MSF Supply optimizes its medical warehouse operations

Warehouse operations provides MSF Supply with the speed, accuracy and traceability needed to supply Doctors Without Borders, its global network of medical professionals and first responders.


International not-for-profit humanitarian and medical organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) /Doctors Without Borders supplies 37 country projects from its Brussels warehouse and employs 300 people. The mission of the warehouse is to manage and receive international orders and supply quality material within the whole MSF supply chain. MSF has five operation centers located in Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Geneva and three main MSF European supply centers, located Bordeaux (MSF Logistique), Brussels (MSF Supply) and Amsterdam (Amsterdam Procurement Unit).

“We are the purchasing and forwarding agency of MSF. We run emergency projects in 68 countries. There are 27,000 people working for MSF in total, 60% medical personnel.”

Pierre-Paul Lamotte, Deputy Site Manager, MSF Supply

Pierre-Paul Lamotte, Deputy Site Manager, MSF Supply explained that one of the key challenges at the warehouse is traceability, in particular relating to medicine quality, use-by dates, control and storage. Other challenges were linked to the various import regulations of all the countries supplied, which impacts the entire supply chain and particularly medical goods.


MSF Supply uses Symphony RetailAI’s Logistics Operations, specifically Warehouse Management and Warehouse Voice Operations, to manage operations in its Brussels warehouse.

“MSF is keen to maintain the same quality of drugs around the world, we cannot accept a difference in standard. We respect total traceability of the drugs and Warehouse Management allows us to track this from beginning to end.”

Pierre-Paul Lamotte, Deputy Site Manager, MSF Supply

Aside from managing stock and emergency stock, transport, emergency response and order management, Warehouse Management also supports the production of the famous MSF medical ‘kits’, which are pre-prepared standard bags or suitcases tailor-made to respond to various medical emergencies. Kit production can range from filling a small suitcase to loading an entire field hospital onto one and a half Boeing 747s. All MSF kits, which sometimes reach the complexity of five kits-within-a-kit, must be kept up to date and renewed based on the earliest sell-by date to occur within the entire kit, which makes a solid stock management system a key management tool.

Warehouse Voice Operations helps warehouse workers pick the orders correctly based on a variety of complex parameters, put together the orders and ship boxes to the correct location. The Brussels warehouse covers 13,000 square meters, is 9.8 meters high and stores 12,000 pallets. It houses around 20,000 different medical and non-medical items and is flanked by a customs warehouse for goods in transit.

“We are working in terrible conditions so we must ensure we have the correct equipment, like the correct car for example, at the correct place,” commented Lamotte, who noted that the warehouse handles 6,000 orders per year and 3,000 shipments. While this is a relatively small operation compared to some of the warehouses run by retail giants around the world, it differs somewhat in that 30% of orders are linked to emergency, making speed and accuracy of picking and order execution critical.


  • Effectively manages a 13,000 m² warehouse containing typically 12,000 pallets and staffed by 300 people
  • Accurately supplies 37 country projects with emergency medical supplies
  • Fulfills 6,000 orders, approximately 4,000 tons of volume per year
  • Traceability for 20,000 different items – medical and non-medical
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