The scope and magnitude of United Nations peacekeeping operations, and the logistics challenges of supporting 100 000 peacekeepers in operations around the world, were highlighted in a riveting and award-winning presentation at the recent SAPICS Conference in Cape Town.

Herbert Pechek, who is the supply chain management principal at the United Nations Support Office in Somalia, was the main architect of the transformation of the organisation’s complex, multidimensional peacekeeping operations into an efficient horizontal supply chain. He shared his insights and experiences with supply chain professionals representing 28 countries who attended this year’s SAPICS Conference, which is hosted annually by SAPICS, The Professional Body for Supply Chain Management. Pechek won the “Best Speaker” award at the three-day conference, which is Africa’s leading event for supply chain professionals.

The United Nations celebrated the 70th anniversary of UN peacekeeping last year. Over the past 70 years, more than 1 million men and women have served under the UN flag in more than 70 peacekeeping operations. More than 100 000 military, police and civilian personnel from 125 countries currently serve in 14 peacekeeping operations.

Despite operating a large, complex supply chain network consisting of processes and activities to procure, produce and deliver materials and services that include fuel, rations, water, equipment, modular camps and other items to field missions around the world, the UN did not use the words supply chain management before 2012, Pechek informed SAPICS Conference delegates. “The shift from ‘business as usual’ and a focus on what we deliver to thinking of the entire end to end supply chain started around 2014, when we discovered the SCOR tool (supply chain operations reference model) and began the mammoth process of aligning UN supply chains with industry standards. Our vision was to have a well-managed and agile supply chain to support UN field missions with effectiveness and efficiency. This represented the kick-off for the paradigm shift.”

Pechek shared remarkable statistics to illustrate the importance of transforming the organisation’s approach to supply chain management. “In terms of its aircraft and aviation services, the UN’s peacekeeping operation would be ranked in the top 20 in the world if it was an international airline,” he revealed. “Water and sanitation, power and energy, vehicles, field technology and fuel must reach the most remote areas of the world. In 2018, UN peacekeeping produced almost five billion litres of drinking water and treated 2.2 billion litres of wastewater.”

Fuel, food, medical support…

Pechek said that fuel supply is one of the organisation’s main supply chains, and revealed that in 2018, 28 million litres of diesel fuel and 10 million litres of jet A-1 fuel were supplied for peacekeeping missions. More than 61 million kWh of power was generated by over 220 power generation stations operated by UN peacekeeping, he said. Inventory held by UN peacekeeping last year included roughly 90 000 SKUs (stock keeping units), including 29 000 SKUs of spare parts.

Food, rations and catering supply chains serve more than 400 UN cafeterias and field kitchens globally. United Nations peacekeepers consumed some 28 000 tons of fresh food in 2018, along with 50 000 tons of dry food and more than 2 000 tons of combat rations.

The medical support provided for UN peacekeeping missions last year included 487 tons of medicines and medical supplies for more than 722 000 patients and 768 UN-operated clinics.

“Our supply chains are life critical,” Pechek stressed. “The effectiveness of peace operations depends on the operational support received. If our supply chains don’t succeed, lives are at risk. We have to get it right the first time.”

While transforming its supply chain strategy, the UN also rolled out an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system. Pechek says that while the change has been challenging, and change management was critical, there is growing recognition in the organisation of the importance of supply chain management. “This fundamental change of approach in supporting field operations represented a clear paradigm shift that not everyone understood immediately. Many voices questioned the move from something that has served us quite successfully for nearly 70 years. In January 2019, our success was reflected in the appointment at UN headquarters of an Assistant Secretary General for Supply Chain Management.

“Ultimately, better supply chain management will contribute to better mandate implementation for UN peacekeeping, special political and other field missions,” he said.

Share This