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Technology charity boosts supply chain for New Orleans aid

Tash Shifrin

A technology charity is using supply chain management software to manage the delivery of desperately needed aid to people from New Orleans and other areas devastated by hurricane Katrina.

Aidmatrix, a US not-for-profit organisation, supplied a system to track and manage relief supplies stored in a chain of specially set up disaster response warehouses, which are run by Adventist Community Services (ACS) on behalf of a coalition of major US charities.

The system ensures an efficient inventory and allows relief supplies to be tracked and managed so aid workers know what supplies are available, what is coming in and what has left the warehouse.

This helps to ensure that the right aid gets to the people who need it most and that urgent items are not lost amid miscellaneous donated material that may not be required.
 
Aidmatrix chief executive Scott McCallum said his organisation had been in long-term talks with ACS over setting up a warehouse inventory system, but in the wake of the hurricane, the timetable was scrapped and the system was set up within 24 hours.

“We went on the scene and trained people in 45 minutes in how to run the system. It was going to be a longer range project but we rushed in and did it on the fly,” McCallum said.

“It is a small staff and they have been working 20 hours a day. Some of the original warehouse sites were under water. We sent people in as the warehouses were going up.”

The Texas-based not-for-profit organisation was started through a software donation by supply chain developer i2 and has since developed the technology further, McCallum said.

“The software originally came from i2 and there is some Oracle and other things, and we have our own writers. It is supply chain technology that has been used in the commercial sector that has been reconfigured for humanitarian purposes.”

ACS has control over the warehousing operation, but the supply chain management system is maintained by Aidmatrix staff.

Aidmatrix has also rushed through delivery of platforms to allow the US Chamber of Commerce and American Red Cross to handle massive donations of goods and products following hurricane Katrina and the flooding.

The systems allow the charities to keep an inventory and manage distribution of donations through local branches or in liaison with partner agencies.

The technology charity has also provided web-based “virtual aid drives” for companies, including Accenture, Sun Microsystems and i2Technologies, to channel employees’ donations.


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