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Customer and Supply Chain Excellence in Warzones

Supply Chain Excellence

Finding it hard to bring in materials and keep your customers happy? If you are one of the many companies whose supply chain has been disrupted by the global pandemic, read this story of a New Zealand aid agency setting up processes for customer and supply chain excellence in war-torn areas.

ReliefAid is a New Zealand based international humanitarian organisation with a vision of saving lives and alleviating suffering of people affected by armed conflict and natural disasters through independent and impartial humanitarian action. In partnership with Shelterbox, ReliefAid has been providing shelter materials for displaced families in northwest Syria since 2015. A local ReliefAid team distributes lifesaving winter shelter aid including mattresses, blankets, tarpaulins, and children’s clothing. More recently, they delivered Fire for Life Cooking Stoves – a portable light-weight cooking stove developed by Dunedin company and ReliefAid partner Escea.

In an impressive feat of customer and supply chain excellence, ReliefAid Communications Director Anne Bulley recently shared a story where the team went ‘boots and all’.

With the harsh winter conditions in northern Syria soon turning the displacement camps into mud and sleet covered tracks and puddles, the kids were in desperate need for appropriate footwear. The team did something most New Zealand organisations can learn from. The easy but wasteful and disrespectful approach would be to dump copious amounts of gumboots into each camp. ReliefAid however strives for excellence and takes a very different approach. For each camp, an inventory of age, shoe size and gender is created by visiting the camps and connecting with the community there. Each child gets exactly the size and colour boots and socks they needed. Each child was a unique customer among the masses.

The carefully curated list of 7,963 pairs of boots with matching socks was ordered from local manufacturers and delivered to the ReliefAid warehouse. On the photo ReliefAid Syria team member Mustafa checks the quality of the boots: blue for the boys, silver for the girls.

This is a story of market research in its truest form, excellence in customer focus, and a supply chain with features of mass-customisation. Impressive indeed, and something all businesses can learn from. But it would not be a warzone if this story did not have a coda.

While ReliefAid ordered black socks, the manufacturer had a mind of its own and provided 50/50 gender specific coloured and printed socks and did not follow the curated list. Now some boys will receive pink kitten covered socks, and some girls black ones with footballs. With winter fast approaching ReliefAid took the decision to the live with the error. The main thing is children have warm and dry feet, and beneath the boots whose to know?

Productivity People has proudly been supporting ReliefAid with fundraising efforts and sponsorship for several years. If you would also like to contribute to their worthwhile cause, please visit their website or contact the founder and executive director Mike Seawright on mike.seawright@reliefaid.org.nz.

About the author: Geerten Lengkeek is the Managing Director of Productivity People