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American Logistics Aid Network finds that commercial supply chain activities are contributing to advances in the way humanitarian relief is managed and delivered. Several trends in for-profit distribution activities are having significant positive impacts on humanitarian work. Among these trends are:
Rapid Delivery: The push toward same-day and one-hour delivery service, especially using unmanned aircraft systems (drones), is a natural fit for the time-sensitive needs and austere conditions created by crisis. The ability to provide humanitarian aid to areas without roads or power will benefit from advances in commercial applications of UAS technology.
Sharing Economy: Marketplaces and apps for on-demand logistics services are increasing visibility of available capacity. These tools utilize geographic positioning and resource-owner interest to determine a match. Technology for peer-to-peer matching based on location, capacity and interest will be applied to find local sources of volunteers, commodities and services to support humanitarian requests. Some consumer-focused models are already being repurposed to support humanitarian activities. Airbnb, for example, works with their hosts to find short-term housing for disaster survivors.
Corporate supply chain risk analysis: As commercial supply chains push for better visibility of supplier risks, they will create new models for mapping and managing sources of supply. Especially in disaster situations where primary sources of supply are disrupted, humanitarian relief relies on rapid identification of alternate sources of supply. The frameworks being created to assess corporate supply chain risk and identify secondary sourcing will be applied to improve humanitarian capabilities.
The talent gap and millennial motivation: A looming shortage of skilled supply chain workers means that businesses must increasingly find ways to attract and retain talented staff. According to a 2010 Pew Research Center study millennials value helping those in need over high-paying jobs. As companies look to engage their staff, providing them with opportunities for skills-based volunteerism continues to top the list of strategies being employed. The supply-chain-heavy focus of humanitarian relief work provides an ideal perk for millennials looking to use their skills and expertise for good.
2016 will no doubt be an interesting year of evolution for corporate supply chain activities. Technology, resource sharing, and corporate risk management strategies will mature and make their way into humanitarian organizations. The application of these technologies and activities will drive additional interest in corporate skills based engagement in support of global humanitarian causes.
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