In January 2015, our SRH logistics class went on a field visit to the logistics center of the German Red Cross (Deutsches Rotes Kreuz, DRK) at Schönefeld Airport near Berlin. The logistics center was established in 2010 in this location because of the proximity to the airport.
This report was written by BA13 students who took part in the excursion organized by Daniel Wolff, lecturer for Logistics Management at SRH Hochschule Berlin.
The German Red Cross was founded 150 years ago. It has a federated structure. In Germany, it consists of a national organization and 19 regional branches. The mission of the Red Cross is to promote life, well-being, protection, peaceful cohabitation and dignity for all human beings. The organization has a broad range of tasks on the regional level, such as emergency medical services, civil protection, disaster relief and health services. Furthermore, it contributes to humanitarian aid worldwide, with stations in 15 countries.
In 2013, 51.2 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations. Approximately 16.7 million of them had refugee status: 11.7 million under UNHCR’s (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) mandate and 5 million Palestinian refugees registered by UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East). The global figure included 33.3 million IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) and close to 1.2 million asylum seekers.
The type of logistics work performed by the Red Cross at Schönefeld is associated with the scientific discipline “Humanitarian Logistics” or “Disaster Relief Logistics”. Humanitarian Logistics is defined as the process of planning, implementing and controlling the efficient, cost-effective flow and storage of goods and materials, as well as related information, from the point of origin to the point of consumption for the purpose of alleviating the suffering of vulnerable people. In this problem area, not only state-of-the-art logistics expertise is important, but also experts with longstanding experience in the field are required in order to ensure a targeted and timely response to disaster situations. Ideal-type solutions are not sufficient, but creative improvisation is very important.
Another very important issue at the logistics center is security. Every item needs to be checked and scanned before being sent to crisis regions. This task is performed at airport Tegel. Additional costs can occur if items are tampered with by visitors and have to be checked a second time. Therefore, two security guards followed us inside the warehouse to prevent any manipulations of the supplies, not to speak of other reasons like stealing or damaging items of the stock (we would have never done that, of course!).
One example of the packages provided by the Red Cross is the hygiene package, which includes toothbrushes, tooth paste, shower gel, shampoo, female hygiene articles etc. We were showed what kind of mistakes can be made when preparing such packages. For instance: a family package contains about five toothbrushes. It is important that they have different colors, so that each family member can easily identify its own. Another issue was the lids of shampoo and shower gel bottles. If the lid would be like a simple water bottle lid, it would be hard to dose the portions and shampoo or gel would be wasted. The best option is to choose bottles with small openings that only release the content when the bottle is squeezed. This way, people can use the bottle’s content more sparingly and ensure that the product will last longer.
Another example of the services provided by DRK is water cleansing technology by chemical powder. This is a very convenient way of providing water to refugees. While water has a significant weight, which makes it hard to transport in large amounts, this method takes the factor of weight away and allows the Red Cross to utilize a water supply available locally, no matter how clean or dirty the water is. The method purifies dirty water in order to make it suitable for human consumption. This also shows how the technological advancements available in the world today can be used to provide convenience and help to refugees.
We thank the Red Cross for the interesting visit.
Further reading about Humanitarian Logistics: