Building Capacity: Racking Warehouses Improve Medicinal Supply and Access in Ethiopia

 {Photo credit: Jiro Ose, SCMS}An Ethiopian warehouse after support from SCMS, USAID and PEPFAR.Photo credit: Jiro Ose, SCMS

This story originally appeared on the USAID Impact blog.

Ethiopia has the second largest population in Africa, and the thirteenth largest in the world. The current population of 84 million is expected to reach 120 million by 2030, and 145 million by 2050. Ethiopia will play a large role in meeting the global goal of putting 15 million people on HIV treatment by 2015 and in helping create an AIDS-free generation. To do so, the population of Ethiopia needs reliable and consistent access to medicine. At present, however, the ability to acquire medicine is limited due to challenges of access, supply, distribution and cost.

The Ethiopian government is undertaking a bold initiative to ensure that medicinal supply and access are available throughout the country. A major challenge is reaching a population whose majority lives in rural areas. Through a series of centralized and regional hubs, this initiative aims to serve thousands of health centers all over the country and overcome the hurdle to reaching patients. Achieving this aim is a complex undertaking, which is becoming increasingly more so as the diversity and volume of medicines regularly expands.

The Supply Chain Management System (SCMS), a project of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) administered by USAID, has stepped in to support this nation-wide initiative. At ten warehouse sites across Ethiopia, the physical warehousing capacity has greatly increased due to the introduction of a warehouse racking system. Warehouse racking allows for vertical storage without damaging stacked products due to weight.

[A warehouse in Ethiopia, before the racking system.] {Photo credit: SCMS}A warehouse in Ethiopia, before the racking system.Photo credit: SCMS

The racking system enables improved material organization, as products are stored and sorted by rack location. This ensures that short shelf-life products can be located and distributed in a timely manner. It also helps prevent stockouts as regional hubs can respond faster to need requests. Thus, warehouses become more efficient in terms of space utilization, organization and loss-prevention.

Improved warehouse distribution also enhances the ability of warehouses to reduce and prevent product expiry and handle emergency situations, such as product recalls. Furthermore, a better ability to respond to the supply and demand of the population, as well as reduce loss, facilitates for a reduction in product cost.

In Adama, for example, the warehouse capacity was increased by 35 percent, to 880 pallets (the platforms that boxes of commodities sit on for shipping and storage) with the introduction of racking. Organizational improvement is evident, which facilitates for improved cost-efficiency as the products can be stored, located and distributed in a more systematic manner. That, however, is just the beginning.

The government, with support from PEPFAR and the Global Fund, is constructing ten new and larger warehouse facilities to greatly increase warehouse capacity.

SCMS will outfit these new warehouses and expand upon existing facilities. When Adama’s new warehouse is complete, and racked, the pallet capacity will increase from 880 to 5,160. Across the ten sites, the existing pallet capacity of 6,039 will increase to 27,007.

The outfitting of racking in warehouses is only one contribution of many mechanisms that SCMS has provided to enhance and support the Ethiopian government in their aims of providing reliable and consistent access of medicine throughout the country. SCMS is not only meeting the needs of today, but planning for the needs of tomorrow.

Under the umbrella of the Partnership for Supply Chain Management (PFSCM), MSH leads the SCMS Ethiopia Office as part of a global team of 13 private sector, nongovernmental and faith-based organizations that are among the most trusted names in supply chain management and international public health and development.

Marvin Couldwell is Country Director for SCMS Ethiopia at MSH.

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