Humlog Blogs

By Julia Muraszkiewicz, Research Analyst at Trilateral Research Ltd.


Regrettably, loss and harm of humanitarian workers is a prevailing occurrence in the humanitarian conflict zones of today. One does not have to search far to find headlines such as: Six Afghan Red Cross aid workers have been killed in an ambush or Attack on aid workers in South Sudan. As humanitarian laws are being ignored how can we protect those that risk their lives to help others?


One solution could lie in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), which can help humanitarian workers improve the efficiency of logistics, risk management and coordination of humanitarian missions. And this is already happening. As noted by Donini and Maxwell there is an increasing change in humanitarian relationships and practice ‘from face-to-face to face-to-screen’. The shift to relying on technology is a rapid process with low barriers to entry; we can thus expect many new technological solutions to protecting humanitarian work. Today already ‘ICT use for humanitarian response runs the gamut from satellite imagery to drone deployment; to tablet and smartphone use; to crowd mapping and aggregation of big data’ (Raymond and Harrity, 10).


(February 13th 2017)

As a part of Humanitarian logistics course, 16 students had the opportunity to visit the Finnish Red Cross logistics centre in Kalkku, Tampere. Ari Mäntyvaara, logistic coordinator, was the guide during the visit of the centre and shared with the participants some of his experiences of operations on the field.

1.jpg  Finnish Red Cross logistics centre is the only warehouse of FRC in Finland, which means that it is a very centralised system. Its location has been chosen as it is considered as the middle of Finland in terms of population repartition in the territory. The building used to be a factory facility, which was extended in 2009. Some additional outsourced warehouses are also used around Tampere.

In the Finnish Red Cross Logistics Centre, 15 people are working full time.

The students had the opportunity to visit 3 different areas of the centre:

  • Where donated clothing is sorted
  • Where material aid is stored
  • Where online shop goods are stored

And to know more about:

  • What is an Emergency Response Unit


  1. Where donated clothing is sorted

Here is where all the clothing donated in Finland is collected, checked, carefully packed and stored before being sent for the target countries. Clothing comes from private donors, either individuals or companies.


The Logistics Centre of the Finnish Red Cross offers subsidised work placements for the long-term unemployed people. This means that a part of the staff, around twenty people, is composed of people who used to be long-term unemployed and who need to receive support as they are for different reasons excluded from the regular job market. The Red Cross decides to give them the opportunity to work, but a part of the salary is paid by public money. The purpose is for the employees to gain working experiences, thus to have better chance to find a regular job and overall a better situation in the society. Through employing people in need, the Red Cross Finland is also having a positive impact locally.



By Emily Gooding, winner of the HUMLOG best Master's thesis Award 2017


The response to the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak consumed hundreds of thousands of boots, examination gloves, and liters of chlorine. The supply chains that brought these critical relief items to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone relied on a series of manufacturers, transporters, governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and international organizations (IOs) to move items from storage and manufacturing sites around the world to the affected countries. In humanitarian crises, as demonstrated by the 2014 Ebola outbreak, public, private, and humanitarian actors must work together to form these supply chains that deliver relief items.

In the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the supply chain of personal protective equipment (PPE) – gloves, masks, coveralls, and other items that protect healthcare workers – was made up of NGOs, IOs, public actors, and private companies who had never before worked together. Humanitarian organizations were procuring items they had never purchased. Governments were procuring items in larger quantities and with stricter specifications than they ever had. And these items were procured from private sector companies who had little-to-no experience responding to public health crises.

As a result, the supply chain was built hastily and relationships between actors were quickly forged. There were big obstacles to doing so, and even bigger challenges in coordinating the supply chain that emerged. These challenges led to an excess supply of PPE in some affected areas and a PPE shortage in others.

We interviewed 17 actors across the supply chain and found that all types of actors were frustrated by the response. But coordination – the flow of information and the development of trust – improved over time. Before the next epidemic, these supply chain actors must work together to share their relative expertise, build trust, and establish ways to coordinate in the face of another crisis.

Our study found that during the Ebola outbreak, many humanitarian and government actors made decisions solely to avoid the upfront cost of holding excess inventory, while private sector actors utilized more sophisticated inventory decision-making and contracting tools. And many private companies excel at collecting and using supply chain data to inform their decision-making.

By Sabari Prasanna, Doctoral Student


Organizational culture has no consistent definition in the extant literature. Schein, (2004, p.17) defines organizational culture as “a pattern of shared basic assumptions that was learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and, that has worked well enough to be  considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems”.

In order to understand the type of organizational culture some salient points from the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI) as developed by Cameron and Quinn (2005) can be taken for consideration. This measure provides an idea about the organizational culture type based on a typology matrix. OCAI uses six dimensions to develop the organizational culture type. They are (a) dominant characteristics, (b) organizational leadership, (c) management of employees, (d) organizational glue, (e) strategic emphases, and (f) criteria of success. The six OCAI dimensions lead to classifying the organization into one of the four categories: Hierarchy, market, clan, and adhocracy culture.

Supply chain collaboration enables firms to obtain differential performance as they access resources and routines that exist with different supply chain members (Dyer and Singh, 1998). Moreover, such collaborative advantages are especially difficult to replicate since competitors must both acquire the complementary resources and roll out in the same way (Holcomb et al. 2006).  Collaborative supply chains develop unique customer value by identifying resources that are outside the organizational boundaries. Such distinctive capabilities that bridge organizational boundaries are goal alignment, frequent and open communication, exchange of expertise and resources (Stonebraker and Afifi 2004).

In a study by Fawcett et al. (2013) it is found that two core collaboration resistors exist: unwillingness to adapt to collaborative behaviour, and a lack of trust. It is further found that resistance to change is so ingrained in organizational culture. Seeing this alongside the four cultural aspects that form the base line of supply chain collaboration as indicated by Barratt (2004) are (a) trust, (b) mutuality, (c) information exchange, and (d) openness & communication, gives adequate linkages among the elements of organizational culture and elements that make up collaborative behaviour. So it can be logically concluded that a supportive organizational culture would enhance collaborative outcomes between supply chain partners. The linkages can be also extended to humanitarian context but requires validation through research.

For references, please write to the author. He can be reached at

By Isabell Storsjö, doctoral student and zombie fan


Zombies. Walking dead. Living dead. Popular culture has given many names to the terrifying idea of creatures stuck between death and life hunting the living for their flesh or brains. My fascination for zombies started with the AMC series “The Walking Dead”, which my husband started watching in 2012. From the start, I didn’t want to watch it since I am easily scared, but I couldn’t avoid hearing it from a different room. Soon enough, I was hooked by the plot and characters, and had to find myself a spot in the sofa every night the show aired, prepared with a pillow in my hand to hide behind when the zombies attacked.


Credits to the AMC Network Entertainment “Dead Yourself” App

Having now watched several seasons of The Walking Dead, and other zombie films, I have gotten used to seeing decomposing undead tearing apart living people on the screen, and I am no longer as sensitive as a few years back. The interesting thing with this series (in addition to the plot of course) is that it plays with the thought of society completely falling apart, leading to a situation where the remaining population is struggling to sustain life. Not only the epidemic itself but also fear of it drives people from their homes and work, and they fight for resources.

What the characters in The Walking Dead experience may be fiction, but the story also depicts a catastrophe that has gone out of hand. The zombie metaphor can be useful to model the worst-case scenario, and was actually used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US in 2011 in a risk campaign to raise awareness of why and how to prepare for emergencies.

By Dr. Nathan Kunz, assistant professor of operations management, University of North Florida


Each hour counts when responding to a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Matthew which hit Haiti in October 2016. Affected populations are in desperate need for food, medicines or shelters. It took international relief organization based in the U.S. or Europe several days or even weeks to purchase these supplies and ship them to Haiti. During this time, people in Haiti continued to suffer. Because of the unpredictable nature of disasters, an organization that is not prepared can’t respond to the needs of the population in a reasonable amount of time.

A relief organization can get prepared by prepositioning relief supplies such as food, medicines or shelters in warehouses in vulnerable countries. If a disaster hits, the organization delivers the supplies from its local warehouse. This preparedness strategy is very effective, but generates extremely high costs. Indeed, these supplies aren’t used during years with no disaster and thus need to be renewed regularly, especially food or medicines with expiration dates. Moreover, because nobody knowns where the next disaster will hit, international relief organizations have to set up a local warehouse in every disaster prone country. For these reasons, disaster preparedness has been limited so far, because no relief organization has the financial resources to run such an expensive network of warehouses.

In a paper I wrote with colleagues,[1] we propose an alternative to this expensive preparedness strategy. Instead of prepositioning supplies in multiple countries, we recommend relief organizations keep relief supplies in a central warehouse and send them by airplane right after a disaster hits a country. There is a caveat, however. If an organization isn’t already present in a country, it doesn’t have a local network of partners it can rely on to receive the supplies and distribute them. Any shipment into a country has to fulfill all administrative requirements, go through customs clearance, be picked up at the airport and delivered to distribution points. This is impossible without a good local knowledge and existing network in each country. In our paper, we suggest that relief organizations can build this knowledge and network by investing in local disaster management capabilities. These capabilities are, for example, to develop specific importation procedures for each country, negotiate agreements with local governments, identify local suppliers and staff that could distribute the supplies and identify possible distribution centers. By developing such capabilities, the relief organization can be prepared to respond quickly after a disaster, without having to spend colossal amounts for prepositioning supplies.

Some thoughts about my current work, by Peter Tatham - Professor of Humanitarian Logistics, Griffith University (Queensland, Australia)


May I begin by using this Blog to wish all the readers and peaceful and successful 2017.  For those engaged in research, I hope that your endeavours bear fruit, and those who are undertaking the really important work of the humanitarian logistician, I sincerely hope that you will deliver your goals with the minimum of stress to you and your families.


In reflecting on what to write for this blog, I took the easy option of offering some thoughts about my current work in evaluating how three emerging technological changes could impact the practice of humanitarian logistics (HL).  These are:

  • 3D Printing (3DP).
  • Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) (otherwise known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles/Systems (UAV/S) or drones).
  • Hybrid Cargo Airships (HCAs)

All three of these developments have enormous potential to impact the management and operation of supply chains in the commercial environment – and so the challenge is to understand if and how they can be brought to bear to support the logistic preparation and response to disasters.



In the case of 3DP it has multiple benefits, key amongst which is its capacity to produce multiple finished parts from a single source material.  This, together with the ability to make these parts when the demand has crystallised has the clear potential to reduce the requirement to warehouse components on a ‘just in case’ basis.  In addition, its inherent flexibility allows bespoke items to be created to meet a specific non-standard requirement, whilst the high mass to volume ratio and minimal packaging requirements of the raw material are added benefits.

However, and this is to my mind the critical issue, it will be necessary to develop a robust organisational model that controls the overall process and ensures that the finished product is made of an appropriate material and of an appropriate design, and that the product itself has been printed correctly. In other words, that the output is ‘fit for purpose’.  Whilst the temptation to produce ad hoc prints is inevitable, particular in the time-poor post-disaster context, this must be resisted to minimise the risks of accidents and/or injuries.

Thus, as ever, the supply chain manager must ensure the appropriate integration of people, processes and technology.  The technology has been pretty well nailed, so now we need to work on the other two components of this triad.



One of the important elements of emergency planning is training exercises. The MELOGIC Project has organised table-top exercise with Italian RC.


One of the important elements of emergency planning is training exercises. Training exercise is particularly important for building and maintaining organisational knowledge. A written guideline and/or instruction of how to act during the emergency can be more structured and easier to control compared to training exercise which people’s involvement is essential. The benefits of training exercise are preparation for more unstructured and spontaneous aspects. It is a good opportunity to incorporate and check both tacit and explicit knowledge of managing emergencies with a broad action scenarios and a willingness to consider alternatives.


Training exercises can have various forms, e.g. workshop types of seminar, serious games, table-top exercise, and drills. The MELOGIC Project has organised two types of exercises with the end-user partners - Emergency drill with Caritas Teruel and table-top exercise with Italian RC.


Table-top exercise


The table top exercise is a group exercise. The number of group will be depends on the size of the participants. In the exercise with Italian Rc, there were two groups and each group was given a scenario to deal with. Every group members were assigned to different roles in a local level.


The organisers might also have different roles other than being an instructor. In our table-top exercise, organisers acted as a journalist and regional level head quarter. The journalist is essential component in emergency situation for dealing with public affairs. Emergency authorities may have to deal with numerous media contacts and sometimes requires discrete decisions for what information can be publicly available or not. The regional HQ acted as coordinating and reporting body for those participants who play the local emergency staff.


Instructors facilitated the group activities - checking the time, giving out different missions, explaining evolving situation and scenarios, and answering for questions from the group.



Scenario briefing



Regional HQ



Group 1


In September 2016, MELOGIC project organised a large-scale emergency drill in Teruel. The emergency drill was one of the major outcomes of the project.


In September 2016, MELOGIC project organised a large-scale emergency drill in Teruel. The emergency drill was one of the major outcomes of the project. First, we could test the algorithm model for the decision support tool that was developed during the project and second, the emergency drill in such scale was an exceptional event in a small town of Teruel and provided direct and indirect learning to the local government and civil society.


The emergency drill was an event of a single day but it was the results of more than a year of Caritas Teruel’s efforts, including various stakeholder meetings, trainings and education, and other publicising activities for civil protection logistics.


I will describe here about the event itself and our practical preparation on the spot.


Mock-up exercise (D-2)


Before the event, we had a mock-up exercise and used this time to make the final check of the event as well as to prepare for some of practicality related film-making.




We found the difference between available resources (vehicle types and numbers) for the emergency drill and what was assumed in the model as the algorithm inputs. Probably this will happen in most of the real cases and the decision support tools might help to make the quick fix. But during the mock-up exercise, we made some modification after a long discussion.




Checking the venue for the evacuation centre




Preparing for the field operation office. It is a room where all relevant stakeholders and intervention group will sit together to oversee the field operation and to coordinate the activities.




As a part of MELOGIC Project, we conducted a field study in order to identify the needs and main challenges of the end-user partners to improve their emergency logistics management


The MELOGIC project is a DG ECHO funded research project with five partners from five different European countries.

  • European University of Cyprus (Cyprus)
  • University of Aegean (Greece)
  • Regional (Vicenza) Italian Red Cross (Italy)
  • CARITAS Teruel(Spain)
  • Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Research Institute (Finland)

The MELOGIC project stands for ‘An Integrated Methodological framework for Emergency Logistics’. The primary objective of the project was to provide an integrated, easily applicable tool for optimising logistics preparedness operations. In December 2016, the project was completed after all deliverables have successfully been achieved, including web-based decision support system available online. Over the last 2 years throughout the project, there have been various intense discussions, learning opportunities, and knowledge sharing. Personally, it was an extraordinary experience to have the good partnership and active interactions among the project members.

Most of the humanitarian logistics research projects in the HUMLOG Institute are often carried out in developing countries. However, the MELOGIC project has mainly concerned the issues related to emergency logistics within the EU context. This difference brought some new perspectives on disaster logistics preparedness.

While the results and research outcomes of the project can be found in some publications that are in progress, I thought it might be interesting to describe some practical but memorable aspects of the project. It would be some sort of ‘behind the scene’ of all these research activities, which may not be narrated in research publications in details. Here I will elaborate initial development of the project and in the next post some of major outcome - emergency drills and table-top exercise.

Defining ‘logistical challenge’

The first kick-off meeting was held on February 2015 in Nikosia, Cyprus. The ‘logistical problem’ was remained as a general statement in our project document. Thus, in the first meeting the partners tried to crystallise the problem that we would deal with in our project. Naturally, the focus was on the needs of the only end-user partner then, Caritas Teruel. Caritas Teruel brought up their logistical challenges related to maintaining a good preparedness for the forest wildfire of the Aragon region.