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How standards and modularity can improve humanitarian supply chain responsiveness: The case of emergency response units

Marianne Jahre (Department of Industrial Management and Logistics, Lund University, Lund, Sweden AND Department of Accounting, Auditing, and Business Analytics, BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo, Norway)
Nathalie Fabbe-Costes (CRET-LOG Research Centre, Aix-Marseille Université, Aix-en-Provence, France)

Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 2042-6747

Article publication date: 7 December 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to increase understanding of the use of standards and modularity for improving responsiveness in the humanitarian context.

Design/methodology/approach

Based on a conceptual framework and a systematic literature review, the authors conducted a longitudinal, explorative case on the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) concept in the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Society (IFRC), focussing particularly on the Health ERU in the Norwegian Red Cross.

Findings

The authors found that the ERU concept makes use of many types of standards that complement and influence each other, and that the focus on modularity is increasing due to a growing need for responsiveness. Main challenges are trade-offs between autonomy and adaptability to the context resulting in more modularization which may be in danger of breaking the concept.

Research limitations/implications

Results from this study could be refined by surveying staff involved in all types of ERU deployments. To explore the generalizability of the findings and test the propositions developed, more studies should be conducted.

Practical implications

The study provides more understanding of the use of standards and modularity for improving responsiveness. Practitioners can use the framework as a check-list to identify potential means for improvements. The case can be used for training, discussions, and reflections. The research feeds into IFRC’s and NORCROSS ongoing work to their global response tools.

Social implications

The results of the study can support improvements in humanitarian supply chains, thereby providing affected people with cost-efficient, rapid, and better-adapted responses.

Originality/value

The authors develop a framework for categorization of standards and modularity in the humanitarian context. The authors provide the first empirical study on how humanitarian organizations use standards and modularity to improve responsiveness concluding with a set of propositions on how the concepts are linked.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Thanks to SAMRISK, SMARTRANS, and BILAT in the Norwegian Research Council for funding and to anonymous reviewers for very constructive feedback on earlier versions of the manuscript. Special thanks also to all interviewees, and in particular Astrid Haugen in Norwegian Red Cross, and Sune Bulow in IFRC, for providing much of the data. The authors also want to thank the proof-reader James Morrison who in spite of short deadlines and computer breakdowns managed to help the authors with this manuscript.

Citation

Jahre, M. and Fabbe-Costes, N. (2015), "How standards and modularity can improve humanitarian supply chain responsiveness: The case of emergency response units", Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Vol. 5 No. 3, pp. 348-386. https://doi.org/10.1108/JHLSCM-06-2015-0026

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited