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They are usually temporary in nature. They may be housed in a building which was not designed to be used as a warehouse or in a temporary building/structure, in mobile units such as rub halls, Wiikhalls and sometimes are little more than a tent in a field. The initial staff may be a casual workforce that has never worked in a warehouse before and the inventory system is more likely to be paper based. Often the situation is initially chaotic, sometimes dangerous coupled with a humanitarian need which may be very urgent. The management style must therefore be practical and action oriented with a focus on making the humanitarian goods available as quickly and efficiently as possible, but yet at the same time accountable.

Policies and Procedures


The policies contain hard and fast rules and regulations that define the general conduct of the warehouse operation. Examples of the types of policies that organisations will define are as follows:

  • organisational specific warehouse management policy and procedures guideline outline
  • health and safety
  • human resources management
  • security
  • pest control
  • warehouse maintenance and cleaning
  • quality control
  • record keeping and reporting
  • reverse logistics – Return of goods and exit strategy in the event of downscaling or shutting down operations
  • disposal of obsolete and damaged goods.


The procedures' document defines step by step how the activities in the warehouse should be carried out and clearly defines the processes to be adopted. These can be adopted as ‘best practice’.


How to Select and Set-Up a Warehouse

Determining Needs

In determining needs, one should look beyond the basic need of a warehouse to store things. Whilst, this is correct there are also other considerations.


Determining Storage Requirements

Selecting a Suitable Location

There are a range of factors to consider when deciding on the location of a new warehouse facility and these may vary depending on whether you are selecting a location for a temporary building or selecting from one of a number of existing buildings.


  • proximity to ports of entry and beneficiaries
  • existing buildings
  • security
  • the context
  • site condition
  • access
  • services
  • land size available
  • purpose of warehouse
  • previous use of the facility
  • floor weight
  • access to labour

Warehouse Selection

Factors to consider:

  • nature and characteristics of goods to be stored;
  • nature of handling equipment available;
  • duration of storage needed i.e. short term or long term;
  • the need for other activities, e.g. repackaging, labelling, kitting, etc;
  • access and parking for vehicles;
  • number of loading docks required; and
  • secure compound.

Warehouse Preparation Planning

Space layout

The areas that should be planned are both the general storage areas and the areas for goods receipt, consignment picking and goods dispatch. It is also desirable that space should be set aside for the following activities:

  • equipment maintenance and parking;
  • charging of equipment batteries such as pallet trucks;
  • refuelling of trucks;
  • an area for garbage disposal e.g. empty packaging;
  • a quarantine area for keeping rejected goods, goods to be sent back or destroyed;
  • an employee rest area;
  • washroom; and
  • an administration office.


It is worth keeping these requirements in mind during the planning of the main operating areas. Planning consideration needs to be given to the following:


How to calculate warehouse storage space.

Special storage needs

Some relief items require special attention in terms of the type and security of the storage area. For example:

  • Medical supplies and drug shipments can contain a large number of small, highly-valued and, often, restricted items, many with a limited shelf-life. Thus, a secure area is required, as well as judicious attention to expiry dates.
  • Hazardous products such as fuels, compressed gases, insecticides, alcohol, ether and other flammable, toxic or corrosive substances must be stored separately, preferably in a cool, secure shed in the compound but outside the main warehouse.
  • Antibiotics and vaccines may require temperature-controlled cold storage arrangements, with sufficient capacity and a reliable, as well as a back-up, power source.
  • With combustible items, such as alcohol and ether, specific attention is required when storing and handling. Inventory management techniques need to be implemented to prevent wasteful surpluses and to ensure proper stock rotation to avoid costly losses due to expired goods. Procedures for controlling, preserving and releasing medical supplies and drugs should be established in consultation with the medical experts.

Space utilisation and handling

Diagram 1: Space utilisation


In order to achieve this, the inventory manager must ensure a balance between supply and demand by establishing minimum holding stocks to cover lead-times. To achieve this, the inventory manager must constantly liaise with the programs to keep abreast of changing needs and priorities. The warehouse must always have sufficient stocks to cover the lead-time for replacement stocks to avoid stock-outs.

Inventory Control

There are two methods of inventory control that are applicable to emergency situations: