The world’s largest humanitarian warehouse: transformation through the years
Take a look at how UNICEF’s warehouse and office space in Copenhagen evolved into a global supply and logistics hub to deliver hope for every child.
UNICEF’s Supply and Logistics Hub in Copenhagen is the beating heart of the organization's supply chain. With a mission to ensure equitable access to life-saving supplies, it was initially established to pack health kits for maternity clinics and child health services. Over the last 60 years, UNICEF’s supply operations have evolved into a global operation, using cutting-edge technologies to procure and deliver supplies for children all over the world.
UNICEF Supply Community
UNICEF’s supply operations in Copenhagen started in 1962 as UNIPAC – the UNICEF Packing and Assembly Centre – which was relocated from New York to a disused factory in the Port of Copenhagen. Since then, one of its main assets has been its agile and committed staff.
Over the years, UNICEF’s supply and logistics workforce has become more diversified. Now, for example, it also includes specialists who work together on product innovation and contribute to influencing markets to ensure sustainable access to essentials supplies for children.
UNICEF Supply Division building
UNICEF’s supply facilities in Copenhagen were a gift from the Government of Denmark and they express the country’s commitment to support efforts to achieve results for children. The city was chosen for its access to international shipping lanes and world-class transport infrastructure.
In March 2012, with the construction of the UN City building in Copenhagen, UNICEF’s supply operations moved three kilometers from its original location to its current state-of-the-art premises. The new UNICEF global supply warehouse became fully operational in February 2013.
The new storage area – the High Bay – is 24 metres high and 150 metres long and can store up to 36,000 pallets of supplies. It is serviced by eight robot cranes controlled by a computer.
The robots do not queue when they pick items because different goods are evenly spread across the aisles, which ensures fast and uninterrupted emergency response at all times. Every day the cranes make sure that the high-demand items are moved closer to the monorail, so they are ready to be dispatched first.
A forklift operator picking or putting away pallets full of supplies (left) is no longer seen at the new warehouse storage area. Apart from technicians, nobody else works in the fully automated High Bay area.
In contrast to the previous warehouse, where pallets of supply items could be moved only by forklifts, the new warehouse has a track and conveyor system where the loading, stacking and picking of pallets are managed automatically.
Packing emergency supplies
As was the case 60 years ago, the packing of kits continues to be done manually by UNICEF’s dedicated staff. There are two main packing lines, two pre-pack lines and five individual packing lines for smaller orders where highly specialized and experienced personnel carefully pack products as well as kits.
During an emergency response, UNICEF can deliver critical supplies to their destination within 72 hours after country offices or the emergency team has placed an order.
Some processes at the warehouse such as receiving goods and loading of kits filled with supplies with forklifts remain almost the same. However, today these operations are more optimized thanks to digitalization. For example, shipments entering or exiting the warehouse are scanned with a barcode reading system that stores all the information about them and allows for traceability from when they enter the warehouse to when they have been packed in kits and shipped to their destination.
In the past, the palletizing (stacking and placing products onto a pallet) was done manually, but today’s warehouse team works alongside automatized tools. Robots manage the palletization, which speeds up the supply operations considerably.
Listen to everyday sounds of the warehouse: a vacuum gripping palletizing robot and humans working together to deliver hope for every child.