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GSOC 2009 Design Plan for Sahana Logistics Management System


No disaster management system is complete without a way of managing the logistics required by a disaster relief operation. Time and again, governmental and non-governmental organizations have their supply chains overwhelmed by having to handle more items than they are used to for normal operations. The challenges logistics poses will determine the success or failure of any relief operation.

According to ISCRAM’s 2009 Call for Papers for Humanitarian Logistics Processes and supporting IT Systems, “Logistics efforts can account up to 80% of disaster relief spending and thus, efficient and effective logistics activities become crucial for successful humanitarian operations.” Efficient and effective logistics activities are also crucial to the success of any project that a charitable organization or government agency may undertake. Having a system in place to manage these resources that is valued on a daily basis for routine operations but is easily scalable to handle larger requirements during a disaster will help ensure the success of that agency’s emergency relief operations.

The basic principles of logistics are the get things and people to the right place, at the right time, in the right conditions, at the right price. The main things which a logistics management system must organize are:

  • Procurement
  • Transport
  • Warehousing

A robust Logistics Management System is planned for Sahana that will address all of these requirements and more. However, this project is admittedly too big for a GSoC project, so we propose to start by building a Warehousing Management module that is designed to handle the requirements of warehousing operations by non-governmental organizations working in the developing world.

Governmental and non-governmental organizations now are typically all pursuing their own systems independently. We hope that by adding this functionality to Sahana, we may be able to develop a system which many different agencies are able to use effectively, which will be more efficient, by improving collaboration between them.


To produce Warehouse Management module aimed specifically at NGOs in developing countries, for use in disaster relief, recovery and development programs. This stage of development is limited to developing a module for use in a warehouse, but it is designed to fit within the broader plan for a logistics management system that would include procurement, asset management, fleet management, commodity tracking, supply chain management and distribution tracking and reporting.

Design Plan

The proposed Sahana Warehouse Management module incorporates two crucial pieces of functionality for any non-governmental organization – the ability to receive (or intake) items into its inventory, and to manage how the warehouse handles those items. This functionality will be of great value to the organization during normal operations and for handling emergency times.

Warehouse Intake System

Intake involves a record of the receipt of goods/items at a warehouse location using Sahana to manage logistics. It records essential information about goods entering the Sahana Warehouse Management system. Adding items to a specific warehouse inventory may include multiple items of different types. The following details must be recorded:

1. Ordered List Item
2. Air Way Bill (AWB)/Bill of Lading (BOL)/other tracking number for the shipment
3. Product Name/Description
5. Sender/Donor/Consignor
7. Designated for: (Specific project, population, village or other earmarking of the donation SUCH AS GRANT CODE)
8. Quantity/AWB
9. Shortage/Damage
10. Net Quantity Received [Line 7 minus line 8 – this is used as quantity going forward
11. Unit of Measure (descriptor: Packing Type/Unit Size)
12. Specifications (additional quantity quantifier – i.e. “4mx5m”
13. Unit Size [Default to 1 – allow users to change it]
14. Weight (set unit of measure flag – KG or LBS)
15. Date (POSSIBLE TO LINK TO AUTO-FIELD – but can override to change)
16. Time (POSSIBLE TO LINK TO AUTO-FIELD – but can override to change)
18. Attachments
19. Price

The system will also need to produce a Goods Received Note form. This information could automatically be filled if the inventory is receiving a shipment dispatched from another inventory using Sahana.

Warehouse Inventory Management System

Once received at the warehouse, items are managed by the system. These functions include:

1. ADJUST QUANTITY AND UNIT OF MEASURE – during intake, items may be recorded in bulk fashion (by pallet) or total weight – which is often not the most useful way to track goods. When being entered into an inventory system – it is often more useful to break down those larger units of measure into more useful product units (i.e. into individual items or boxes). For example 25 MT of tents may become 1500 four-person tents. The system should allow for conversion into unit size in kilograms/pounds or in unit/numbers.

2. KITTING and DE-KITTING – users should be able to define a kit that is made up of individual items from stock. This would allow, for example, for creation of a family ration of rice, pulses, and oils from bulk stock. It would also allow dekitting – the breaking up of a single stock item identified as a kit – into its component parts – for example, an “emergency health kit” might be broken down and separated into its individual medications and medical supplies and equipment.

3. AGGREGATE OPTION – identically named items with identical units of measure, identical consignees and possibly identical donors/senders may be aggregated into a single item.

4. ASSIGN STORAGE LOCATION – indicates where the items are being stored in the warehouse, such as building, room #/location and bin number

To remove items from the inventory – there should be only the following two options:

5. DISPATCH ITEMS - through creation of shipments; printing of shipping manifests is included here.

6. DISPENSE ITEMS DIRECTLY – this would be used for warehouses that distribute items outside of the system directly (either to support an adjoining hospital or distribution center or for NGOs who collect items).

7. DISPOSAL OPTION FUNCTIONALITY – Sometimes items in stock need to be disposed of because they are expired or otherwise spoiled goods or other items not needed or desired to be tracked anymore. Disposal will similarly remove or reduce stock of items.

8. ADJUST ITEMS - adjust item balance due to loss, damage or theft.

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