Our adventure fixing humanitarian relief logistics during Covid-19 crisis
Study Case  ·  Oct 2020 Por Diana Morales, Leader UX en OSA.

During the pandemic, we had the chance to collaborate in the huge task of bringing food and supply to Chile’s most vulnerable homes, proving will and commitment alone sometimes do not suffice. The ‘Know How’ is also needed.

In OSA we have always stayed true to our north, to exist with the purpose of improvement, and we felt more on-course than ever during the assistance to those most in need of aid during the pandemic.

Given the chance to destine our resources to collaboration, we came across the project ‘SiEmpre for Chile”, from the social initiative accelerator GeCo. In their branch “SiEmpre Alimentos” they were getting ready to deliver 120,000 food and supplies boxes among the beneficiaries assigned as the most vulnerable homes in Chile according to the ‘Ministerio de Desarrollo Social (Social Development Ministry)’. Surely, an enormous enterprise.

In order to do that, the ‘SiEmpre Alimentos’ team was already halfway achieving the financing and procurement for all these boxes, thanks to excellent entrepreneurship labor and fundraising among big enterprises. Now they needed to build up their volunteer network and database, so they’d be able to effectively deliver them.

At first they wouldn’t believe when we told them about the high level of complexity this project required. To their understanding, operations were consolidated over individual direct inputs on a shared excel sheet, and teaming up with a “last mile app” was more than enough to keep everything going.

It didn’t take long before problems started to show up among data consistency, information duplicity and the hardships it meant to try to make logic (and logistic) sense of the delivery IDs.

But OSA worked hard to put everything in order.

With the help of SiEmpre, (and as the other 3rd parties involved hesitated on their commitment), we managed to correct the structure and transform it into a new platform, allowing distribution centers and volunteers to sign up by themselves if needed, and properly arranging delivery requirement listing for export to routing apps.

We calculated a project end date for the expectable 90%+ of the 120,000 boxes and according to our numbers, it will be met soon.

Now, with the chance to look back and reflect, it deems important to highlight how very particular is Latin America when trying to make logistics work. Some unorthodox methods may be required to actually reach the esteemed fulfillment rates, for instance, opening an ‘additional indications’ input field next to the address, because many households don’t have an address number, or even a street. Also traceability was impossible without correctly assigning individual ID to every delivery.

But most important, is the need to rethink the way we, as a market, stand in disbelief towards the complexity of today’s logistic processes, as it seems easy to underestimate the work behind figuring out how to carry things from point A to point B, until it shows its very hard to take back the reins of a derailed operation in the midst of chaos, loss, unsatisfied clients, burnt out teams, wrong destinations, incorrect data, border cases and stretched ETAs.

The same problems that haunt retailers with the explosive increase of online shopping and deliveries, make themselves present in these kinds of operations, and we believe Chile has a lot to learn about logistics improvement, starting by taking them seriously.

We truly expect that every hour saved on the arrival of every box did help the beneficiaries. We stand proud and joyful of the work we put into this well achieved task, with the best success rate we could foresee, and we hope that this project also served as a valuable lesson for everyone involved.

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