In the field: Central African Republic
In Central African Republic (CAR), humanitarians are faced with a multitude of complex and unique logistics constraints. Working together is critical to ensure an effective and efficient response.
In the country’s capital Bangui the Logistics Cluster, which has been active in the country since 2013, coordinates access to common storage services provided by Première Urgence Internationale (PUI). Today, we catch up with Régis Parguez, PUI’s warehouse manager to chat about his role, challenges faced and the importance of warehousing and storage amid a humanitarian crisis.
What does your role as a warehouse manager include?
The role of warehouse manager is to oversee the warehouse’s daily activities, as well as being the link between PUI and external actors. This includes partners for whom I am the main focal point, as well as liaising with the different logistics actors in CAR, such as the Logistics Cluster.
Another interesting component of the work is having the chance to empower the team. I directly manage one person, but I have a big role to play in helping the team to gain new skills, become more operational and autonomous, and provide opportunities to evolve in their field of work.
The other side of the role is more internal. A warehouse manager has to represent its program to the different services. This includes regular contact with our logistics team on current supply and new material investments, or speaking with financial services regarding budget management. I also have to coordinate and oversee performance and new developments regarding the project, as well as liaise with human resources for the management and staffing aspects of the role.
What is the most common misconception about your work?
That the role is only an operational one. As I have to regularly check the stocks to see everything is well-done, supervise tasks (such as inventories), and stay on top of what is in the warehouse, I am rarely directly on the field. For these operational aspects, I have an assistant and a stock supervisor. This allows me to spend more time on representing the project internally and externally, as described above, and on the program development.
Régis Parguez (left) and his colleagues. Photo: Logistics Cluster Bangui
What are the most challenging parts of your job?
This job offers a wide variety of tasks which are all very interesting, but I need to be very rigorous - if you don’t organise yourself, you can very quickly be overpassed. To not forget anything and to keep on top of my tasks, I have my own tools, which were developed by my predecessors and I upgrade them when necessary.
As a warehouse manager, how do you interact with the Logistics Cluster?
The Logistics Cluster supports us with stock management trainings, steering committee, and is an essential link to communicate with partners.
How important is this warehouse in the process of delivering humanitarian items to people in need? What would happen if those warehouses did not exist?
A warehouse is the place to group your items before distributing them. As humanitarian actors deal with big volumes of cargo, they don’t have all the space and/or the capacity to store items in a safe and secure place. A warehouse is a logistic solution to optimise the cost, space, time and work required for storage. Without it, it could be a lot more difficult and costly for humanitarian organisations to ensure their logistics project run smoothly.
Prepositioning relief items can be lifesaving and having a space to store contingency stock is another important aspect of warehousing. Stockpiling humanitarian cargo within a large warehouse is often more convenient for organisations, allowing them to store their goods under a common roof rather than at their own base where space can be precious, and which may not be big enough to store the large quantities required.
The warehouse also offers reconditioning services to help agencies consolidate their cargo, repackage it and send it quickly to communities in need of assistance.
Humanitarian cargo offloading at the PUI common storage facility in Bangui. Photo: Logistics Cluster Bangui
What humanitarian items do you usually store in this PUI warehouse?
We store a range of items from across the humanitarian sector. We mainly have building materials, non-food items materials, mechanical equipment (motorbikes, generators), and WASH items among other things. Moreover, we have two stocks for pharmaceutical products in which temperature and humidity are monitored and under control.
The advice you would give to someone interested in this type of work is...
Be organised, empower your team, stay flexible, never forget what you are working for, and enjoy.
To find out more about the Logistics Cluster operation in Central African Republic, please see our dedicated operation page.