2. Critical steps in supply chain management


Note! In an emergency response, especially in its early stages, it is vital that logistics systems are set up quickly and effectively. However, designing and implementing these systems competes with time restraints and urgent demands from the field sites. The need for effective logistics systems is too often underestimated. If the right procedures are not put in place early, problems will develop that will be difficult to sort out later and can seriously affect the agency’s capacity to respond. Long-term damage to programmes can be caused by mistakes made early on when resources are stretched.

Needs and resources assessment

  • Determine needs and formulate programme response requirements in close coordination with Program staff.
  • Contribute to the design and define the operational programme support needs and establish an intervention strategy.

Procurement process   (see Chapter 2 Procurement)

  • Establish rapid procurement processes appropriate to the emergency situation to ensure the organisation has the resources needed to meet identified needs.
  • Identify sources of goods and services required, and the way in which they will be acquired.

Transport and customs

  • Put in place transport arrangements to ensure supplies reach the places they are needed.
  • Develop a transport strategy that takes account of the different types of transport to get supplies from one place to another, as well as back-up options that facilitate the prompt and safe delivery of relief assistance.
  • For imported goods, manage customs processes to ensure CARE is able to access the goods in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Warehousing and storage

  • Make arrangements for warehousing and storage to protect supplies and ensure accountability through  an organised system until they can be delivered to their ultimate recipient.
  • Ensure appropriate storage of reserve supplies for future or unforeseen needs.


  • Deliver the aid to the people affected by a disaster (or to partners entrusted with distribution of relief supplies) according to project/program plan through well-organised distribution systems that ensure aid is provided safely for both staff and beneficiaries, accountable and properly controlled to prevent misuse or waste.

Putting it all together

  • Remember that all of the above components are closely linked.
  • Ensure that links in the supply chain do not fail. The failure or ineffective functioning of any of the links will affect overall performance of the system.


If the transport of a load of supplies has been organised correctly, but upon arrival it turns out that no arrangements were made for storage, the efficiency of the transport effort will be to no avail. Alternatively, if there are enough resources to cover the needs of an affected area, but no transport to take them where they are needed, all other successful efforts will be, for all practical purposes, useless. One broken link is all that is needed for the chain to fail.