The Covid-19 response: the levers of the Supply Chain

A disaster is a situation that disrupts life to the extent that people's lives and/or livelihoods are at risk. These disasters can be either natural or man-made. An important criterion for classifying them is the speed with which the situation has occurred as an endemic.

Indeed, Covid-19 is one of them, and much more, it is a pandemic that has revealed the fragility of the world balance. What is the relevance of the response to Covid-19? In light of the scale of the Covid-19, and especially its unpredictability in the short term, the impact of the response is mixed. My aim is to make an inventory of the levers proposed by the Supply Chain as a response to the Covid-19. We will first deal with human resources, particularly logistics specialists, because the performance of a supply chain is subordinate to the quality of the human capital that drives it.

The second lever is legislation, it is essential to define a legal framework that legislates and in which all the actions taken find their foundation. Then we will talk about infrastructure, we will describe it in detail and we will determine an investment priority. Finally, we will present the flows of people and goods and we will conclude with the urgent need to dematerialise the supply chain.

Human Capital

The first lever is Man, experienced and well trained, the logistician will be able to elaborate an emergency operation, a response with a positive impact. The experience of logisticians is the greatest virtue, as such, it is necessary to consult and listen to the "men of the art".

Indeed, experienced logisticians are legitimate, because their proposals are based on proven methods. The initial training of students to acquire sound basic knowledge on the one hand, and the continuing education of senior citizens on the other, are a guarantee of knowledge transfer. The recommended attitude of the logistician is to listen to those affected, and especially to health professionals, in order to precisely define the problem, list the solutions and their consequences before choosing the best alternative to apply. Ultimately, the logistician will have to question the solutions applied through monitoring, control and evaluation.

Humanitarian logisticians are best suited for this, what does their job involve? They prepare for disasters by collecting and reporting information for future analysis. Humanitarian logisticians inspect the field in order to have a precise idea of the logistical capacity of the country, the region (warehouses, port, fleets, logistic service companies...). Logisticians listen to the programme (a department of a humanitarian organisation in the same way as finance, HR), which is more familiar with the needs of the beneficiaries (impacted populations, disaster victims). Armed with this information, the logisticians plan operations, pre-position the basic necessities and regularly put themselves in a situation (training, training).

Regulations

Is there a "library" where good practices, procedures, in other words, what to do when the dreaded event occurs, are recorded? Foresight is the basis of regulation, and it is produced upstream, long before the disaster occurs. The drafting of a continuity plan is, in this case, a major lever, it is done in periods of calm. What is a continuity plan? It is the set of measures put in place to ensure that activities will continue to run when disaster strikes. In concrete terms, it involves securing supplies and negotiating the signing of contracts for the supply of goods and services.

Logisticians must form an association to serve their country. What will be their role, they will propose links and bring them to the assembly for voting, promulgation and implementation. The Association of Logisticians, once created, will be a source of proposals and a privileged partner of the State, and perhaps the mismanagement of the distribution of life currently observed will no longer occur.

Infrastructures

As a matter of priority, investment should be made in the construction of storage facilities and operations coordination centres. Infrastructures must address two issues: good storage capacity and an efficient supply chain. In their design, investments must aim to alleviate the suffering of disaster victims, and infrastructures must allow vulnerable populations to access the products and services intended for them. Through the infrastructure, basic necessities must remain in their original state until the time of their use by the final recipients. It is imperative to promote local content and therefore, in effect, local purchases.

For this reason, at the very least, the manufacture of masks and the production of hydro-alcoholic solutions must be carried out at the local level. Road infrastructures must cover the national territory to facilitate the movement of logisticians who must collect the needs of the impacted people from the health personnel, build up stocks, monitor them and guarantee their integrity. Finally, it is essential to have a centre for organizing relief efforts. The CICES had this claim, but currently its land reserve has shrunk considerably. Diamniadio could legitimately play this role.

The Flows

The problem of food storage, transport and distribution during the Covid crisis19 revealed the shortcomings of Supply Chain choices. The movement of people and goods must be ensured, especially in this period of pandemic. Import-export flows, especially domestic ones, must solve the problem of accessibility and availability of resources. Ensure that health personnel can take samples anywhere in Senegal; that food and basic necessities are distributed to vulnerable populations (senior citizens, pregnant women and children); that masks, hydro-alcoholic gel and medicines circulate between the National Supply Pharmacy (PNA), health centres and hospitals. The flow of people and goods during the pandemic period is the highest risk in the Supply Chain.

Indeed, it is the link that is in the front office, it is the most exposed, it is a potential vector of covid-19. The rules of physical distancing must be scrupulously respected, people at risk must be identified and made available to health personnel to determine their precise state of health.

Digitisation of the supply chain

The digitalisation of the supply chain is the dematerialisation, the digital transcription of all "logistics and transport" activities. With regard to this study, I recommend the setting up of a database which will be responsible for collecting, analysing and restoring, in the form of a study, the prices of foodstuffs and basic necessities. It would be a good idea to make an inventory of critical products and food in order to create a safety stock that can be consulted online. The introduction of a digital transport exchange would optimise the movement of people and goods.

The freight forwarders in Senegal at the height of the Covid-19 crisis had placed 85% of their staff in teleworking. The work was carried out using tools such as Microsoft Teams; Zoom; Skype. This time was used to help the Supply Chain teams to improve their skills and initial and continuous training was provided thanks to e-learning platforms: blackboard, bleupoint; Google classroom ...

The choice of these 5 Supply Chain levers is justified by their short-term impact. In other words, by prioritising the 5 levers listed throughout our discussion we can obtain quick wins in the response to the Covid-19. The arrangement of these five Supply Chain levers constitutes a response to the Covid-19, the relevance of which depends on our attitude. The post-Covid-19 period, depending on our attitude, will be either a challenge or an opportunity.

Indeed, the key to judging the success of the response is time. The lesson to be learnt is that it is in the lull that a response is planned, it must be multidisciplinary and synchronised, in other words prospective. Covid-19 will be a benchmark event for us logisticians to judge our level of preparation, anticipation and implementation of the defined action plans. The Covid-19 revealed us that maybe a Supply Chain platform that delivers to iso standard that China with the advantage of proximity and without the language barrier, the Covid-19 pleads for the emergence of Senegalese national champions in Logistics and transport.

I invite the entire Senegalese logistics community to unite, make itself available and be a force of proposal for the Senegalese authorities.

Bernard Moise KANE Logistics Expert Graduate in International Transport (Paris-Sorbonne) Teacher-Researcher at ISM Group Email: b.kane@afrexsn.com