Is There a Logistics Professional in the House?

Even if you’re not a huge Star Trek fan, you’ve got to love Dr. McCoy—and the line he repeated so often that most of us could probably say it in our sleep: “(Darn) it Jim, I’m a doctor, not a _______.”

When you think about it, it’s incredibly funny, because when bad things happen, the first people we think of as being essential are doctors . . . and nurses, firefighters, or other types of first responders. And yet, as that notable blank indicates, other skill sets are often just as important.

As evidence, consider the capabilities and assets that logistics professionals bring to the table, especially during times like hurricane season. In fact, if Doctor McCoy were still practicing today, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him completing his catchphrase in one or more of the following ways.

Darn it Jim, I’m a doctor, not a trucking company.

After disasters hit, a big part of relief organizations’ job is to get critically needed items like food, hydration, and medical supplies to impacted areas as quickly as possible. The only problem is there are a lot of other public and private entities that are usually trying to rush their own items there at the same time. (Of course I probably don’t have to tell you that, because you’re often the ones tasked with replenishing depleted grocery store shelves.)

This can make timely and inexpensive trucking space difficult to come by, particularly for non-profit organizations.

Whether you can spare just enough room to transport a few pallets of bottled water a few states away or you’re willing to lend a few box trucks and drivers to a non-profit organization for a few days at a time, I strongly encourage you to consider offering some form of transportation up free of charge. Your generous offer will be much-appreciated—and in most cases, immediately put to use.

Darn it Jim, I’m a doctor, not a warehousing company/3PL.

Although many relief organizations operate distribution centers of their own, they almost always need extra places to store and stage the vast amount of cargo they’re sending to disaster-impacted areas.

If your company operates a DC near a place that’s been hard hit by a flood, fire, or other event, think about donating a bit of that space so that non-profit groups can use it to pre-position or cross-dock supplies. Ditto if you have a DC that’s located anywhere else, because sometimes corporations donate items that originate far away from disaster zones—and that may need to be stored for a few weeks or months until they’re needed.

Darn it Jim, I’m a doctor, not a forklift owner or forklift operator.

Where would we be without food banks that operate year-round to fight the everyday disaster of hunger? And where would they be without some of the materials handling equipment that enables them to more efficiently process the deluge of incoming goods following a disaster?

A short-term loan of an item like one of your DCs’ pallet jacks or forklifts could be a life-saver to a relief organization that’s operating in a hurricane-ravaged town. So could supplying a qualified driver who can operate it.

Darn it Jim, I’m a doctor, not a logistics professional.

Experts estimate that logistics accounts for as much as 80% of humanitarian organizations’ overall cost during disasters—and that as much as 40% of that goes to waste. And it’s not hard to see why, because most disasters usually don’t provide a lot of advance warning. And even those that do (like hurricanes) have a pesky way of making last-minute changes to their itineraries. As a result, most non-profit organizations have to plan at least a portion of their disaster shipments on the fly, all while contending with worst-case conditions like flooded roads, dangerous debris, damaged railways, or closed ports.

Your company can help offset some of this inefficiency by being willing to lend your expertise to these non-profit organizations. Just as important, you can help by temporarily being willing to team up with other organizations like yours—including competitors—so that disaster-impacted areas can get to a place of supply chain recovery sooner.

Such collaboration goes a long way toward rapid problem-solving—and enabling everyone to avoid duplication of effort.

Darn it Jim, I don’t have any more room in this article.

There’s a lot more I could say about this subject, including how important supply chain volunteerism is, why a box is often more than just a box (especially when it helps to organize donated supplies) and why one of the best ways your company can help is by encouraging all of your employees to have a personal disaster plan in place—and making their safety your top priority.

But for now, suffice it to say that, while you may not come complete with a warp drive, replicator, or teleporter, you and other supply chain professionals like you already have many of the qualities it takes to boldly go and make a positive difference. Because as we often like to say here at ALAN, good logistics really does have the power to save lives.

In other words, thank heavens you’re not a doctor.


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