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USAID – Humanitarian Inventory Management System (HIMS)

Jun 15, 2020
By Leslie O'Connell

USAID’s Office of Food for Peace Speeds up their
Supply Chain

They’re ready to feed the world more efficiently in the aftermath of COVID-19

USAID provides food assistance to the world’s most vulnerable people. They maintain global stockpiles of essential food and non-food items used in rapid humanitarian responses. In 2018, they started a project that would speed up their supply chain process.

Thanks to their dedication and forward-thinking, they built the Humanitarian Inventory Management System (HIMS). Bravo, they couldn’t have known what was coming, yet they built a platform that will help deliver food faster during one of the most significant humanitarian crises the world has ever seen.

Before COVID-19, roughly 135 million people experienced acute hunger across 55 countries. With the global recession, this number could almost double to 265 million people facing severe food shortages before the year is over, and famine could occur in any of 3 dozen countries. (World Food Program USA)

More about The Office of Food for Peace

The Office of Food for Peace moves food from farms in the Midwest, to the trucks that haul shipments, to the seaports. Then from the ships to their pre-positioned warehouses and finally to the distribution partners providing relief to some of the most impoverished areas in the world.

They have eight different warehouses around the world, with over $13 million in commodities in inventory. They provide 40 large shipments and many smaller shipments throughout the year. At any given time, they have 2-3 ships on the water carrying food to their warehouses.

Before HIMS, they were using spreadsheets to manage their supply chain. They were unable to share accurate, timely information during humanitarian disasters. They knew they could do more if they adopted some of the supply chain technology that commercial companies are using.

As Greg Olson, Program Director for the Office of Food for Peace, describes, “we’re very thankful for the funding that we get, and we do everything we can to manage it as best we can, and that’s a big part of what this system will allow us to do, centrally tracking everything.”

So much goes into a supply chain of this size; they need to track suppliers, ocean carriers, freight forwarders, and more. With so many moving parts, sharing accurate information with their distributors is essential.

Here’s how USAID uses HIMS to streamline their supply chain:

USAID has Full Visibility into their Inventory Management

Tracking is at the center of what USAID does, HIMS tracks the essential items from the warehouse to the hands of the distribution partners (like the World Food Program or Catholic Relief Services).

Warehouse inventory is tracked down to the item, allowing USAID to answer detailed crucial questions like:

Do we have enough rice to ship for the Nigerian relief effort?  What should we order to restock our Miami warehouse?  What warehouse has more inventory to help with new disaster relief?

They’ve Automated Supply Chain Tasks and Have Mobile Access

HIMS automates a lot of the tasks that go into a shipment; this makes for much faster delivery. The shipments travel through a system workflow – from the warehouse checking out items to the delivery driver updating the freight once they arrive at the port, to final delivery. The supply chain team tracks every step until it reaches the destination.

The HIMS mobile application allows those in the field to get or update shipment information quickly. The mobile app works offline, allowing for the information to be accessed and updated in areas where the internet connection is down, or there isn’t one. Once connected, all data is synced to and from the mobile app.  For an organization that is regularly delivering to disaster or remote areas, having offline access is invaluable.

They Replenish Orders Faster 

Using HIMS, USAID is gathering a tremendous amount of actionable data. This data allows them to continually analyze warehouse inventory and the supply chain process, which allows for faster, more accurate food deliveries. According to Greg Olson, speeding along the replenishment process can save people’s lives.

USAID has successfully connected their warehouses, the people involved in shipments, supply chain dispatch, leadership, everyone involved in their worthy cause, on one platform. In keeping with their compassionate, innovative spirit, USAID plans on creating predictive analytics to figure out trends to make even more informed decisions.

We thank them for their compassion and dedication to feeding the world, faster.

HIMS was built on the Nuvolo and ServiceNow Platform.  To learn more about the HIMS project watch our webinar:  How USAID Digitally Transformed the Humanitarian Inventory Management System