• Field Ready

The Problem with Supply-Chains


Over 136 million people need humanitarian assistance today. For this population, and indeed in developing countries generally, poor water and sanitation is a major cause of illness and death. Each family requires a means of handling clean water. The proven safe storage solution is the ‘Oxfam bucket’ – the standard aid bucket. Its design features protect against bacterial growth.

A standard aid bucket (an open design) costs between $6-10. Transportation costs can be many times higher. Shipping stacked buckets takes space. Logistically, they are inefficient items. The third generation of the aid bucket is made only in one place – a factory in Pakistan. Machines to produce buckets are common. To manufacture the aid bucket locally, the challenge is often not the machine but the mold. Firms invest in the expensive molds only when they will sell 2million+ copies. A large aid response may need 300,000 buckets. So local companies do not invest.

Our approach is distinct in that we will enable local manufacturing and capacity building.

Worldwide, between 60-80% of aid funding is spent on logistics. Yet the supply chains that provide aid to affected people are expensive, slow and often provide the wrong thing.

A massive storm hit Fiji in 2016 affecting 350,000 people (40% of the population). Oxfam needed to distribute their buckets in response. The buckets they ordered were made in Pakistan and shipped to the UK to be stockpiled. They were released and shipped via Dubai to Fiji – the other side of the planet. The cost of this logistics operation has not been made public, but it took nearly 3 months (and in the meantime, aid agencies distributed small toy buckets that are usually sold to tourists to make sandcastles). Yet, less than 1 mile away from Oxfam’s office in Fiji is a factory that makes buckets for industrial paint. Had that factory had the right mold, they could have made the Oxfam bucket on-demand and supplied them for near-zero logistics cost, with the money from the purchase going into a local business and the savings from the logistics being used to help more people.

Stories like this are not uncommon, in fact this trajectory is a common practice in the humanitarian field. Another example that helped inspire Field Ready occurred in Haiti at a maternity hospital. The small clinic in Haiti lacked access to sterile medical equipment, one item being the umbilical cord clamp. Due to lack of availability and prohibitive costs, a local nurse used rubber gloves to tie off the umbilical cord during delivery. This not only caused the potential for infection for the mother and baby, but also the medical worker was put at risk of an infection.

By locally manufacturing the clamps, they were printed in around 6 minutes, opposed to shipping which would take at least three months. Printing these on the fly is cheaper and allows for only using materials needed, and creates less waste and cuts shipping costs and while being 40% cheaper than traditional supply chains.

#Logistics #Volumeproduction #Supplychain #Innovation

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Field Ready is a non-profit, non-governmental organization. We aim to meet humanitarian need by transforming logistics through technology, innovative design and engaging people in new ways. We do this by working with a variety of partners and helping to build people's resilience. We are a charity registered in a number of countries. In the US, as a 501c3, gifts are deductible to the full extent allowable under IRS regulations.   

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