My Background

I have spent the past 3 years developing Logistics and Supply Chain Databases for 2 different NGOs across Indonesia, Pakistan and Uganda. I believe that IRC is now using one of these databases as a global standard across all of their offices. The last 2 years has been spent with Save the Children USA in Banda Aceh, developing a supply chain management (SCM) system to assist their Tsunami recovery programs. Here is the user manual which I wrote for the SCM database:

I have also included a couple of demo videos of this database (you'll have to download to watch sorry):

I have now finished with these projects, although I know there is still a lot of room for improvement in this area. Unfortunately I see NGOs all pursuing their own systems independently. I hope with Sahana we may be able to develop a system which many different NGOs are able to use, which will be more efficient, and hopefully more effective, by improving collaboration between NGOs.


This is an attempt to simplify the draft requirements, and attempt to align them with what is currently present in the Inventory Module. I may be over simplifying Mark’s requirements (please let me know), but hopefully we can come up with a basic design which can be expanded later.

I have deliberately kept this brief (and lazily a bit rough), I don’t want to write a huge amount before I have a complete understanding of what has already been done, although at the same time I hope that we can start to come together to requirements! Please let me know if I need to clarify anything, or if you think I’m wrong on any points.

My intention is to have software which will help the warehouse storekeepers manage their items in their inventory, this includes:

  • Producing documentation on the receipt/dispatch/adjustment of items
  • Producing Inventory Item Ledgers
  • Producing Item Movement Reports


(At this stage) To produce Warehouse software aimed specifically at NGOs in developing countries, for use in disaster relief, recovery and development programs. That's what I'd like to see (my bias!) I hope it doesn't conflict with other people's goals, but I thought it best to be transparent about it.

At this stage I'm only talking about warehouse software, but later I hope that we could include procurement, asset management, fleet management and potentially distribution tracking.

One step at a time…


Inventory – a location where items are stored, either permanently, or in transit. This could be a warehouse, and dock, an airport, etc.



Add Inventory

Warehouse Staff

Receive Items

Add Item(s) to a specific inventory (This may include multiple items of different types). All 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
  4. Category/Subcategory (LINK TO LIBRARY LOOKUP MASTER LIST)
  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 quanitity quanitifyer – 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

Produce Goods Received Note form. This information could automatically be filled if the inventory is receiving a shipment dispatched from another inventory using sahana.

Dispatch Items

Remove(s) from a specific inventory (This may include multiple items of different types). Produce Waybill form.

Adjust Items

Change the Item Balance due to loss/damage/theft


View Inventory Item Ledgers

View Item Movement Reports

Enter Incoming Items (not essential)

This could be from procurement, donations , etc etc This would reduce the data entry when receiving these items

Request Items from Inventory(not essential)

This would reduce the data entry when dispatching these items

Designation and Aggregations

My understanding of this is that an inventory may contain the same item, but designated to different Recipient/Project etc etc. This is an important, but complicated feature – especially in respect to items allocated to different Grants (or Budgets) for NGOs.

Item Catalog

I am not entirely sure what has already been done to this, but I know that this is difficult.

I believe that it is very important that all Warehouse Staff can enter new items, because you very know what things might end up being received into their inventory.

In the warehouse module which I developed I had big problems, because there was a lack of a standard catalog, and a lack of naming conventions, which resulted in a huge number of duplicate names. There is definitely a need to manage all new items which are added, or add search routines to prevent the addition of duplicate items.

I think that it is best if we can pre-populate a catalog (based on appropriate items). If an NGO were to start using this for warehouse management, I am sure that they will be able to provide us which item lists for catalogues, although this information will need to be standardized. I have an item list of ~10,000 items from the last NGO I worked for .

Item details include: Name (in different languages) Brand Model Size Description Category (how is this being implemented in Sahana? Also a tricky one to standardize) I also included: Height Width Depth Weight But the were never used!

Current Inventory Module

I think that the Inventory Module already has a great deal of the functionality, BUT:

  • I think that the focus has been around data management, rather than warehouse management
  • Items are “added” instead of received
  • I can’t see the function to dispatch items
  • I can’t see any functionality for producing support documentation such as Waybills or Goods Received Notes
  • It seems that

Apologies if I’ve made any mistakes here.

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