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PMAC 2012: Expeditions and disasters

The differences in logistics


June 8, 2012
by Emily Atkins

Moncton, NB: The logistics and supply chain for expeditions versus relief operations are similar but differ on a few key variables.

Professor Paul Larson from the University of Manitoba explained some of the main differentiators in a presentation on June 8 at the 2012 PMAC national conference in Moncton, NB. Some of Larson’s knowledge comes first hand, as he completed an expedition to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya earlier this year with CARE Canada.

Essentially the difference is between steady state logistics and event logistics. Expeditions and disasters both require event logistics, while business as usual supply chains use steady state logistics.

Supply chains can be divided into six categories:

  • Commercial logistics in a business-as-usual state or an ‘interrupted’ state due to an uncontrollable event or disaster.
  • Humanitarian logistics serving long term needs or responding to a disaster or crisis.
  • Military logistics in a state of peace or war.

Larson went on to explain that in business versus relief logistics the motivation is profit versus social impact and the context is uninterrupted vs. interrupted. In business time is money; in relief operations time can equal lives saved. The source of funds is also different, with commercial supply chains relying on customers, while relief operations are supported by donors.

There are important differences between expedition logistics and disaster logistics. Primarily, with an expedition, the planners know the duration of the trip, and the locations to be visited. With a disaster, these are variables that may or may not be known to the planners. Expeditions require lean supply chains while disaster relief requires an agile supply chain.

For expeditions, such as the one Larson took part in, the variables are the number of days, the number of participants, the location, and the risks involved. The critical parts of organizing an expedition are: planning, simplicity, teamwork and flexibility.