Warehousing and Distribution

Access to essential medicines and other health technologies to treat life-threatening illnesses has helped millions of people lead long and productive lives. However, global availability does not necessarily translate into equitable access to lifesaving health products in low- and middle-income countries. Ensuring that the right medicines and health supplies are available at the right place, at the right time, in the right amounts, and at affordable prices entails complex planning and effective supply management. Warehousing, inventory management, and distribution processes must be carefully managed to mitigate variations in both the demand and supply of health products.

By emphasizing total supply chain system performance rather than focusing on one particular component or disease-specific commodity, SIAPS aimed to support the continuous improvement of processes and operational performance across the full spectrum of supply chain management functions, including warehousing, inventory management, and distribution.

SIAPS also recognized that interventions must address the interrelated health system components that are critical for good warehousing, inventory management, and distribution system performance, including governance, human resources capacity building, information systems, financing, and service delivery.

Given the wide variation in country-level supply chains, the SIAPS approach focused on providing locally relevant and feasible interventions that strengthened the system as a whole. These ranged from improving warehouse layout design and basic warehousing operations management to implementing advanced, automated warehouse network designs  equipped to provide effective customer service, maintain optimum inventory levels, and ensure cost effectiveness.

In Angola, for example, SIAPS helped the national central medical store  design tools and process improvement approaches and adopt key performance indicators for its warehousing, inventory management, and distribution systems. SIAPS conducted trainings on good warehousing practices, process improvements, and system monitoring to help bolster staff capacity and performance. Staffing at the central medical store was reorganized according to key warehouse functional area rather than a disease-specific organization. This helped harmonize supply functions, streamline operations, and make warehousing processes more effective and efficient.