Scaling a Supply Chain to Help Fight Hunger

World Food Programme

Background

On any given day, the World Food Programme (WFP) has 5,000 trucks, 20 ships, and 70 planes on the move, delivering food and other assistance to those most in need around the globe. Every year, WFP distributes approximately 12.6 billion rations, at an estimated average cost per ration of just 31 cents. WFP is an expert in logistics and supply chains and gets the job done quickly and at scale in the world's most challenging environments.

Because of the complexity of its work, WFP generates and uses a wealth of information every day, from cyclone forecasts to malnutrition levels. In 2017, we launched a partnership with them to deploy our technology and expertise to support their operations and ability to rapidly respond to emergencies.

This Year

With a supply chain that stretches across 80 countries, WFP's operations rival those of the world's largest global suppliers. Its mandate to deliver food assistance to some of the world's most remote and insecure regions means that WFP must constantly adapt to changes on the ground and make precise, data-driven decisions to ensure its beneficiaries are reached.

Humanitarian supply chains rely on inputs from people and systems across many different functions. Each of these inputs must be evaluated dynamically to make the best decision in any given moment. What foods are most appropriate for a given community considering their desires, traditional diets, and nutritional needs? Can these foods be procured nearby to support local economies? If local markets are stable, should cash transfers be made instead of providing direct food aid? These are just some of the questions that WFP analysts must consider when designing or planning their operations.

To make it easier to answer these questions, WFP has been developing a range of analytical tools that examine operations with a cross-functional lens, built on inputs from a multitude of data sources. From dashboards providing decision-makers with a “one-stop shop” of optimization tools for sourcing, WFP has developed new initiatives to support data-driven decision-making. Until recently, however, these have largely been localized and labor-intensive to operate and maintain.

This is where Palantir comes in. We're helping WFP transform its data assets in a way that easily scales to accommodate future needs. Over the past few months, WFP has deployed Palantir Foundry to integrate its datasets, making it easier for analysts to access and process vital data from a wide range of sources and enabling them to automate much of the work they previously had to do manually. Now, instead of always starting from scratch, analysts can quickly reproduce analyses and view dashboards that incorporate the latest data.

We're also automating data flows into WFP's optimization tool, Optimus, focusing initially on operations that support roughly ten million people in South Sudan, Uganda, and Somalia. Until now, Optimus was limited to only a handful of WFP operations because of its large and complex data requirements. With Palantir Foundry, WFP is automating the most labor-intensive part of the process, which will allow rapid scaling to every country where WFP is active, ensuring that the benefits of optimization can cascade throughout WFP's global supply chain. And as WFP's staff become more proficient with Foundry, we foresee a flourishing of applications that provide humanitarian decision-makers with powerful insights based on data, helping them anticipate and respond to operational challenges.

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