Logical moves

The UK’s biggest logistical challenge is currently in full swing. In less than a year’s time, the world will descend upon the capital, bringing with it a raft of kit, equipment, home from home essentials and, not quite, the kitchen sink. For freight specialists and logistics experts the following months are crucial – poor planning has no place.

Mick Wright is the man in charge of logistics for London 2012 – he has the job of ensuring the efficient movement of all materials required for the largest event in the world: Everything from customs and warehousing to in-venue logistics and ensuring the correct disposal of goods afterwards.

He is working with the Games official logistics sponsor – UPS – ensuring the movements of 30 million items. UPS’ operational team recently handled the 250,000th Olympic item following the completion of first-round testing. UPS successfully managed the logistics for two test events at the BMX track and basketball arena, both situated at the Olympic Park, which concluded an intense schedule of eight London Prepares events over 15 days.

The events, organised as the first cluster of LOCOG’s London Prepares series, enabled UPS to test and observe the most crucial logistical processes that will operate at every stage of competition during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games – from initial venue delivery and installation, to transition between different sports and events through to final venue breakdown.

At Greenwich Park, for example, UPS managed the transition of the venue from equestrian to pentathlon competitions within a 48-hour timeframe, moving more than 5,000 pieces of sports equipment and almost 1,000 pieces of technical equipment through a single access point.

“Testing logistics at live events such as these has been invaluable, because it’s the first time during our preparations for the London 2012 Games that we’ve been able to operate in an environment alongside athletes and organisers. They need the freedom to focus exclusively
on the competition, without worrying about where their equipment is,” said Alan Williams, director, London 2012 sponsorship and operations. “It has been an intense period for the team, but also a rewarding one as we’ve seen first-hand the value of our rigorous planning. We now are looking forward to tackling the next cluster of London 2012 test events and the logistical challenges they pose.”

Keeping things moving

Great logistics have a genuine requirement for collaboration and teamwork – a well- oiled cog is needed, and just one small chink can impact on the process.

CEVA Logistics helped to keep thirst at bay for fundraising walkers participating in the London Moonwalk in May, ensuring they stayed hydrated through the mammoth marathon event. The event saw walkers striding out from Hyde Park to raise much needed cash for breast cancer care. This year’s theme was walk on the wild side, and saw 15,000 power walking women, and some very courageous men, sporting colourfully decorated bras and walking 26, or 13, miles across London overnight. CEVA organised the distribution of bottled water and fruit at the refreshment stations along the entire Central London route.

Commented Alan Bell, senior general manager, CEVA Logistics: “We have managed the distribution of refreshments at this event for the past six years. It involves distributing 40,000 bottles of water and 100 boxes of fruit to the strategically placed refreshment stations along the route. We also collect the tables, empty bottles and unused fruit afterwards, returning it to Hyde Park.”

CEVA also manages the kitbag operation for the London Marathon, which involves the safe keeping and reuniting of 35,000 bags with the runners.

But what of rising fuel prices, increased VAT and tough market conditions? Are these having an impact on how an organiser plans their movements?

Colin Stone, exhibitions director, 24-7 Exhibitions, suggests that the current increases in the price of diesel are extreme, and as a result the cost must be passed to the end user.

“Even the sandwich delivery man charges you more these days,” Stone laughs. “People go away and think they’ll find the price cheaper but in the end they come back.”

Stone explains that the company operates its own fleet. Currently, as Stand Out writes, it is delivering six artics of kits to Maison & Objet, 13 trucks of equipment to IBC in Amsterdam and 14 artics of supplies to Kind und Jugend in Cologne. Previously, 12 trucks of kit had been driven to Aberdeen for Offshore Europe.

“We don’t sub-contract,” adds Stone. “All of our work is driver accompanied. Obviously, it’s cheaper to move stuff around unaccompanied but then you run the risk of it not getting there on time.”

24-7 Exhibitions is currently operating at capacity – the summer months are quiet but now work is picking up. According to Stone, trade has improved significantly in the last two years, and he says that the quality of client is better with not as much as bad debt.

Adds Derek Hale, managing director, Production Freight: “In the good old days, the kit available locally wasn’t up to much. As a result, equipment was sent all over the world. Over the last 10 years that’s changed. Hire companies have set up and have good kit; organisers are now able
to get what they want, and as a freight company there’s not so much [work] about.

“The cost of shipping has impinged on business too. Six to eight years ago, we found that fuel surcharges were tagged on to freight surcharges. Shipping companies and airlines kept the freight surcharges the same but increased the fuel surcharges and now they are just having a laugh.

“Unfortunately, fuel surcharges have to be passed on.”

Hale explains that shipping to China is relatively cheap because the country needs the empty containers for export. Between the US and the UK, there’s an equal amount of import and export traffic and so costs for shipping equipment in and out are in proportion.

Currently, Production Freight is forwarding kit for the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, the Pan Arab Games in Doha and IBC in Amsterdam.

At present, the country is talking to overseas partners regarding plans for 2012, and is currently from the US handling 100 containers with equipment for the Olympic Stadium.


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