Celebrating Corporate Giving in Logistics

The Holidays are a time for giving. My posting today celebrates the best example of corporate giving that I came across in my travels this year. TNT, a large global provider of express deliveries, and ORTEC, a company that provides a logistics optimization and execution platform with advanced planning capabilities, are the two companies whose intelligent giving has helped to make the world a better place to live.

In October of 2005, the President of Malawi, a nation in southeast Africa, declared a national disaster due to maize harvest failures. The World Food Programme (WFP) had an extensive partnership with TNT focused on improving the logistics of delivering emergency relief services when these kinds of disasters occur. In this case, however, WFP could not transport enough foodstuffs into Malawi because of a shortage of drivers due to the African AIDS epidemic.

Long distance drivers in Africa are often away from their homes for months. Border crossings are a choke point; drivers frequently wait two or more days before they can cross the border. Not surprisingly, communities have developed at these crossing sites to serve the needs of drivers. In the evenings, even at small border crossings, two to three hundred prostitutes arrive seeking to ply their trade. It is easy to see why the AIDS epidemic in Africa has hit drivers particularly hard.

Throughout many of the countries within southern, eastern and western Africa, the railway infrastructure is still significantly underdeveloped. As a result, the majority of freight is transported by road. A lack of truck drivers, therefore, has a pernicious effect not only on the freight transport industry but more generally on trade within Africa.

But HIV is not the only prevalent disease. Communities along the main transport corridors of Africa are also affected by other sexually transmitted infections and communicable diseases. In short, there was a need for a solution to tackle this issue.

A nonprofit known as the North Star Alliance was formed in 2006 based on contributions from TNT and the WFP. North Star Alliance is building a network of low cost roadside health clinics at transport ‘hotspots’ in Africa so that long distance truck drivers and surrounding communities have sustainable access to basic health care.

Roadside Wellness Centre

Roadside Wellness Centre in Mwanza, Malawi

Roadside Wellness Centres (RWCs) are converted shipping containers that are placed at ‘hotspots’ like border posts where large numbers of truckers stop and sex work flourishes. Wellness Centres are open “after hours” when truck drivers have parked for the night and sex work activity peaks. Half of the Centre is used for diagnosis and treatment, the other half for peer education on disease prevention and road safety training. For most communicable diseases, treatment is free. For HIV, there is an AIDS referral system. The services are provided to truckers, sex workers, and other members of the local community.

Since TNT is a strategic customer and partner of ORTEC, it was logical for ORTEC to work with TNT to provide technology, supply chain expertise and IT development expertise to enable this alliance to succeed.

As drivers travel across the continent and medical issues arise, diagnosis is improved if health care professionals have access to a driver’s medical records. ORTEC devloped and introduced, free of charge, an electronic health passport system called COMETS (Corridor Medical Transfer System) that allows health care professionals to access a driver’s medical records. COMETS also allows North Star to monitor clinic hours, the number of visitors, inventory levels and other critical information.

Currently there are 23 Centres and the goal is to have 100 by 2015. One of the consulting services ORTEC provides is strategic network design, such as determining where a company should open its next warehouse based on projected demand and transportation costs. More recently, ORTEC has used this skill set to help determine where subsequent Wellness Centres should be opened and which sites should have priority.

This is my last blog posting of the year, as Logistics Viewpoints will go on hiatus next week until the new year. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa Cheers, and a Happy New Year!