sector. We work with experts from this organisation to help them estimate their needs in medical inventory and to propose more cost efficient policies than the current one without decreasing their service level.

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