Exploring Collaborative Mobile Storage Units in the Humanitarian Supply Chain

University essay from Lunds universitet/Teknisk logistik

Abstract: This thesis is an explorative single case study on the United Nations Logistics Cluster with the purpose to explore the usage of collaborative Mobile Storage Unit (MSU) warehouses in terms of determining their activities’ and decisions’ connection to the disaster management cycle, as well as their challenges’ connection to the contextual factors of the humanitarian supply chain (HSC). It attempts to answer questions (1) What are the collaborative MSU activities and decisions throughout the phases of the disaster management cycle? and (2) How do humanitarian contextual factors influence challenges to collaborative MSU activities and decisions in humanitarian logistics?. Data was collected mainly through semi-structured interviews with practitioners from two different Logistics Cluster operations, and field observations at the Logistics Sector operations in the Kutupalong refugee camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. This was compared to literature on warehousing, the humanitarian context and the disaster management life cycle. General collaborative MSU activities and decisions were presented, along with descriptions for the first and parameters for the second. Activities were categorized to cycle-stages and decisions were, through using the disaster management life cycle, categorized in decision points, which both were visualised with the proposal of the collaborative MSU cycle. Challenges connected to these activities and decisions are found and presented, and their influence from humanitarian contextual factors was investigated. The thesis concludes that the collaborative MSU is a public warehouse with a distribution purpose and activities similar to a conventional commercial low tech warehouse, except in erection, dismantling and foundation, as well as those when the MSU is in stock. It distinguishes five unique features of the MSU warehouse: flexibility, temporarity, moveability, modularity and reusability. Furthermore, concluding that some contextual factors influence challenges a lot more than others. Together internal factors, poor operating conditions and high uncertainties influence the vast majority of challenges; values and principles, and stakeholder complexity very few. This thesis opens up for several interesting discussions on how the MSU is used in the HSC and during the phases of the disaster management cycle, both concerning practice and research.

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