Linking the supply chain together

April 16, 2019
3142 Idecam Supply Chain Diagram Bug
iDE Global WASH

Leverage existing networks and building new connections with market actors to support latrine coverage goals.

Case Study: Don’t bypass the mason. Understanding the role of each supply chain actor.

From 2008 to 2011, iDE promoted the pre-constructed concrete latrine chamber box as a “do it yourself” alternative to the traditional, brick-constructed chamber boxes that direct flow from the latrine pan to the pit. With a pre-fabricated, concrete chamber box, iDE believed that it was removing the need for a household to hire a mason to construct one from bricks. This was thought to benefit the end-user by allowing them to install the underground and slab portion of the latrine themselves for less cost, and that masons would ultimately benefit through increased demand for brick shelters. However, it was found that many households still hired a mason for the installation of a pre-constructed latrine when the job also called for building a brick shelter.

iDE learned that bypassing masons in the supply chain led to some misconceptions about the chamber box quality. As the masons were unfamiliar with the new product innovation, either they would install it incorrectly, or tell the households to return it in exchange for the traditional bricks.

Because the masons were still involved in the user experience, it was important to engage them so that even if they are not building the product themselves, they still serve as advocates.

The case study of the masons shows that it may not necessarily be in the customer’s best interest to bypass seemingly “unnecessary” supply chain actors.

Forums help to overcome challenges in coordinating market actors

iDE held supply chain forums every six months to facilitate greater collaboration along the supply chain and encourage local government to support market development efforts. Participants usually included Latrine Business Owners (LBOs), sales agents, retail shops, masons, local government officials, and Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) NGOs. Larger raw materials suppliers were also invited, but showed little or no interest of being a part of the conversation.

In the supply chain forums, CLTS NGOs shared that they had a specific triggering schedule. LBOs understood that CLTS events created more business opportunity. LBOs observed many NGOS doing CLTS and wanted to obtain their schedules, but did not know how to approach the NGOs. When LBOs requested that CLTS NGOs share their schedules, the NGOs reported that they did not have the capacity to keep all LBOs informed. iDE experimented with facilitating a relationship between CLTS implementers, local government, and the private sector, which showed promise, but demonstrated that dedicated effort and resources was needed to ensure close coordination.

The forums also unearthed the problem that the latrine supply chain was still quite disjointed. While LBOs, retailers, and masons were usually familiar with each other, they did not interact with each other on a daily basis. Although retailers were aware that LBOs sell latrine underground components, it did not occur to them that connecting with LBOs could lead to a business opportunity for selling shelter materials. LBOs generally had existing formal relationships with masons, but few of them hired masons to install latrines. However, by the end of 2016, teams of masons offering installation services began emerging in Prey Veng province. LBOs, retailers, and masons all expressed interest in offering shelter products and services, all of which promised closer collaboration in the future.

Turning competitors into connections

Another issue discussed in the forums was how to leverage economies of scale across the LBOs. LBOs in Kandal generally purchased materials from a main supplier in Phnom Penh, but LBOs in Svay Rieng were better positioned to leverage economies of scale. However, there was a fear of competition among LBOs, making it difficult to coordinate closely. Today, while iDE has observed that LBOs are still hesitant to collaborate with competitors, some have formed business-to-business connections on their own. For example, two LBOs who own interlocking brick presses have begun selling interlocking bricks to other LBOs and teaching them how to construct Interlock Shelters. One of these LBOs has also created an order pooling system in which members of his business network divide latrine shelter contracts amongst themselves.