Soon after Lynn Fritz sold his global logistics firm to UPS in 2001 for more than $200 million, he was in drought-plagued Africa, shouldering sacks of corn. He was testing an idea for a second career: applying the expertise he'd acquired in 35 years of getting things from here to there to the delivery of humanitarian aid. "I came away thinking, 'Holy gosh, it would be irresponsible of me to not do this,' " he says.
In the four years since, Fritz, 63, and a team recruited to his self-funded Fritz Institute, have launched a logistical revolution in humanitarian relief. Major natural disasters present a unique set of logistical puzzles, including coordinating the efforts of the hundreds of aid organizations that converge on remote disaster areas laden with supplies. The Fritz Institute has designed, built, and deployed free logistics software; convened the first association for humanitarian-aid workers; and launched a consortium of companies that lend logistics experts or donate cash.
As technology and collaboration evolve, Fritz envisions a field with its own performance metrics, specialized academic programs, and a technologically linked network of professionals who can respond dynamically to crises. "I don't need to be a visionary," he says, "to see that we can do better than this."