Stock management with the IFRC

Each OLPSCM charges a monthly fee to the British Red Cross for holding and managing pre-positioned stocks. Additionally, stock movements initiated by the British Red Cross are charged through pre-agreed logistics services requests (LSR), which provide an indication of the cost of moving the stock, allow the logistics lead (LOGE or LogCo) to raise a PO against the estimated costs and eventually pay the IFRC’s invoice. It should be noted that real costs can be far from the quoted costs, not least because VAT is not included in Agresso POs. A variance of more than 10 per cent between a PO and an invoice will require additional approvals in Agresso.

Annual storage costs are budgeted in the British Red Cross logistics team budget, and logistics issue an annual PO for those services to each OLPSCM, against which monthly invoices sent to SSC are reconciled. This process is managed through the logistics team and SSC, with support from the international finance team. All costs related to the storage of pre-positioned stocks are charged to the logistics budget.

Note: invoices for storage fees and services agreed through LSRs are sent from Geneva, usually with a delay of a month or two. For more details on this, see the British Red Cross management of stocks section below.

In exchange for the costs charged to the British Red Cross, IFRC provides storage space and manages the storing, rotating, shipping, receiving and quality assurance of British Red Cross stocks. IFRC also sends monthly and year-end stock reports. In addition, British Red Cross logistics visit two OLPSCMs each year and conduct a stock and warehouse audit. Reports are available from the logistics team. The audit consists of a spot check on stocks and a standard warehouse audit, focusing on the storage conditions and systems in place in the OLPSCM.

Note: some of the OLPSCM warehouses (including Kuala Lumpur and Dubai) offer quality assurance services and have facilities to perform quality tests on specific items delivered to their warehouse. This needs to be arranged and comes at a cost – for more details, contact the LOGE in the UKO logistics team.

British Red Cross management of stocks

The British Red Cross manages the pre-positioned stocks with the operational support of the IFRC. Within the logistics team, the LOGE is tasked with managing the stocks that are pre-positioned at the OLPSCMs.

The management of pre-positioned stocks by logistics is described in the RLU standard operating procedure, while the financial management is done in collaboration with logistics’ finance business partner. The financial aspects of managing those stocks are captured in the balance sheet guidance document.

In case of any questions, contact the LOGE in the international logistics team.

Requesting for stocks from the OLPSCMs

There are various ways of accessing the British Red Cross pre-positioned stocks. Agreements and standard operating procedures are in place to cover both issuing mechanisms.

Pledging stocks

When a disaster occurs, the IFRC usually issues a mobilisation table (a ‘mob table’). The mob table is designed to list all in-kind requirements to fulfil the IFRC’s emergency plan of action (EPoA) and emergency appeal (EA) and is issued to Partner National Societies who can choose to pledge items against the listed needs.

In this case, the pledge must be agreed with the emergencies team and with the regional team (usually the disaster management coordinator) during an emergency task force (ETF) meeting. Ultimately, the decision to pledge stocks against a mob table lies with the operational lead (this would be the head of region or the global response manager, depending on the context of the emergency). The LOGE must be informed ahead of the ETF so they can provide the relevant logistics coordinator with sufficient stock information to share in the ETF. This information will include, but may not be limited to:

  • list of items in stock and quantities
  • indicative cost of items and shipping costs to deliver them to the operation
  • indicative delivery lead time to country of response for all items
  • indicative replenishment lead time for all items.

It is an ETF-made decision to pledge any of the available items to the IFRC-led response. When stocks are pledged, they are essentially donated to the IFRC. All costs associated with the stock and its movement will be charged to the budget codes, as advised by the operational lead nominated in the ETF. It is worth noting that pledges can be made against British Red Cross pre-positioned stocks in the OLPSCMs but other items can also be pledged, in which case the UK-based logistics team will source the pledged items through a procurement process. The decision to pledge items beyond those in stock is made based on cost, lead time and the specific needs of the operation (where they are not fulfilled by standard items).

Following the decision to pledge, the LOGE and/or the logistics coordinator manage the release of the pledged stocks from the relevant OLPSCM into the operation, initially through an RFA (see the RFA guidance note). It is important that this is done with the input of the LOGE for the following reasons:

  • The LOGE holds the relationship with the OLPSCM.
  • The LOGE maintains records of pre-positioned stocks together with logistics’ business partner and is best placed to know the cost of stocks and how to allocate them in the stock balance sheet.
  • The LOGE will be tasked with the replenishment of the stock in the OLPSCM. To avoid any loss of information or time, it is preferable that they are the lead on any stock movements in or out of the OLPSCM.

Selling stocks

Any Movement partner can request stocks from the OLPSCMs. External organisations can also access Red Cross stocks through the IFRC, who will contact the most appropriate stock owner to arrange the terms of the donation/sale.

In this case, they would reach out to the OLPSCM teams, who would determine which stock is most appropriate (for information about different stock sources in the OLPSCMs, see the IFRC’s OLPSCM offer and system). They may then contact the best-placed stock owner to ask to buy some of their stocks.

When the request comes to the British Red Cross, it will be sent to the LOGE, who will seek approval from the emergencies team (usually the global response manager, as owner of the pre-positioned stocks). If approval is granted, the LOGE will get back to the OLPSCM with the details of the cost of the items, and the OLPSCM will issue a purchase order for the items.

After confirmation that the stocks have left the OLPSCM is received (a signed waybill), the LOGE commences the replenishment process, using a REP form (see the Replenishing stocks in the OLPSCMs section below).

Note: for more information on the stock balance sheet, see the balance sheet guidance note.

It is also possible for the British Red Cross to access other PNSs’ stocks (through pledges or purchases), or indeed Federation stocks through the mechanism that applies to all other National Societies: a request must be placed to the IFRC via the LOGE, detailing items, quantities and country of delivery. In this case, stocks will be sold to the British Red Cross.

Replenishing stocks in the OLPSCMs

After stock items are released from an OLPSCM warehouse, they need to be replaced by new stock – this is called replenishment. If the agreed stock target for a specific item is lower than what was previously in stock, the items that were released will not be replaced.

Ideally the stock should be replaced like-for-like (in terms of quality and quantity, with specifications matching the standard product catalogue), but there may be a decision to postpone or adjust the replenishment for one or more of the below reasons:

  • Minimum order quantity: some suppliers only accept orders above an agreed quantity.
  • Procurement optimisation: where other stock movements are planned or being arranged, the LOGE will compile all quantities before placing the replenishment order.
  • Specification reviews: specialised items may require a review of specifications before the British Red Cross decides to replenish them into the stocks.

To replenish stocks, the LOGE will raise a REP form and have it signed off by logistics, emergencies and finance. For more details about the REP process, refer to the OLPSCM standard operating procedure (contact the British Red Cross international logistics team).

The process to follow is slightly different when a new item needs to be added to the pre-positioned stocks. This must be done through a request for action (RFA) which must be approved by logistics (the head of logistics or senior logistics manager, depending on the amount), budget holder and finance business partner.

The LOGE will manage the order and arrange freight to the relevant OLPSCM, using the shipping instructions shared by the OLPSCM. The LOGE will communicate order details with the OLPSCM, so they are informed ahead of the delivery.

The LOGE provides updates on ongoing replenishments in the logistics status report on a weekly basis.

For more detailed step-by-step guidance, refer to the OLPSCM standard operating procedures.

Read the next chapter on Emergency Response Units here.

Download the full section here.

In a warehouse there is the potential for serious incidents or accidents to occur.

Every effort should be made to reduce the risk of accidents:


  • All equipment (e.g., trolleys, sack trucks and hand-operated pallet trucks) should be carefully and regularly maintained.

    Specialised equipment must only be used by trained, authorised employees (some equipment may require load testing to ensure they are fit to use).
  • Access in areas where forklift trucks are used should be restricted to prevent people being hit during loading and unloading activities.


  • Racking and shelving should be regularly checked.
  • Shelving with collapsing stacks should be immediately restacked.
  • Shelving and racking should be firmly secured to the floor or to the building – if this is not possible, keep racking to only two levels.


  • Toilet facilities and welfare areas should be provided, so that breaks can be taken away from the main warehouse.

Personal safety:

  • Staff must be issued with protective clothing where required (based on an assessment of risk) – specifically, boots and gloves for handling heavy and bulky goods.

    These must be kept clean and regularly inspected to ensure they are fit for purpose and replaced when they are not.

    A record of PPE equipment must be kept on site.
  • Ensure all staff are aware of hazards and are fully trained in safe working techniques, including manual handling techniques.
  • First aid kits should be available and regularly checked, and one or more permanent warehouse staff should be trained in basic first aid.


  • All hazardous materials like oils, lubricants and fuels should be assessed so the correct action can be taken if staff are exposed to a spillage.

    All materials will have a safety data sheet which provides this detail and is available from the manufacturer. Safety data sheet are supplied for all the materials in storage.
  • Immediately clean up spilt goods, especially oils, lubricants and fuels, as this will reduce the risk of slips and falls, as well as the risk of fire.
  • Expired goods and food items no longer fit for human consumption must be correctly disposed of immediately.

    Check with local health authorities to determine whether they can be used as animal feed or for the appropriate disposal method: incineration or burial.
  • Smoking is prohibited in the warehouse and adjoining compound.
  • Cooking and open fires should be restricted to designated areas in the compound – never inside the warehouse.
  • Damaged pallets should either be repaired or discarded.

Guidelines for the manual handling of heavy loads

  • Assess the weight of the item and ask for help if it is too heavy for you to lift safely.
  • Clear a path and know where you are going.
  • Lift with your legs and knees.
  • Hold the object close to your body with your feet a shoulder-width apart.
  • Keep your eyes up and your back straight. Avoid twisting, as this places extra strain on the back.

When undertaking a site risk assessment, contact the local health and safety focal point. This will usually be the IFRC in multilateral operations, but it can also be coordinated by the ICRC or the HNS. For warehouses in the UK, the focal contact person is the Health and Safety adviser, who must inspect all buildings used and rented by the British Red Cross.

Fire safety in the warehouse

Warehouse staff must be trained as fire wardens – see the Safety training pathway section below.

For UK warehouse-staff, contact the health and safety team to receive fire warden training (a three-hour, face-to-face course).

Find detailed information on fire safety in the warehouse here.

An image shows the different types of fire extinguisher and when they should be used

Different types of fire extinguishers can be identified by a coloured band:

  • red for water
  • cream for foam
  • blue for dry powder
  • black for carbon dioxide.

Wet chemical extinguishers are not widely used in the Movement – fire blankets are available for cooking areas.

Examples of useful fire signage:

An image shows different types of fire safety signage

Available to download here.

Managing dangerous goods

See the Storing dangerous goods section of Managing a warehouse for details on handling dangerous goods.

There are different regulations in place for different modes of transport and in every country.

Ultimately, for all modes of transport – sea, air, rail, road and inland waterways – the United Nations Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods and other organisations, which includes the International Air Transport Association, have assigned dangerous or hazardous substances one of nine classes, in order to help make the transportation of dangerous goods as safe as possible.

Note that the number of the class of dangerous goods does not indicate the degree of danger.

An image shows the different types of dangerous goods and the symbols used to label them. Dangerous goods include explosives, gases, flammable liquids and solids, oxidising substances, toxic and infectious substances, radioactive materials and corrosives

Dangerous goods require specific documentation and handling methods: packing, moving and transporting them is highly regulated and should be overseen by a third-party service provider.

Safety training pathway

The British Red Cross employs a full-time health and safety advisor to facilitate a variety of training, most of which is bespoke. Below is a list of the most common training delivered, most of which can be delivered remotely. The health and safety team are working on collating a standard catalogue of the available training; in the meantime, feel free to contact them directly.

The below training courses address safety from an occupational safety perspective and not from a personal security perspective, which is addressed in the HEAT courses developed and managed by the security team based in UKO. The below falls under the delegate refresher requirement and must be refreshed every two years.

ContentTarget audience
Driver safety trainingVehicle, traffic and driver
safety awareness training
All drivers of RC vehicles
General safety awareness trainingOccupational health and safety
All staff with roles that involve
manual handling of goods
Risk assessment and
management training
How to identify, mitigate and
report risks
All managers of staff working in
environments where manual
handling takes place
Hazardous substances trainingHow to identify and manage
hazardous substances
All staff with roles that involve
the manual handling of
potentially hazardous goods
Warehouse safety management
Racking, shelving and handling
All warehouse staff
Environmental protection trainingManaging the risks of warehouse
activities on the environment
All warehouse staff

Available to download here.

Read the next chapter on Transport here.

Download the full section here.

Stock that is not used by its owner should be donated or disposed of, depending on the context and on the quality of the items. In either case, the stock movement must be recorded like any other, and the value of stock transferred must come off the inventory. Stocks owned by the British Red Cross are written off, i.e. taken off the logistics balance sheet.

The British Red Cross has determined the following priority order, through which asset/inventory disposal must be executed:

  1. Donation to HNS
  2. Donation to RCRC Movement
  3. Donation to local partner
  4. Donation to another humanitarian actor
  5. Sale
  6. Destruction

Donation to staff is strictly prohibited, though staff and volunteers are permitted to bid on items which are on sale.

There are various reasons to write stock off:

A diagram shows when to donate and/or dispose of stock.

Donating stock

Before donating stock, make sure that:

The prospective receiver wants the items -> ask: “Do you want the items?”

The prospective receiver can safely use the items -> ask: “Can you provide guarantees that you have the means to use and control the items safely?”

A donation can be made to a partner organisation or to a separate project within the same organisation, though it is then more of a transfer.

In all cases, the process to follow is the same:

A diagram shows the donation process which involves seeking donor approval if necessary, raising a donation certificate, recording stock movement as outbound on relevant documents and filing the donation certificate

The donation certificate:

  • Must include at least an estimate of the total value of the donated items.
  • Must be approved as per the approval matrix: the higher the value of the items donated, the more senior the approver – follow guidance in the Registering assets section of the Assets chapter.
  • Must be signed by the stock owner (programme manager) and the receiving organisation/partner.

Finance must be informed of the value of the donated or transferred stock so they can reallocate the values accordingly. Ideally, the total value of donated stock must be communicated to finance on at least a yearly basis, through a donation report.

When receiving donated stock, the donating partner or programme must raise the donation certificate, and the receiver of the donation must record the quantity as an inbound stock movement. The total value of received stock must be reported on a similar basis as the donated stock. See stock donation tracker format. The format must be used for recording asset and stock donations – see the Assets chapter for more details on asset donations.

Disposing of stock

Disposing of stock means destroying it and should be a last resort. Where stock is disposed of, this must be done in a safe and legally compliant way.

The process to follow is:

A diagram shows the disposal process which involves seeking donor approval if necessary, raising a disposal certificate, recording stock movement as outbound on relevant documents and filing the disposal certificate

The disposal certificate must:

  • include at least an estimate of the total value of the disposed items
  • be approved as per the approval matrix: the higher the value of the items disposed of, the more senior the approver – follow guidance in the Registering assets section of the Assets chapter
  • be signed by the stock owner (programme manager) and the receiving organisation/partner.

Finance must be informed of the value of the disposed stocks, so they can write its value off accordingly. Ideally, the total value of disposed stock must be communicated to finance on at least a yearly basis, through a donation report.

When disposing of food items, medical supplies, dangerous goods or chemicals, it is recommended to liaise with the appropriate local authorities to understand the rules that apply. Where destruction is required, it must be documented by a destruction certificate, signed by the NS disposing of the stock and the authority overseeing the destruction. Note that authorities usually charge a fee for destruction.

If stock is returned to the UK damaged or if items in stock in the UK or in any of the global IFRC warehouses expire (e.g., water purification drops, first aid kit), they must be written off in a stock write-off form, in which the logistics officer must justify the reasons for the write-off and propose options for dealing with the stock which could include:

  • Donating items (e.g., to shops or UK operations). If items or equipment are in good condition and have resale potential, contact the eBay manager in retail who will consider them for posting on eBay.
  • Recycling or disposing items. Radios, satellite phones and electronics need to be disposed of properly and the TA should contact IT or a supplier to dispose of items properly.

The logistics officer documents different options, stating the preferred option in the recommendation section and gets this signed off by the head of logistics.

When the form is signed, the logistics officer gets this agreed or written off by finance and actions the agreed outcome.

Note: additional funds will need to be requested for higher value asset write-offs, as they are deducted from logistics management’s budget.

Recording a stock loss or theft

An incident report must be completed when stock is stolen or lost to damage, destruction or bad management, where the total value of the loss is above £100.

The incident report must be raised by the warehouse staff in charge of the stock, with proposed follow-up actions reviewed by the Logistics delegate and approved by the logistics coordinator. The incident report must specify the estimated value of the total loss.

Where the incident report is raised to report on stocks held in UKO, Bulwick or in the IFRC’s RLUs, the incident report must be prepared by the logistics officer, reviewed by the logistics manager and approved by head of logistics and international finance. See SOPs for more details on these procedures.

The quantities declared as lost must be reported on the stock card and report, with reference to the incident report.

Read the next section on Health and safety in the warehouse here.

Download the full section here.

Inventories (stock takes) are helpful to:

  • know what is in stock, by quantity, value and quality
  • agree corrective actions in case of discrepancies or poor quality of stock
  • update reporting tools.

Stock takes should follow two separate patterns:

Cycle counting

It is good practice to have five per cent of stock, or a minimum of ten stock cards, checked each month.

This process should be led by the warehouse manager or team, with a stock spot check report prepared and shared with the finance team member in charge of stock and balances, and with the stock owner.

All differences must be recorded on the stock spot check report and investigated and explained within one month or before the next stock spot check takes place. This should be done by the warehouse manager, under the supervision of the logistics delegate.

All boxes/pallets that are counted can be sealed and strapped after the finance and programme business partner have accepted the spot check, so they don’t need to be counted again during the 100 per cent stock takes.

Cycle counting can also be done on a predetermined cyclical schedule. Effective cycle counting requires the counting of a pre-set number of items every workday and should result in the counting of all warehouse stock twice a month (refer to the below section on cycle counting procedure).

Cycle counting procedure

The number of stock cards determines the frequency of the cycle count.

To calculate the number of items to be counted daily in order to permit a complete count of all warehouse stock twice during the month, multiply the number of stock cards by two and divide the result by the number of workdays in the month.

For example:

30 stock cards in warehouse: 30 x 2 = 60
20 workdays in month: 60/20 = 3
In this example, the items listed on three stock cards are to be counted each day.

A schedule for conducting cycle counts is then established and integrated into the daily or weekly routine. Bin cards, stock cards and the documents certifying receipt or dispatch (waybills, GRN) of the supplies being controlled are verified.

The latest global stock report is crosschecked against the stock cards. A physical count is performed for the selected items and crosschecked with the stock cards and bin cards. When variances are found, the cause (e.g., count error, recording error, unrecorded dispatch, theft) is identified and appropriate corrective actions are taken.

100 per cent stock audit

It is mandatory to conduct at least one 100 per cent stock take each year.

It is good practice to conduct two 100 per cent stock takes per calendar year.

All counted quantities should be reported on a stock take report, with all discrepancies recorded and investigated, and the report approved by relevant authority (usually head of logistics or head of delegation) and shared with all stock owners and the head of logistics or delegation within one month of the stock take.

Before a stock take:

Stock spot check
100% stock check
(twice yearly)
-90 daysInvite finance and programme business
partners to join the count
Inform all stakeholders about service
-30 daysInform stock owner of items to be counted and
the date of the stock spot check
Ask for no movement of these items on selected
date (provide 'last order' deadline)
Confirm counters' attendance
-15 daysEnsure all orders for items included in the next
spot check are in and ready for preparation -
they must be delivered before the stock take
Remind stock owners of warehouse closure
Prepare stock take brief
Prepare the counting document
-5 daysPrepare the counting documentUpdate stock report with latest stock
Prepare stationary items needed for stock take
-1 dayUpdate stock report with latest stock
movements of counted items
Ensure all units of same items are stored
together (group same items together)

Available to download here.

During a stock take:

Stock spot check
100% stock check
(twice yearly)
Locate items to be countedEnsure no order preparation is pending
Update stock reports with latest stock movements
if necessary
Record a physical count on the stock take sheet
(theoretical stock not included)
Brief counters on their role
Allocate counting responsibilities
Mark up all counted boxes
(colour code or date-stamp)
Distribute counting sheets
Theoretical stock should not be visible on stock
take sheet
Blank lines should be added to record additional
items if needed
Reconcile physical count with stock cards
Highlight and investigate discrepancies
Use GRNs, donation certificates, waybills and stock
request forms
Ensure counters open every box they are asked to count
unless contents of a box have been counted during
a stock spot check
Fill out a stock spot check report and submit to
warehouse manager and stock owner
Ensure all counting sheets are handed to warehouse
manager and signed off by counters

Available to download here.

After a stock take

Stock spot check
100% stock check
(twice yearly)
Same dayRecord physical count on stock card
(report in red or other identifiable format)
Invite finance and programme business
partners to join the count
Inform all stakeholders about service
Within 1 weekUpdate stock report with confirmed physical
Seal and strap counted boxes/pallets
Agree required corrective actions and record in
stock spot check report
File stock spot check report
Reconcile physical count with stock cards
Highlight and investigate discrepancies
Use GRNs, donation certificates, waybills
and stock request forms
Within 2 weeksAgree required corrective actions and
record in stock take report
Prepare stock take report, submit to head
of logistics and stock owners
File stock take report

Available to download here.

Note: stock audits can be conducted by internal or external auditors, outside of scheduled stock takes. The warehouse manager will have to produce the necessary documents to conduct a four-way match between physical stock, stock cards, stock report and GRN/waybill/donation certificates/PO.

A diagram shows what is needed for a stock audit: physical stock, stock cards, stock report and stock documentation including waybills, goods received note, purchase orders and donation certificates

Stock reporting

The stock report

The summary of all stock cards is the stock report or stock movement report, which is used for reporting and overall stock management.

The stock report should be in a simple format, capturing the opening balance, quantities received (split between purchases and donations) or issued (split  between requests, losses, donations or disposal), and closing balance for each item in stock.

Stock reports are usually updated on a monthly basis and shared with stock owners as a snapshot of the available quantities in the warehouse, though finance and UKO-based logistics coordinators may also request to receive them. In emergency operations, this report can be required to be shared on a weekly or a daily basis.

In addition to the above, the periodic stock report should ideally highlight:

  • the 20 per cent fastest-moving goods in the warehouse
  • the 20 per cent slowest-moving goods in the warehouse
  • where items are perishable, those quantities expiring within the next six an three months must be highlighted and actions to avoid wastage agreed.

Annexes to the stock report

  • The monthly warehouse checklist must be completed and attached to the stock report.
  • Quarantined items must either be reported against separately or visually identifiable in the report, with the reason for placing the items in quarantine clearly.
  • A warehouse dashboard can be put together and shared with stock owners and other clients to give a measure of the activity level in the warehouse and inform of any upcoming changes (such as deep cleans, training events or stock counts).
  • The value of any stock donations (received or issued) must be known by the warehouse team and included in the report for Finance to record. If requested, donation certificates must be produced.
  • Ideally, the total value of stock losses (due to expiry, theft or damage) must be known and included in the report for finance to record. If requested, disposal or loss certificates must be produced.

Always consult with the stock owner to be informed of any specific donor requirements. Donors will usually want to know the value and content of the stock balance at the end of a project they fund.

Read the next section on disposing of and writing off stock here.

Download the full section here.

Remember to apply the First In, First Out rule: all supplies should, in principle, leave the warehouse in the order in which they arrived. The exception is the First Expired, First Out rule; items with expiry dates must be distributed according to their expiry date. Additionally, damaged, infested or damp goods that are still fit for human consumption must be repackaged and distributed before older stocks and without delay, to avoid further loss.

Remember that management of the stock is delegated to the warehouse manager or Logistics delegate in charge of the warehouse, while ownership of the stock remains with the budget holder, generally the programme manager. Therefore, logistics must guarantee the traceability of stock movement and report to the stock owner on the same.

To support this, systems must be implemented to release stock, deliver items safely and document all stock requests processed by the warehouse team.

Prior to releasing stock from the warehouse:

Stock release must be authorised by the stock owner.

Generally, requisition forms are used as stock request forms to document approval of the stock release, by ticking the “request for stock issue” box. Where this option is not available, a separate stock release form should be developed.

The stock request form should be filled out by the requestor, reviewed by the requestor’s supervisor and approved by the stock owner. The warehouse team should also sign the stock request to signify their acceptance of the order preparation task. The warehouse team is responsible for keeping the approved stock request forms on file and must be able to give access to the records during an audit.

A packing list must be raised and communicated to both the requestor and the consignee of the stock (if different). It must provide a breakdown of the consignment per packaging unit (box, sack, barrel, etc), with the weights and dimensions of each container included in the consignment.

The packing list must be prepared by the warehouse staff in charge of order preparation and reviewed by the warehouse manager before the consignment leaves the warehouse. A separate packing list must be issued for each order. Several orders can be loaded onto the same vehicle, so the driver of a vehicle might be given several packing lists.

Within the Movement, waybills are often used as packing lists, in which case there is no need to include a separate packing list.

(stock request form)
Packing listWaybill
Prepared byRequestorWarehouse staff
Warehouse staff
Authorised byStock owner
(budget holder)
Warehouse managerWarehouse manager
Received byWarehouse staffTransporter
SignatoryWarehouse staffStorekeeper
Warehouse manager
Warehouse manager
ContentsDetails of items requested
and quantity (use item
codes if possible)
Requested delivery date
and place
Detailed contents per
packaging unit (box,
container, pallet...)
Weight and volume per
packaging unit
Total number of packaging units
per consignment
Total weight and volume
Sender and consignee details
Transporter details
Reference toProgramme code (budget,
Requisition(s)Packing list(s)
Warehouse (x2)

Available to download here.

An image shows the four waybill types: the first to remain in the sending warehouse's records; the second to be kept by the transporter; the third to be kept by the receiver; the fourth returned to sender as proof of delivery

A waybill must be raised in four copies by the warehouse staff coordinating the shipping of the consignment.

It must outline the number of boxes/ pallets /containers making up the consignment and refer to the orders and/or CTNs that have been loaded onto the vehicle – either use PO references or packing list references, noted on the waybill.

The total number of containers and the weight and volume of the consignment for each individual order loaded onto the vehicle must be noted on the waybill.

How to prepare a consignment

The careful preparation of a consignment will avoid losses, claims and discrepancies, and mitigate the risks involved in delivering it to its consignee.

Step-by-step order preparation:

  • Pick the items to be shipped and move them to the dispatch area.
  • Group items into containers or onto pallets (having checked container size requirements with the consignee).

    Remember to keep empty boxes/containers/pallets in the warehouse for re-packaging where required.
  • Split the consignment by item type – refer to the list of requirements for each item and document any dangerous goods as required.
  • Count the total number of containers in the entire consignment.
  • Print labels for each container, ensuring a CTN is noted on the label if applicable.
  • Safely close all containers, shrink-wrap and strap pallets.
  • Stick labels to containers/pallets.
  • Weigh and measure containers individually.
  • Report consignment details on a packing list.
  • Obtain packing list sign-off.
  • Raise waybill for the consignee.
  • Arrange or order transport services.
  • Prepare vehicle loading plan as per agreed vehicle specifications (including box list).
  • Load vehicle (ticking off boxes/pallets on the list as they are loaded) and hand documentation to the driver.
  • Share the packing list, waybill and driver contact details with consignee to inform them of incoming shipment.

For details on shipping goods, see the Transport chapter.

Read the next section on Stock takes and reconciliation here.

Download the full section here.

As detailed in their stock pre-positioning strategy, the IFRC currently holds stock in a number of different locations using Regional Logistics Units (RLUs). The IFRC also allows PNS to use warehouses they run to pre-position stocks (see the stock Stock positioning section of Definitions and concepts).

British Red Cross stores items in these IFRC-run Non-Food Items (NFI) warehouses to respond to multi-lateral responses and for use within British Red Cross programmes and partnerships.

Stocks are also sometimes loaned to other NS. As part of this pre-positioning mechanism, and based on an annually reviewed agreement, the BRC currently holds stock in the following places, managed by the IFRC:

  • Panama (Americas region)
  • Kuala Lumpur (Asia region)
  • Dubai (Middle East and North Africa region)
  • Zimbabwe (East and Southern Africa region).

Each warehouse is managed by IFRC staff and follows IFRC standard operating procedures for its management, layout, access, staffing and procedures.

For more details about the procedures that apply to the maintenance, replenishment and deployment of the stock held in the RLUs, refer to the RLU SOP and to the RLU chapter of this manual.

Read the next section on Releasing stock here.

Download the full section here.

The Emergency Response Unit (ERU) kit is designed to support emergency teams deploying in the field and make them as self-sufficient as possible. The kits that are put together and maintained by National Societies contain key items for the ERU teams to perform their role, including infrastructure items to help operate offices and warehouses such as tents and generators, as well as items for delegates themselves, such as camping and kitchen equipment.

The purpose of the kit is also to act as a NS capacity-building tool – there is a general rule that items sent into the operation will be left with the HNS, for use in future disasters. Once the kit has been dispatched, the British Red Cross’ international logistics team will generally procure a new kit. When a team wishes to return specific items of a kit, they will propose it to the logistics and emergencies teams, who will make a decision.

The British Red Cross holds two types of ERUs:

  • logistics (the British Red Cross holds two full kits, so can potentially deploy two Logistics ERUs at the same time)
  • mass sanitation module for 20,000 people (MSM20).

As this is an IFRC standard tool, the kit list is standardised across ERUs – the lists can be found on the IFRC standard product catalogue (SPC). National Societies can add items to the kit, but they cannot take any away.

The National Societies that hold the ERUs meet regularly in Geneva and sometimes review and update the kit list, but this can only be done in agreement with the other ERU holders.

For more details about the procedures that apply to the maintenance, replenishment and deployment of the ERU kits that the British Red Cross holds in stock, refer to the IFRC website, the ERU kit SOP and the ERU chapter of this manual.

Read the next section on RLU stock management here.

Download the full section here.

Once the warehouse is selected, sourced, set up and the team has been put together, the warehouse operations can begin.

Warehouse access

All staff members with access to the warehouse (keyholders) must be recorded.

A keyholder list must always be kept and updated: anyone gaining access to the warehouse must sign the key sign-in and -out list (kept in hard copy in the warehouse or logistics office). The warehouse manager is responsible for keeping the list up to date, and the logistics delegate is accountable for ensuring the list is always up to date and available and should therefore review the list periodically.

Warehouse maintenance

Regular inspections must be scheduled.

DailyFloorsPest signs
Sides of racks, shelves, fridges
In-depth check for pest
Stability of racks, shelves
MonthlyComplete deep-clean: floor, storage,
structure, roof, gutter, surroundings
Wall cracks
Water leakages

Available to download here.

A maintenance schedule must be put together and shared, detailing all types of scheduled maintenance and status (equipment, building, facilities etc.). All maintenance undertaken and the matching findings must be recorded and signed off by the warehouse manager.

Pest control

Pests are a major risk for warehouses and can critically damage items in stock.

The most common forms of pest found in storage spaces are:

  • Rodents (rats and mice) – destroy packaging and consume foodstuffs and medicines, also contaminate them.

    Eliminating places in and around the warehouse where rodents can breed is the most effective way to prevent an infestation. Traps, with or without poison, can also be used.
  • Spiders
  • Beetles
  • Other insects: termites attack stock and wooden structures; cockroaches and moths attack grain and flour.

Harbouring pests in the warehouse can jeopardise the integrity of the items in stock as well as damage personnel health. If left unattended, an infestation can result in extensive property and product damage and can even affect the warehouse’s structural integrity.

As a preventive measure, warehouses and stored items should be carefully inspected on a regular basis for signs of infestation (a quick daily check, an in-depth weekly check, an extensive monthly check). Using soapy water or a mixture of water and vinegar (1:1 ratio) for the deep cleans is the best preventive measure against pests.

Incoming and outgoing stock should be inspected as they are loaded or unloaded. Random samples should be taken from newly arrived consignments to ensure the quality of the goods and to prevent infested goods entering the warehouse and contaminating other stock. Alternatively, certificates must be obtained from the manufacturer and transporter to guarantee that the items delivered are free of pests.

View a detailed pest inspection checklist here.

What to do in case of infestation

If infested stock is found, immediately separate and quarantine them from the rest. Consult with local experts in the Red Cross Red Crescent, World Food Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization, government or university agriculture departments and/or commercial fumigators.

The warehouse manager must promptly report all infestations to the Logistics delegate and/or the logistics coordinator in UKO.

The choice of the optimum pest-control product, dosage and method of application should be left to an expert. Using the wrong product, method or dosage could render the treatment useless or the goods hazardous to human consumption. Only trained pest removal experts should be allowed to decide on the treatment method.

A diagram depicts preventative and curative methods for controlling infestations of insects and rodents. Preventative methods include spraying the warehouse and food items and using traps. Curative methods include fumigation, treatment of warehouse surroundings and traps

*Items may need to be procured internationally – refer to your logistics coordinator.

**Be mindful of local food practices. Rats poisoned in the warehouse may escape and be eaten by local population.

Humidity control

A lot of the items typically stored in humanitarian supply chains (grain, flour, cans of food, drugs, machinery, NFI kits or construction materials) are sensitive to extreme humidity, and a lot of the places where humanitarian supply chains operate have humid climates.

Humidity levels must therefore be tightly controlled in an RCRC-operated warehouse to maintain the quality of the items in stock and avoid losses. It is recommended that hygrometers be fitted in the warehouse and that humidity levels be checked and recorded every day, especially during rainy seasons. Where humidity levels are high, consult with your regional logistics coordinator or technical advisor to agree workable mitigating measures.

Temperature control

All warehouses must be equipped with temperature-recording devices. Ideally, several of them must be placed throughout the warehouse, close to the ground and to the ceiling, and at both ends of the warehouse.

The readings of the temperature trackers should be extracted each month by the warehouse manager, or manual temperature recording forms should be maintained and filed.

Temperature requirements are usually printed on the items’ packaging or available from manufacturers/suppliers directly.

Chilled and frozen goods require special refrigeration equipment and should be handled with care.

Examples of temperature-sensitive goods include medicines and foodstuffs. These goods must be kept within a certain temperature range from the time of their manufacture to the point of their consumption. As an example, many vaccines need to be kept at between zero and eight degrees Celsius. If temperature limits are not respected, vaccines will often lose their efficacy or original expiry dates will no longer be guaranteed. Where cold chain failures occur, details of actions to take to guarantee the safety of the exposed items can be sought from suppliers or manufacturers. Products might become unusable and require disposal and/or destruction.

A supply chain that deals with such temperature-sensitive goods is known as a cold chain. In a cold chain, measurements are taken, and checks are made to confirm that the goods have remained within the specified temperature range throughout the chain. Cold chain failures are a frequent cause of problems in immunisation programmes and other medical programmes.

From a warehouse perspective, the vulnerable parts of the cold chain are:

Unloading and loading operations: often these involve moving goods from one area to another, which poses a challenge to ensure products stay within their allowed temperature range.

Interrupted power supply: to support an active supply chain, constant power is needed. The use of stabilisers and battery switch is highly recommended where an active supply chain must be maintained.

In warehouses where temperature-sensitive items are stored, there must be a clear temperature control procedure with a process in place to ensure temperature are checked and recorded twice per day. All cold chain materials must be checked twice daily – use the temperature recording forms to track temperature in fridges and freezers. One form should be available for each of the fridges in use.

Standard storage temperatures are normally defined as follows:

  • deep freeze: below -15ºC
  • refrigerator: +2ºC to +8ºC
  • cooled: +8ºC to +15ºC
  • room temperature: +15ºC to +25ºC.

To learn more about cold chain management, check out the Logistics Cluster guidance document.

Good storage practices, by item


Detailed information on how to store food can be found here.

Medical supplies

Detailed information on how to store medical supplies can be found here.


Detailed information on how to store NFI (non-food items) can be found here.

Construction materials

Detailed information on how to store construction materials can be found here.

Dangerous goods

Detailed information on how to store dangerous goods can be found here.


Detailed information on how to store chemical products can be found here.


Detailed information on how to store kits can be found here.


You should ensure that your stock and warehouse are covered by insurance.

The stock held in UK (UKO and Bulwick sites) is covered under the British Red Cross insurance policy. The current policy covers the value of stock held at both locations and approximations of the stock’s value are shared with the insurance manager.

The excess for insurance of stock in the UK is £5,000 – any losses or damages under this value are not covered and cannot be claimed through the policy. Replacement for these items must come out of the logistics team budget and be discussed with finance.

For losses or damages over £5,000, the UK insurance manager must be contacted to process the claim. If the level of damage is over £10,000, the insurance company may send an inspector to validate the damage. Reach out to the Logistics team for more details on the insurance procedure.

Once the claim has been processed, the money will be returned to the insurance manager, who will re-code this to the logistics budget. The items’ value should remain on the balance sheet until the money from the insurance claim has been transferred to the balance sheet (see the Financial management of stocks section of Definitions and concepts). Finance will inform logistics when the insurance refund is captured in their account.

For overseas projects, refer to the partner NS insurance policy and make sure stock is covered against theft, flooding, fire, destruction. The warehouse lease contract may also state whether insurance should be purchased by the lessor or the lessee.

Receiving stock

Plan for reception

Request details of incoming goods as early as possible, with the estimated weights and dimensions clearly stated on the documents.

Arrange your reception area to ensure that the full consignment can be temporarily stored before being moved into the bulk storage area – if necessary, make temporary adjustments to the warehouse layout (reduce the dispatching area surface, for example) to accommodate the consignment. Make sure any temporary changes to the layout are communicated to the warehouse team.

If receiving a cold chain consignment, make sure you have a spare fridge in the reception area. If necessary, prepare passive cold chain (isotherm carton boxes or cool boxes fitted with ice-blocks) to use as extra reception area.

When receiving large consignments, it is good practice to draft a reception plan with end users to capture their priorities. The reception plan should detail:

  • the extra capacity needed for offload/check/storage of the incoming goods
  • the re-scheduling of all major consignment preparations to focus on quick reception
  • the order of priority in which items should be checked and placed in the bulk storage area (i.e. available for dispatch).

Where possible, an offloading plan should be made available for the offloading process: have a list of all the boxes for each CTN or order (see the Receiving international stocks from IFRC section below), so that offloading supervisors can tick the boxes one by one as they are offloaded.

Upon reception of the consignment

Check that all documents are attached to the consignment:

  • commercial invoice
  • gift certificate
  • packing list
  • waybill, bill of lading, air waybill or CMR sheet
  • relevant customs clearance certificate (tax waiver documents, for example).

If receiving containers, ensure that the container seals are in good condition (take pictures if possible).

Proceed to offloading (use the offloading plan, if available), checking the condition of each box or pallet as it is offloaded and checking the labels on each packaging unit.

Confirm that the number of boxes offloaded matches the consignment documentation (purchase order and packing list in particular). If they match and no damaged boxes are found, sign the waybill/delivery note provided by the transporter.

A diagram lists the process on receiving a consignment

Available to download here.

If receiving a cold chain consignment, read the temperature-monitoring devices attached to the consignment to confirm cold chain has been maintained throughout the transport process. Where an anomaly appears on the readings, record it on a claim form and have it signed by the transporter. Include reference to the claim form on the waybill and share the claim form and temperature readings with the delegation’s pharmacists or medical staff to confirm that drugs are fit for use.

Check and inspect the contents of each box to confirm the exact quantities received against the packing list attached to the consignment. Record any discrepancy and reconcile once all boxes have been inspected (sometimes all ordered goods are in the consignment, but the packing lists does not match the physical packaging).

For more details on documenting procedure for the reception and despatch of goods, refer to the Transport chapter.

Document the reception

Raise a GRN to confirm the exact quantities received. The GRN must be raised in one original and three copies.

An image shows the different types of Goods Received Notes - the white original and blue, green and yellow copies. The white is for the supplier and/or donor, blue for the transporter, green for filing in Logistics' files and yellow for filing in the warehouse

When the GRN is raised electronically, it is good practice to inform all stakeholders and keep soft copies on file or in archives.

Raise a claim in case there are any discrepancies against the shipping documents, in quantities or in quality (see the Upon reception of the consignment section above.)

Record all incoming quantities on the appropriate stock cards, referring to the GRN number.

Record all incoming quantities on the stock cards, referring to the GRN number.

Make sure the stock levels are updated as per the applicable stock tracking method:

  • If using an electronic system, stock levels should be updated automatically when posting a GRN.
  • If manually updating the stock levels, make sure the updates are captured on the stock cards and in the upcoming reporting cycle.

Keep a copy of the signed waybill on file, including copies of any claims raised and enter them on a claim tracker for follow-up. Provide a copy of the waybill and GRN to the procurement lead to add to the procurement file.

Some consignments will require inspection by a third party (this would have been agreed at the time the order was placed). In this case, a company must be selected to observe the reception process, sample the items received as per the agreed sampling method and take the samples away for analysis. Typically, items that require third-party inspection would not be available for distribution until the inspection results are available. Samples taken for inspection should be recorded as sampled quantities – this quantity should be withdrawn from the GRN and should not be included in the quantities recorded in stock.

Receiving stock for the British Red Cross (in UK or at RLUs)

With Agresso

Where items are received into stock through an Agresso purchase, the physical GRN must be raised in the usual way and received quantities must be updated in Agresso. To do so, the receiver must open the Agresso PO and enter the received quantities in the “quantity received” column. Where deliveries are incomplete, the Agresso PO should be closed after the received quantities are consigned against the PO quantities.

This applies to all stock purchased through Agresso, including RLU pre-positioned stocks (see the RLU stocks management section for more details on RLU stocks).

Receiving international stocks from IFRC (pipeline report and CTN)

The pipeline report

The pipeline report indicates the type and quantity of goods in the pipeline for internationally sourced supplies for a given operation, as well as their point of origin and expected/actual date of arrival.

The pipeline report allows logistics delegates in the field to pre-arrange warehouse space, custom clearances and transport. Depending on space availability and need, goods may be taken from border posts and airport and port facilities to a central warehouse or directly to distribution-point warehouses. The pipeline report indicates all the consignments (i.e., past, ongoing and future shipments) and CTN allocated to that operation.

Regular updates of the pipeline report should be shared with the IFRC’s regional logistics unit leading the operation, National Society staff, donors, operational partners and whomever else the logistics coordinator deems relevant to the success of the operation.

The pipeline report serves various functions:

  • Distribution managers can use it to pre-plan distributions according to incoming items from donors and international procurements.
  • Other operational agencies, as well as customs clearance agencies, can be in copy of the pipeline report.

    They can assist in establishing a global overview of relief items for the operation and to facilitate inter-agency coordination and the preparation of reception/clearing plans.

View and download a pipeline report here.

The regional logistics unit (RLU) has ultimate responsibility for updating all aspects of the pipeline report – both headquarters’ information (new donor commitments, consignment departures, etc) and field-based information (arrivals, losses, etc). The RLU shares all relevant pipeline information with the field daily, and even more frequently at the beginning of an operation.

Pipeline reports are automatically generated by the mobilisation software programme. The RLU is responsible for all data entry into the software programme, hence, for updating the pipeline report. The field-based logistics delegate is responsible for confirming and reporting to the RLU on the state of all consignments immediately following their arrival. The delegate must also share a copy of the GRN to the RLU so that it can be sent to the appropriate donors and/or suppliers.

The CTN Commodity Tracking Numbers

  • Each IFRC shipment is assigned a unique consignment tracking number by the IFRC’s logistics department, called CTN.
  • A consignment refers to a shipment that is handled by a common carrier. This shipment may contain only one type of goods or a combination, each with their own CTN.
  • Large donations with the same CTN may need to be sent in several shipments and will thus have multiple consignment numbers.
  • The consignment number and the CTN are key elements in the tracking process – they must both be recorded on the GRN so it can be matched to the goods in the pipeline report and a report sent to the appropriate donor.
  • Unsolicited goods donations will also appear on the pipeline report, however they will not be allocated a CTN.

The CTN is assigned to each donated or procured commodity. It is also the primary tracking information used to identify the source (donor) of the goods for accurate reporting and must appear on all documents. Shipping, clearing and forwarding documents should be filed by CTN reference for ease of traceability.

The RLU allocates a CTN at the time of donation or procurement. Prior to procurement of any relief item (such as non-food, food, water and sanitation or health supplies) for delivery in the field, a CTN must be requested from the RLU.

It is extremely important to mark this tracking number on each document and, where possible, on each package. The RLU must be contacted in case of missing CTN or, in the unlikely event that none was pre-assigned, to acquire one.

The CTN is not the item code. An item code is the number assigned to each item listed in the standard product catalogue which is published by the IFRC (available online). The item code allows easy reference of items in the catalogue, which describes the standard specifications of individual relief items.

A diagram shows when the Commodity Tracking Number or CTN is needed, at airport customs' clearance, when using local transport and when showing the waybill at the warehouse

Dispatching stocks

See the Planning, tracking and reporting on transport section of the Transport chapter.

Relocating stocks to a new warehouse

Some programmatic or contextual changes (insecurity, lease conditions, etc) may require moving stocks to a new facility. This is a resource-intensive process and should be planned well in advance, to ensure that the programme’s staff (including support functions) are aware of the timings, implications and resource requirements involved.

Transporting the entirety of an operation’s stock requires careful planning. If the exact weight and volume of the stock is known, it will be relatively easy to calculate truck requirements for the move. If such data is not available, the most practical way to prepare for the move is to mark areas on the floor of the warehouse, their dimensions corresponding to the trucks available for the move, and transfer the stock into these markings, stacking it to the maximum height of the truck, while incrementally dismantling the storage units, and recording all items moved into each of the marked out areas.

Ensure that all items in the warehouse are included in the volume calculations. This includes stock, storage systems, office materials, equipment and machinery, spare materials, generators, etc.

Cold chain stocks must be transferred to passive cold chain containers (cool boxes with ice packs) for the duration of the move. It is preferable to use air transportation for cold chain items if the move is long-distance (more than 12 hours by road).

Documenting the contents of each truck (packing lists and waybills) and scheduling the trucks’ trips to the new warehouse is essential.

Ensure that the stocks needed for distribution most urgently are moved into the new warehouse first and pace the arrivals of the trucks to leave time to place each shipment into storage before the next one arrives.

Ensure that restricted goods are transported in locked containers as far as possible, that dangerous goods are transported separately and that quarantined stock, if it must be transported, is transported separately.

Note: where stocks are being moved to a distant location, ensure that the trucks used (whether hired or owned) can stay overnight at secure locations and have all the necessary road permits to enable them to transit without delays or obstacles.

The rules and guidance points listed in the Good storage practices section above apply to storage in transit.

Relocating to a temporary warehouse

Rubb Hall

The Rubb Hall takes about two days and a team of 12 people to dismantle (and the same to re-erect it in its new location). Ensure that you follow the instructions closely when dismantling the tent. This means that the transfers need to be well-scheduled, taking into consideration the dismantling time, the transit time and the re-erecting time.

The items stored in the Rubb Hall will likely have to be temporarily stored in a different facility (probably another Rubb Hall erected nearby) for at least a week.


Never move a repurposed container without first emptying it of its stock. As the container is repurposed into a temporary storage unit, some ventilation holes will have been made in its structure; ensure that it is protected while it is in transit to its new location.

Relocating a permanent warehouse

See guidance points in the Relocating stocks to a new warehouse section above.

Ensure the new warehouse is inspected while empty, well in advance of the move (a minimum of two weeks) and arrange for any identified need to be addressed before the move (wall fixtures, pest control, ventilation, etc).

The new warehouse must be mapped before the first stocks arrive at its location, so that briefed staff can easily move the goods into storage. Ensure storage systems (shelves, racks, etc) are installed before the first stock is delivered, and that water and electricity supply is arranged in advance.

Stock records

Once goods are in stock, the field logistics officer and the warehouse manager must ensure that the stock is maintained in good condition and accurately tracked until items are dispatched. Stock should be kept at manageable levels to permit frequent rotation to avoid the build-up of unused stock and losses due to spoilage and overdue expiry dates.

A diagram illustrates what First In, First Out and First Expired, First Out mean. First In, First Out is to be used by default and means supplies leave the warehouse in the order they arrived. First Expired, First Out means supplies leave the warehouse in order of expiry date and is to be used for items with expiry dates only

Apply the First In, First Out rule; all supplies should, in principle, leave the warehouse in the same order in which they arrived. The exception is the First Expired, First Out rule; items with expiry dates must be distributed according to their expiry date. Additionally, damaged, infested or damp goods that are still fit for human consumption must be distributed before older stocks and without delay, to avoid further loss.

All supplies stored in the warehouse must be registered on stock cards and bin cards. These cards are the primary tracking tools used in a warehouse – they follow the commodities from the time they enter the warehouse to the time they are dispatched.

Though similar, the two forms have separate functions and should not be confused. Templates for the cards can be found in the appendices, and both are discussed below. Ideally, both stock cards and bin cards should be used, especially where few items are in store and where they are in large quantities and under different CTNs.

Bin cards

A bin card must be physically attached to each grouping (a stack, pile or grouping on a shelf) of an item in a warehouse. It provides basic information about the goods:

  • item type
  • CTN (where applicable)
  • batch number (where applicable)
  • quantity
  • origin
  • arrival date
  • expiry date
  • any re-conditioning it has undergone.

Separate cards must be issued for each stack, as well as for goods with different CTNs, batch numbers or expiry dates. A grouping of one commodity (a stack) can be increased on the same bin card, as long as the goods are placed in the same stack and have the same CTN, expiry date and batch number (where applicable).

Where any of these three do not correspond, a new stack must be started, even where the commodity is the same. Every time an item with the same CTN, batch number and expiry date is received, either under a GRN or a transfer waybill, and is added to a pre-existing stack, the quantity is recorded in the “IN” column on the bin card. The “OUT” column is used every time part of the stack is dispatched under a waybill or losses have occurred and a claim report has been filed.

The bin card is closed and removed from the storeroom when the entire stack has been dispatched, transferred or accounted for under a claim report. The old card must be filed, sorted by item code and date.

Stock cards

All commodities received or dispatched from the warehouse should be immediately registered on a stock card by the warehouse manager. These entries should correspond to a GRN, waybill or, in the event of loss, a claim report.

Every entry should bear the signature of the warehouse manager or, in the case of larger operations, a designated assistant. A stock card is less detailed than a bin card and includes stock with different expiries or batch numbers.

Stock cards can also be raised by batch number or by CTN where no bin cards are in use. It is a summary of all bin cards for goods with the same CTN and indicates the overall stock level for an item. The “IN” and “OUT” columns are completed in the same way as on the bin cards.

The warehouse manager is responsible for keeping the stock cards in a safe location in the warehouse office space and must ensure that they are filed properly (in alphabetical order, by catalogue codes or by area of the warehouse, for example) and that all stock cards that have been filled out are numbered and archived properly.

The summary of all stock cards is the stock report or stock movement report, which is used for daily, weekly or monthly reporting and for stock management.

Stock management and reporting options

Besides using the mandatory bin and stock cards, total stock levels can be monitored using different systems, with varying levels of automation and sophistication.

Manual stock board

This can be useful in small operations, with a limited number of items in stock and a limited number of end users. A stock board is a visual way of informing requestors of current stock levels in the warehouse and must be updated every time there is a stock movement. This system should be used only in cases where no other options are available or sustainable, and for as short a period as possible.

An image of a British Red Cross manual stock board

Excel spreadsheet stock report and analysis

Excel stock reports are useful where stocks are held at multiple locations as spreadsheets can easily be compounded to obtain a general stock overview. The frequency of update and sharing of the spreadsheets must be pre-agreed, so that the information reflects stock levels at the same point in time.

Offline databases

There are several ways to maintain local databases containing the stock information. These are maintained offline (they do not require an internet connection) and can be exchanged between locations to calculate compounded stock levels. Reports can also be extracted from these databases and shared with stock owners in Excel format. The general trend in the humanitarian world is to use this type of solution less often, as Internet connections become more widely available.

Online databases

The use of software solutions, either in a “ready-to-use” version or specifically developed for a specific user, is becoming more common.

Orders can be placed through the system, and stock levels are automatically updated from other transactions approved in the system: for example, raising a GRN against an approved PO will result in an increase in stock levels, recorded against the GRN reference generated by the system, and approving a stock movement in the system will generate a waybill and reduce the stock levels.

These solutions are a considerable investment and should be developed in common across the Movement where possible, to share the costs of development and ensure consistency.

Refer to the latest version of the stock management strategy published by the IFRC for more information about the development of stock management systems.

LogIC (logistics inventory control)

LogIC is currently the system that is most widely used across the Movement, particularly in IFRC-led operations, but the IFRC and ICRC are currently looking to develop a more holistic joint stock-tracking tool. Each National Society can choose the system they use to track stock.

LogIC training is available upon request – reach out to the UK team to enquire about training options.

Warehouse performance management

The warehouse manager is responsible for overall reporting and KPI monitoring, under the supervision of the Logistics delegate. KPIs monitored include:

utilisation (%)
What part of the available
storage space is actually
Warehouse map
Stock volume information
If < 70% warehouse
is being under-utilised
Stock accuracy (%)What part of the stock is
accounted for correctly after
stock takes?
Stock take report100%
Order preparation
lead time (days)
Number of days from
approved request to
dispatch of items
To be agreed locally
lead time (hours)
Number of hours to load or
offload consignments
Visitors' bookTo be agreed locally
Claims against
deliveries (units)
How many claims have
been raised on shipments
dispatched from the warehouse?
Claims forms
To be agreed locally

Available to download here.

Read the next section on ERU stock management here.

Download the full section here.

Mapping a warehouse

Once the storage space has been identified, it will need to be optimised for your planned needs. Areas to be included in the storage map are:

Bulk storage area

  • This is where the majority of items will be stored – it can be densely organised.
  • Items in most regular demand should be closest to the goods receipt/dispatch/picking areas.

Goods receipt area

  • Estimate its dimensions per the expected incoming volumes: if you expect to receive items in 20-ton truckloads, make sure your reception area is large enough to store the corresponding volume.

Goods dispatch area

  • Estimate its dimensions per the expected outbound volumes: if you expect to dispatch items in 20-ton truckloads, make sure your dispatch area is large enough to store the corresponding volume.

Picking area

  • Depends on the dispensing units: if items will be dispatched in a smaller packaging unit than they come in, you will need a picking area (bulk construction items such as nails, bolts or medicine, as you will dispense packs or bottles in smaller quantities than the base carton quantity).

Truck docking area

  • For trucks to station and manoeuvre and offload. Include level docking platform if possible.

Office space

  • Ensure office space can be isolated from noise and vehicle movements and is ventilated.
  • A safe path to the office space must be kept clear at all times.

Packing materials storage area

  • Use to store carton boxes, pallets, wrapping and strapping materials.

Cold chain area

  • For items which require specific temperature conditions.
  • Move close to power supply source and ventilation.

Quarantine area

  • For expired, damaged items or items pending inspection or test results.
  • Must be lockable.

Sanitary facilities and breakout area

  • Ensure respect for cultural norms.

Emergency exits and fire fighting equipment

  • Must be signalled clearly.

Security shed/corner

  • For security personnel to use during shifts and to store their work equipment. Should be located near the main entrance to the warehouse compound.

A table detailing the different areas is available to download here.

Each of the areas should be clearly separated from one another and space between stacks, racks, shelves or pallets must be included to allow for passage and cleaning.

Depending on how the goods will be handled (manually or with specialised equipment), the space between storage blocks will be different. For human handling, 1.2m is usually enough. Where specialised equipment (forklift, sack truck or hand pallet truck) is used, the manufacturer will be able to confirm the required turning circle.

Each storage unit must be at least 50cm away from the main wall of the warehouse.

Standard layouts include:


A diagram shows the U flow image which is used when the receiving and loading areas are next to each other on the same side of the building

Available to download here.

U-flow is used when the receiving and loading areas are next to each other on the same side of the building. It provides the following features:

  • Because the receipt and dispatch areas are side by side, the space can be used flexibly, particularly if these activities are scheduled to take place at different times in the working day. This can save space.
  • Personnel and equipment can be used in a flexible way, reducing the overall requirement for resources.
  • Because the main access to the building is in one place, access and security are easier to manage.
  • The building may be extended on three sides where required and where the site allows.


A diagram shows the through-flow layout which is used when the dispatch areas are at opposite ends of the building

Available to download here.

Through-flow is used when the receiving and dispatch areas are at opposite ends of the building. It tends to be used under the following conditions:

  • Where vehicles and equipment used in receipt and dispatch are of different types.
  • Where the flow of vehicles around the site will be facilitated (there may be separate gates at opposite ends of the compound for example).

The warehouse manager should ensure that all areas of the warehouse are physically identified, and a map of the warehouse must be available and posted on its walls.

Equipping a warehouse

Depending on the type of goods to be stored, the activities that will take place in the warehouse and the equipment available, the warehouse will have to be fitted with office equipment, specific storage equipment, additional safe storage space and/or partitioning.

In certain cases where the warehousing activities are expected to be critical to the operation and include large volumes of items, it may be relevant to invest in handling equipment.

In all cases, the storage facility will have to be equipped with a fire prevention system.

Storage options

A stack is a pile of the same item on a warehouse shelf.

Goods must be stacked separately and sorted by programme ownership, expiry dates or final destination, for example.

A bin card must be physically attached to each stack or grouping with the same CTN, batch number and expiry date.

Wherever possible, stacks should be placed on pallets and not directly on the floor. Where possible, they should be wrapped in plastic sheeting or tarpaulins.

Where supplies of pallets are limited, note that bagged foods are more vulnerable to humidity than canned or bottled products, so food items should be palletised in priority.

Where pallets are not available at all, items can be temporarily stacked on plastic sheeting laid on the ground.

The distance from stacks to walls and between the stacks must allow a person (or a forklift if using) to pass and be at least 50cm.

The recommended size of a stack is 5 x 5 metres and a maximum 2.5 metres high with bags stacked by 5 x 10 = 50 in each layer x 14–15 layers (= ~ 700 bags).

The stack height will be affected by the type of packaging; boxes and jute bags stack higher than woven polypropylene bags, which tend to slide. When stacking cartons, ensure that lower packages in the stack are neither crushed nor torn. Commodities packaged in tins and plastic bottles, have lower restrictions in terms of maximum stacking heights.

An image depicts the correct stacking of packages up to 2.5 metres

In addition to height restrictions, oil packages frequently indicate a recommended maximum number of rows for stacking. Check the instructions on packaging, where they exist, or consult the suppliers for information.

An image depicts the correct stacking of items over 2.5m, with additional layers stacked in a pyramid to avoid slippage

Where stacks are tall, it is useful to tie a rope around the top layer to stabilise them.

Bags that need to be stacked higher than 2.5m should be stacked up to 2.5m as shown here, with the additional layers stacked in a pyramid to avoid slippage. Plastic sheeting can be added between layers to prevent slippage.

An image depicts a side view of the correct stacking of items over 2.5m, with additional layers stacked in a pyramid to avoid slippage

Volumetric storage

Create a one-cubic metre container to measure sand, gravel or a quantity of construction materials in bulk. This works well for timbers, poles, bamboos and items stored in “bundles” of 100 pieces for example.

Pallet racks

Simple pallet racks usually have two or three tiers. Two tiers of pallet-racking require a clear total height of about 3 metres and three tiers require a clear total height of about 4.5 metres. It is possible to have more tiers, but sophisticated mechanical handling equipment is then required.

An image of tiered pallet racks

The benefits of shelving and pallet-racking can be combined. The bottom tier of racking may be used to store the working stock if arranged at a convenient height for manual order picking. Alternatively, a special picking shelf can be placed immediately above the bottom tier of pallets. In both cases, the upper tiers can be used to store safety stock or bulk stock. Caution: check the racks’ load-carrying capacity with their owner/manufacturer or an independent engineer before using them and check every rack regularly for signs of damage.

Keep space between the racks and the walls, ensure that the racks are stable and, where possible, fixed together and to the wall and/or to the floor.

Large racks

An image of large racks

Large racks are useful when storing large inventories of a variety of types, and where the dimensions of pallets are not the standard dimensions of packaging. The racks pictured here have the advantage of adjustable racking height.

Leave space between the racks and the walls.

Ensure that the racks are stable and where possible, fixed together, to the walls and/or to the floor.


An image of shelving

Use shelves where there are a lot of small items and/or when there are items that need repacking or picking (medical supplies, kits, etc). Storage on shelves does not require mechanical handling. In tropical countries where termites attack wood, metal structures are preferred. Shelves can be taken apart and adjusted to suit the goods to be stored.

Keep space between shelves and walls to improve ventilation.

Choosing the best storage options

Bulk items (loose)

  • volumetric storage
  • 1,000 kg = Variable volume
  • volume defined at item level, as item density varies
  • 1,522 kg of gravel = 1cbm
  • 1,922 kg of sand = 1cbm.

Food in bags (grains. flour, sugar, salt)

  • stacked on pallets, with chicken wire between pallet and supplies
  • 1,000 kg = 2cbm.

Food in cans or bottles

  • stacked on pallets
  • 1,000 kg = 1.5 cbm
  • ask manufacturer for maximum stacking layers.

NFIs in boxes

  • stacks
  • adjustable racking
  • check stackable height where items are fragile.

NFIs in bags or bales

  • stacks (fenced)
  • adjustable racking
  • 1,000 kg = 8-10cbm
  • stacks if stable
  • adjustable racking preferred for bales.

Construction materials

  • bundles of xx units
  • 1,000 kg = Variable volume
  • keep stacks fenced with timbers or wiring.

Medical supplies (drugs)

  • large racks for main storage
  • shelves for picking units.

Medical equipment

  • Pallet racks or large racks.

A table detailing the best storage options is available to download here.

In addition to the above, note that to store medical and/or food items you will likely need:

  • cold chain equipment: passive (ice packs or other isotherm systems) and active (power-generated)
  • a locked storage space for controlled substances
  • a quarantine area equipped with shelves/racking.

See the storage of food and medical supplies sections in Managing a warehouse.

Manning your warehouse

Based on the process mapping exercise (part of the stock strategy definition – see the How? section of Stock strategy definition in Building a stock strategy), adequate resourcing will be required for the operation of the warehouse.

The size of the warehouse team will depend on the size of the operation, and the allocation of tasks should be adjusted accordingly (one member of staff may cover several of the below functions). Below is a standard organisation chart including all the skills needed to operate a warehouse.

A diagram illustrates the three levels of organisation needed to operate a warehouse. Tier one is the strategic development of the stock strategy enacted by the logistics coordinator. Tier two is the tactical implementation of the stock strategy by the warehouse manager. Tier 3 is operational and involves the sourcing of goods and monitoring activity enacted by the rest of the warehouse team

Available to download here.

Recruiting a warehouse team

Standard job descriptions are available on request from the international logistics team.

The UKO logistics team can provide examples of written tests for recruitment on request, should you need them.

Guards and security staff and services can be either hired as staff or day labourers, outsourced as a service or included in the lease of the warehouse. Where guards are hired as staff or day labourers, the warehouse manager will have to define working patterns and shifts (rota). Ideally, these should be captured in a guards’ shift planner.

Some situations will call for a set of core permanent staff, with the arrangement for temporary staff to meet periodic increases in demand or workload. Holding a register of daily workers with contact details and specific skills, managed by the warehouse manager only, can be useful.

Host National Society (HNS) volunteers can also help in the warehouse during periods of high activity, but this must be agreed with the HNS and their procedures and practices must be observed in terms of volunteer hours, incentives and payments. Do not engage volunteers as regular staff without prior approval from and consultation with the HNS.

Hired as staffPermanent staff with benefits
Can be trained and retained
Must manage working hours and
performance directly
Ensure status in country allows
recruitment in own NS's name
Hired as daily labourersFlexible workforce
Wide pool to recruit from
HNS can provide volunteers
High turnover of staff
OutsourcedFlexible workforce
Guaranteed professional service
Limited control over allocated
resources - competition with other clients
Included in warehouse leaseNot included in head count
No direct management
Limited control over allocated resources
No control over ethical management

Available to download here.

Managing the warehouse team

Warehouse managers are permanent staff members, HNS staff or volunteers. They are responsible for all activities related to stock movements: the reception, storage, release, dispatch and recordkeeping for all goods.

The warehouse manager defines, schedules and coordinates the activities and resources that need to be available to deliver the mission of the warehouse. They also oversee security arrangements, control the recruitment of day labourers and manage the schedules, payment, performance and training of all warehouse personnel.

Regular team meetings should be held, organised by the warehouse manager:

MonthlyComplete warehouse team and
logistics delegate
Monitor performance against set objectives
and discuss updates on projects
WeeklyAll warehouse staffWarehouse manager to present operational
objectives of the week and reflect on past week
DailyIndividual briefs to loaders and
receiving/despatching staff
Allocate daily tasks

Available to download here.

Where daily labourers are regularly recruited, a system must be in place to request the number required each day, record their attendance and report to finance for payment. For example, the receiving/shipping clerk should request through a daily worker request form, signed off by the warehouse manager. Attached to daily worker record sheet, the whole file should be submitted to finance for weekly payment at an agreed time. As far as possible, day labourers should only be hired as security guards, cleaners and loaders.

Read the next section on Managing a warehouse here.

Download the full section here.

Setup options

Central, regional and distribution-point warehouses can be built, commercially rented or provided by the host National Society, the government or operational partners. Buildings designed for storage are preferred as central or regional warehouses.

Where no suitable facilities exist, the construction of temporary or permanent warehouses should be considered. Immediate and interim needs can be met through the use of specially designed warehouse tents (Mobile Storage Units, MSUs) or other temporary storage facilities.

Wherever possible, avoid sharing a warehouse with another agency and, especially, commercial firms. Where this is unavoidable, fence off different partners’ areas or clearly mark each partner’s stock. Additionally, when sharing a warehouse with another agency, a standard Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) should be signed to specify the detailed terms and conditions of the lease/sharing.

Options to share warehouse facilities within RCRC:

A diagram illustrates the different warehouse sharing option within the Red Cross Red Crescent movement

Available to download here.

Types of warehouse

Temporary warehouses

Tents and Mobile Storage Units

Tents can be standard tents or Rubb Hall (MSU) tents.

Tents should always be set up on flat and firm ground (preferably on a concrete slab), with ditches around their outside perimeter. If possible, add a tarpaulin or net on top of the tent, allowing space for ventilation between the roof of the tent and the additional tarpaulin. If using a tarpaulin to cover stored items, ensure that a separate tarpaulin protects the items from the ground. Make sure the tent can be securely closed with padlocks. Ideally, it should be fenced inside and out to limit access and manned with 24-hour security wherever possible.

Rubb Halls (also known as mobile storage units or MSUs) are tents that have been specially developed for emergency storage purposes. The standard model used in RCRC operations offers a maximum 600m3 of storage, and a ground surface of 240m2 for palletised storage.

An image shows several erected Rubb Halls or mobile storage units

Erecting a tent requires 12 people, at least one of whom must be a trained technician, and takes two days. Rubb Halls should also be lined with mesh or chicken wire to prevent theft.

Rubb Halls are usually equipped with a locking system that requires one large padlock, or two padlocks if the Rubb Hall can be opened at both ends.

  • length: 24m
  • width: 10m
  • height: from 3m on side to 6m at ridge approx.
  • materials: steel structure and UV proof PVC coated canvas cover
  • logo/branding: banners that can be attached or printed directly on the canvas.

Note: Rubb Halls are available in different sizes. However, the above is as per RCRC standards and is the model deployed to most RCRC operations.

Rubb Halls can be ordered by logistics through the IFRC or the ICRC or directly from the supplier. The British Red Cross holds Rubb Hall tents in the IFRC RLUs in Panama, Kuala Lumpur and Dubai. Rubb Halls are only to be released for extremely urgent and rapidly onset operations, with a strong business case and approval of the relevant international logistics coordinator.

Good reasons to deploy a Rubb Hall include:

  • Where there is extensive damage to buildings.
  • Temporary increase of stock in emergency situations (where warehousing space is already available but insufficient to absorb increased stock).
  • Pre-positioning of stock in remote locations where there is no infrastructure.
  • Legal response where humanitarian agencies are not allowed to build permanent structures.
  • A high likelihood that the location of the operation will change in the duration of the response.
An image shows several Rubb Halls in the process of being erected

Re-purposed containers/wagons or barges

Where no firm ground can be found or where tents cannot provide security for stock, it is possible to use shipping containers as temporary storage. If a container is used for long-term storage, it needs to be repurposed to create optimal conditions for its maintenance and for the items stored.

Detailed instructions on how to re-purpose containers, wagons or barges can be found here.

Permanent warehouse

In emergency setups, warehousing facilities will usually be rented as opposed to purchased.

Find a suitable warehouse

Characteristics of a good warehouse:

  • solid building with a firm, flat floor
  • dry and well ventilated
  • gives protection against animals, insects and birds.
  • gives protection against humidity, extreme temperature fluctuations and local weather conditions
  • easy access for trucks
  • easy loading and unloading
  • secure against theft (locked, gated, etc.)
  • in an appropriate site – low disaster vulnerability, above flood level, away from salt spray…).

Also consider:

  • size of the warehouse
  • 24/7 accessibility
  • Red Cross visibility
  • ownership of the warehouse or the land it is on
  • avoid sharing with other agencies. If this is impossible, clearly mark your area.

Agree lease conditions

  • cost and payment schedule
  • period of lease agreement
  • period of notice for terminating or extending the lease
  • include confirmation of property insurance, covering third party, fire, water damage and any damage to the structure of the building
  • details of security arrangement: who will provide security services and in what pattern (number of guards, rotation times, validation of guards, etc)
  • an inventory of any equipment, fixtures and fittings included with the building and a detailed description of their condition and maintenance requirements
  • confirmation of sole tenancy or, where relevant, details of other tenants
  • For warehousing facility – the memorandum of understanding with sharing tenants should be annexed to the lease contract
  • information about the ground or floor strength
  • weight capacity of any equipment included in the lease (forklift, racks shelves, etc).
  • access by the landlord to the warehouse specified in the lease. The landlord should preferably notify the leasing party before accessing the warehouse.

To uphold the RCRC’s neutrality principle, the identity of the owner of the premises (might be different from the leaser) must be known. Where the owner is linked to the military, religious authorities or government, this should be reported to headquarters for risk analysis.

Also review any previous usages of the warehouse to identify risks, such as if it was previously used to store dangerous or toxic material, weapons, etc.

A template Warehouse rental contract template is available to download here and at the end of this section.

Read the next section on Setting up a warehouse here.

Download the full section here.