Improved last-mile supply chains improve lives, especially when it comes to the delivery of food, medicine and other supplies.
Last-mile delivery is the part of the distribution process that moves products like these to the consumer’s hands. These logistics can be especially complex within African markets where products are moved across far-reaching geographical locations, utilizing insufficient or challenging infrastructure, to service high-population areas.
Last October, the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM) received a three-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve public health supply chains in Africa, evolve a frontier supply chain maturity model and introduce globally recognized and locally adapted methods within communities throughout Dakar, Senegal; Lagos, Nigeria; and Nairobi, Kenya. This project exemplifies how a maturity model can bring life-changing benefits to families and individuals worldwide.
A maturity model allows companies to define clear developmental stages that can be measured and controlled throughout time for optimal last-mile results. It also helps them remain efficient and cost-effective. For a consumer, this model ensures the availability of critical products.
Using this as an example, let’s discuss the four key components to consider when building a maturity model for last-mile efficiency.
Encourage communication. For a maturity model to be embraced, it must be developed in conjunction with the community that will implement it. A community-focused framework also allows for the dissemination of ideas and best practices. To this end, ASCM will host a series of invitation-only, one-day leadership forums to unite executives from multinational companies to discuss how they are solving supply chain issues. This year a forum was held in March with another happening in October. Next year, ASCM will repeat both events and host an additional regional conference.
Leverage technology. Many last-mile challenges can be overcome through technology and visibility. Mobile devices, automation tools and sensors, just to name a few, provide a more global view of the supply chain. Technology can also be used for preventative maintenance and to automate tasks that employees once managed, freeing them up to focus on value-add projects. With this in mind, ASCM will help African organizations develop and implement country-specific plans to elevate local supply chain technology, impacting overall reliability and speed.
Harness the power of data. Data-driven insights are especially important for high-transit markets like those in Africa, where, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, maritime transport remains the country’s main gateway to the global marketplace. This data is valuable for tracking product locations, statuses, conditions and measurements in real time. It ensures more accurate last-mile deliveries, and when applied to ASCM’s initiative can be crucial for individuals with urgent health needs.
Focus on the individual. Remember that each individual contributing to the supply chain is making a difference. Their training, continued education and motivation ensure maturity models reach each developmental stage. As a result, products are moved through last-mile markers, into the hands of individuals that make up whole communities. When in doubt, remember that as supply chain professionals, your hard work makes a lasting impact to those who need it most.
Abe Eshkenazi is CEO of the Association for Supply Chain Management.
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