Sourcing food from 90 countries, moving goods to more than 80 and delivering cash assistance to over 50, in an average year the World Food Programme (WFP)’s supply chain reaches 91.4 million people in need.
Given the complexities of running such a huge operation, good planning is an essential tool to ensure we can help even more people with the same resources and manage on-time deliveries. The unpredictability of disasters and crises – which can make WFP needs spike overnight – and the difficulty to forecast the ebb and flow of donor contributions make this function all the more important.
We have made a series of changes to make supply chain planning more flexible. These include better demand planning data, a variety of advance financing tools, and more diverse types of humanitarian assistance – whether it is food, cash or a combination of the two. Our end-to-end supply chain management enables us to intervene successfully in large and complex emergencies, including in insecure and volatile environments. In Syria, we were able to reduce lead times by 40 days since the start of the operation, by utilizing advance financing mechanisms that allow us to call forward urgently needed food commodities.
WFP’s approach to supply chain planning is based on the principles of continuous improvement and collaboration, both within the organization and beyond – with private sector partners and governments. Our planning begins and ends locally. We seek to ensure that the people we serve receive more for each dollar spent by identifying the most appropriate way to deliver assistance; aggregating demand across regions and countries, as well as over longer periods (for example, through six-month or annual contracts, where WFP can negotiate better prices and delivery terms); optimizing our choices (for instance, analyzing food basket composition, time and costs for certain delivery routes); and applying end-to-end transparency and effective coordination.
Performance monitoring, which includes close oversight and analytical support on supply chain costs at the country office level, helps supply chain staff across WFP understand the broader goals of the business plan, the progress towards them, and how they are contributing to this. The ability to assess and manage risk, such as the potential of loan defaults by smallholder farmers and high retail prices in remote locations, is important as well. Thanks to data and analytics, our supply chain planning capacity allows us to make informed decisions on potential risks and find out how they can be mitigated.
Better supply chain planning also contributes to WFP’s broader mandate goals, such as connecting smallholder farmers to markets, increasing WFP’s supply chain spend in developing countries, enhancing local retail supply chains, and strengthening government safety net programs.