Disaster Response Supply Chains – Flooding Scenario

You are in charge of coordinating a major disaster response effort. You are working with a geographically dispersed team of people from different disaster response organizations ranging from government agencies to military units, from commercial companies to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the Red Cross, etc.You need to guide people through a collaborative process of designing and operating the supply chains needed to respond effectively to this flooding disaster.

No one organization can create and operate these supply chains on their own, so ways must be found to make decisions and work together. Effective disaster response depends on supply chains to deliver supplies and equipment where and when needed. First responders at disaster sites cannot do their jobs without responsive supply chains to support their work. This case study explores creating and managing disaster response supply chains to handle a flooding disaster similar to the floods that occurred in Central Europe in 2002, 2010 and 2013 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_European_floods).

Flooding Map of Europe2Recent Floods in Central Europe (click for larger image)

This case study explores both the expected and unexpected aspects of responding to a regional flooding disaster. First there is the phased deployment in response to predicted and planned for areas of flooding. Then the sudden impending collapse of a dam upstream from a major city brings about the need for rapid response to an unexpected development.

A Flooding Disaster is Expected

There is a large scale river flooding event approaching. Weather forecasts are ominous, and water level monitoring sensors on rivers in the region are broadcasting real-time data showing rising water levels. As data comes in, the most probable areas of flooding become evident. In planning sessions prior to this date, there have already been lively discussions and exchanges of views between the different organizations involved, so there is a basic plan already in place to respond to this kind of disaster.

Using a cloud-based collaboration platform you convene an online meeting of people from all the organizations that will be part of the disaster response effort. Geographically dispersed teams of people login to the meeting with their PCs and laptops and tablets from wherever they are. You bring up the disaster response supply chain that people have already agreed to and worked out in past training and planning sessions. It is shown in the screenshot below. All parties can see the same big picture map and the supply chain drawn on the map.

 (load “Disaster Response Supply Chains – Flooding Scenario” from the SCM Globe library of case studies)

The supply chain is composed of four entities – products, facilities, vehicles and routes – which have been defined and placed on the map. In the screenshot below, the dialog box in the upper right shows information on one of the prepositioned products, “Food Mix” for 100 people. In the sidebar menu on the right side of the screen are the four supply chain entities. Facilities are shown on the map and the routes between them are shown in blue.

Big Pic Context Map MedResInitial Humanitarian Supply Chain to Serve Flooded Areas (click for larger image)

Equipment and supplies have already been pre-positioned at distribution centers in a proactive move to meet expected flooding scenarios. These distribution centers are operated by military, governmental and non-governmental organizations. Transportation of products from these centers to disaster locations is provided by a mix of different organizations. And operations at each disaster location are also handled by a mix of different organizations.

This supply chain model is updated with the best available product demand forecasts based on data coming in from the expected flooding locations. Then you run simulations so that everyone can see how well the planned supply chain will operate, and spot potential problem areas. The simulation shows day by day performance of the supply chain, and it finds several problems that happen on the fourth day:

  • Drinking water in Prague runs out
  • Shelter tents in Magdeburg run out
  • Drinking water in Riesa runs out

The graph on the right side of the screenshot below shows on-hand inventory at Riesa. The light blue line represents supplies of drinking water. The simulation data can be downloaded to a spreadsheet for further analysis as shown by the download arrow in the lower left of the screen.

itec - prepos and pd 2Results From a Simulation  (click for larger image)

You and the disaster response team you are working with use simulation data to fix these problems. You keep simulating different supply chain designs until you find a supply chain design that works for this expected flooding disaster.

Your goal is to design a supply chain that will meet projected demand at all flooding locations for the next 15 – 20 days. It will involve trying out different combinations of facilities, vehicles and routes to deliver the supplies to each location where those supplies are needed.

Displays for on-hand inventory at facilities as well as information on products and vehicles are available by opening the different tabs shown in the display area on the right side of the screen. It is also apparent from looking at the map of the supply chain that supplies for Riesa are delivered from the Dresden warehouse where they were pre-positioned. Let’s take a closer look at operations in and around Dresden to see how operations there are progressing.

TIP: Save backup copies of your supply chain model from time to time as you make changes. Then if a change doesn’t work out, you can restore from a saved copy.

Dresden Flooding Scenario

You decide to explore the specific situation in Dresden in greater detail. The screenshot below shows a detailed model of the disaster supply chain specifically in the Dresden area (go to SCM Globe library and import “Dresden Flooding Scenario“). The Dresden warehouse is the same one shown in the larger model. Additional detail is shown in the local aid stations and the vehicles and routes to deliver products from the Dresden warehouse to the aid stations. Notice most of the delivery routes are by roads traveled by trucks. But one delivery route – the straight line between Dresden warehouse and the airport across the river is an air route traveled by helicopters.

DresdenDisaster Supply Chain in the Dresden Area  (click for larger image)

People quickly find out more about the aid station across the river by clicking on the Klotzche Aid Station facility. In the screenshot below the dialog box on the left shows information about this facility. The two dialog boxes on the right show information about the vehicles (helicopters) and the route used by those vehicles to deliver supplies to this aid station.

itec - scrn 5Supplies at Klotzche Aid Facility and Route Used by Helicopter to Deliver Necessary Supplies  (click for larger image)

A wealth of data is available to describe the four supply chain entities: products; facilities; vehicles; and routes. Because the data is presented within the organizing context provided by the map-based user interface, this data is quickly understood and people gain situational awareness. Situational awareness allows people to see the big picture and understand how the individual parts of this supply chain work together; they do not get lost in the details.

As you run a simulation of this detailed Dresden disaster response supply chain you see that there is again a problem on day four. The Dresden warehouse runs out of blankets needed to supply the Meissen Aid Station.

itec - scrn 6bAdditional Necessary Data Relating to the Supply Chain  (click for larger image)

All parties in these online sessions can see for themselves how well different disaster response plans work. They can see where the problems are and collaborate on ways to best respond to these problems as they arise in the simulations. Everyone can see what facilities show the greatest demands for products. They can see the vehicles and routes available to deliver those supplies.

Soccor StadiumSatellite View of Stadium to be Used as Aide Station  (click for larger image)

This transparency of data, along with the common goal shared by all parties of delivering effective disaster response services, has the effect of bringing about a consensus concerning the actions to be taken by all participants. Different supply chain options are quickly modeled, and simulations show the best courses of action.

Using simulations to explore different options quickly shows everyone what combination of routes and delivery schedules will work best. Because the disaster situation is now understood, people are in a position to fine tune their supply chain operations. Organizations can coordinate with each other to determine who is best situated to deliver what assets to what locations. This drives the coordination between different organizations involved in delivering and using disaster supplies at specific locations.

Register on SCM Globe to gain access to this and all other case studies. Click the blue “Register” button on the home page (www.scmglobe.com) and buy a subscription (if you haven’t already) using a credit card or PayPal account. Then go to the SCM Globe library and click the “Import” button next to this case study. Scan the “Getting Started” section (if you haven’t already), and you are ready to go. To share your changes and improvements to this model with other SCM Globe users see “Download and Share Supply Chain Models” ]

FIRST CHALLENGE — Create a supply chain model that takes supplies from the pre-positioned disaster response distribution centers and delivers them in a timely manner to meet demand at the different flooding locations. You need to create a high level supply chain model that meets demand for the overall situation in Central Europe, and create a low level supply chain model that meets specific demands in Dresden. And both supply chains need to work for 15 – 20 days.

You can take supplies from any distribution center, and use any combination of vehicles and routes. Vehicles can range from trains to trucks and helicopters. If you need more vehicles, go ahead and create them and assign them to facilities where they will be based. Then create the routes they will use to deliver supplies.

Here are some things to think about as you design this supply chain:

  • Identify the greatest points of risk in the supply chain and modify your design to reduce these risks. Points of risk are facilities, vehicles and routes where a disruption in operations would affect the largest number of other facilities in the supply chain.
  • Unlike commercial supply chains, the best disaster response supply chains are not the lowest cost supply chains. But it is good to lower costs where possible so the money saved can be used elsewhere. Look for ways to lower costs in your disaster supply chain.
  • Think out of box. Experiment with different kinds of vehicles and routes to deliver supplies to the disaster sites. In addition to trucks, railroads and helicopters, consider other types of vehicles such as airships and river barges. What if an airship was available that could travel at 100 km/hr and carry 225 metric tons of cargo? How would that change your supply chain? What if there were places where barges could safely navigate flooded rivers and dock at disaster sites?

An Unexpected Event calls for Surge Capacity

You put the supply chain model created above into operation. And now disaster response managers from different organizations are able to respond effectively to demands in the expected flooding areas. The disaster situation seems to be in hand, and good progress is being made on delivering the supplies needed at each of the flooding sites.

Then something unexpected happens (as it so often does in disasters). The main dam on the Vitava River upstream from Prague is showing signs of distress. The hillsides on either side of the river are sodden with rain and there seem to be cracks appearing in the foundation of the dam wall on one side of the river. If the dam were to give way a wall of water would go rushing down the river valley and reach Prague in about half an hour.

itec - scrn 8Satellite View of Vitava River Dam and Map Location  (click for larger image)

Reports keep coming hour by hour that the situation at the dam is deteriorating. There is perhaps a day, maybe two before the engineers expect the dam to give way. The only way to avert a complete collapse is to open the flood gates, and that still will create a surge of water only a little less destructive than the collapse of the dam. This suddenly creates urgent demand for supplies in the next 24 hours to be delivered to Prague.

itec - scrn 9Map View of Potential New Distribution Centers that can Possibly Serve the Supply Chain

Now you need to modify the high level supply chain model you created so as to respond to this new development. You click on the Prague Warehouse facility in the sidebar menu on the right of the screen to get a display of on-hand inventory and other information. It is clear that supplies in Prague Warehouse have already been committed to cover demand in Pisek, Prague, Usti nad Labem, and Decin.

Where will additional supplies and equipment come from?

You can see from the situation map that the distribution centers in Frankfurt, Munich, Sankt Polten, Dresden and Berlin are already committed to supporting their respective disaster sites. New supplies must come from currently uncommitted warehouses in Wroclaw, Krakow, Bratislava or Budapest.

SECOND CHALLENGE — Create a supply chain to take supplies from available distribution centers and deliver needed quantities to the Prague Warehouse within 24 hours. Simulate its operation to show that it will perform as needed to meet this challenge.

There is need for flood barricades, sandbags, bulldozers and cranes. And the need for food and shelter for people who will have to be evacuated from areas of Prague causes existing demand numbers in Prague to triple. Here are some questions to explore as you simulate possible solutions to this challenge:

  • What distribution centers have how much of these supplies and how much can be delivered in the next 24 hours?
  • What additional vehicles are needed and what kind of vehicles?
  • Add products such as sandbags or bulldozers – define their shipping size and weight and create vehicles and routes to bring them from their points of origin to Prague
  • Which of the available warehouses should respond to this need for surge capacity?
  • What are the risks of other unexpected developments that would call for these same warehouses to respond elsewhere?
  • How much extra capacity (surge capacity) should be built into this supply chain to handle unexpected events?

Disaster Response Supply Chains are Different from Commercial Supply Chains

Commercial supply chains are based on planning and predictability. But because disasters are not planned, they are the embodiment of unpredictability. That means the design and operation of disaster response supply chains calls for adequate surge capacity to handle the unpredictability in their environments. It also calls for high levels of problem solving skills, particularly in the areas of planning, logistics and creative response to unexpected developments.

Attempts to apply centralized command and control often break down in disaster response supply chains because there are many different organizations ranging from military to governmental and non-government organizations and commercial companies involved. Each organization has its own agenda and resists being ordered about by the others. And each organization uses different technologies ranging from sophisticated, custom built hardware and software to commercial off-the-shelf hardware such as mobile phones, PCs, laptops and tablets using email, spreadsheets and other common applications.

Yet all must find ways to work together to achieve common goals in order for the disaster response effort to succeed. This calls for greater levels of human interaction and collaboration, not just the use of more technology. The technology that is used must be easily accessible and usable by all organizations involved. And there must be a simple yet effective planning and collaboration framework understood by all and used to guide people’s activity or else it will devolve into arguing and chaos. The simple 5-step Mission and Operations Planning process (M&OP) shown below is based on a best practice from commercial supply chains known as Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP).

 (see more about using the M&OP process in the case study Nepal Earthquake Disaster Response – 2015)

This case study illustrates use of off-the-shelf technology to create an online collaboration platform that all parties can access and use. It uses simulations to drive supply chain planning, and provide training for organizations to learn to work together in disaster response situations. When disaster events do occur, this collaboration platform enables everyone to see for themselves what is happening and see which courses of action are most likely to succeed. Because of this, consensus will emerge more quickly and enable more focused and effective action from all parties.


More simulations and resources for exploring disaster response supply chains are available on the SCM Globe website:


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