The Supply Chain Process

The supply chain for humanitarian agencies consists of a number of distinct activities or processes.

Project Identification

The supply chain process starts with a demand or need identified somewhere. It could be a sudden increase in demand due to the onset of an emergency, or that more supplies are needed for a specific development project. 


Consideration needs to be given to how  the project is to be funded.  Organisations may choose to release existing funds so that they can start responding to an emergency immediately. Alternatively they may call on   individual donors, or submit proposals to institutional donors for longer term projects.



Whilst funding is being released, the situation on the ground is continually being assessed and detailed plans are drawn up for project delivery. Logisticians will look  to get an overview of trusted suppliers in the country or region and an understanding of what stock is available and where it is located. At this stage an assessment of roads, railways, warehouses and points of entry into the country is also made.


With project activity and supply plans developing, the vital process of getting the right supplies to the right place at the right time commences.   For the sake of speed, cost and contributing to the local economy, logisticians may  focus on what is available in-country first.  In some instances when supplies are required immediately, they may be  sourced from pre-existing stock in warehouses in the host country  and then complemented with supplies from the local market.

Inventory Management

Selecting a suitable storage facility is very important for stock control, maintaining stock integrity, security and health and safety. Logisticians will try to hold inventory as close to its final point of use as possible and practical. This way stock can be made available for projects in time, minimizing delays to delivery.

Delivery Planning

Getting supplies delivered to the people who need them the most is often a challenge – they may be located in remote areas, places with volatile security or in areas where the road infrastructure is destroyed. Early planning of deliveries is important as it gives early visibility of when goods are required on site and allows to secure transport for the deliveries. Fast and secure transport is paramount, so getting hold of the right vehicles is a priority. 

Materials usage

As the goods reach the project site, they are either distributed to the people or partners who need them, or used for the purpose intended. . The usage of goods is recorded and tracked providing end-to-end visibility of the supply chain in each project. This information also informs future planning of supplies and deliveries.

Supply Review and Re-plan

Project circumstances often change as projects progress. Beneficiary needs or numbers can change. Availability of funds can change.  The changes are likely to affect the goods and services that are provided to a project.  It is vital therefore that projects are reviewed on a regular basis, so that project and supply plans reflect project reality and allow Supply and Logistics staff to alter upcoming order quantities, maintain the right level of inventories for projects and have accurate information to plan deliveries and distributions