2012 will be a year of special events in the UK. Within weeks of each other the country celebrates Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, holds the Wimbledon tennis tournament and most significantly from a logistics point of view, London hosts the 2012 Summer Olympics.

As athletes, spectators, staff, security and volunteers descend upon London for the Olympic and Paralympic games the city’s ability to host and supporting infrastructure will be put to the test in no way ever seen before. The investment and planning for the games has (hopefully!) been second to none, and will see London flourish with excitement – and importantly gross billions of pounds of turnover for large and small companies alike.

From the public view it will appear that most stress will be on the mass transit of people – public transport will be pushed to the limit and beyond – but behind the scenes we also have to recognize the role that Freight & Logistics will play in keeping everything on track.

Helping to keep the logistics companies ahead of the game is an immense task. Several industry experts are writing views on this, but to me, the five Olympic rings encapsulate 5 key issues confronting Logistics operators this summer:

  • Ring 1: Inbound Freight challenges on air traffic & sea traffic. Whilst most items which are dependent on a just-in-time supply chain will already be in & around London weeks in advance, the forecast increase in passenger & freight into London in July thru September are likely to have impact on the time critical businesses, both related to the games and otherwise. In addition to an increase in traffic volume, a range of restrictions on road and air movements are being implemented for the duration of the Games. Whilst these restrictions, which centre on Olympic venues London and regional sporting facilities in England and Wales, will help those charged with ensuring the safety of athletes and spectators, they present a challenge to the logistics industry.

Ring 2: Increased levels in Distribution Centres will put additional load on the Logistics companies, in terms of amount of storage, type of storage, and the peak flow challenge to ensure it is optimized and resourced correctly. This is where task based WMS with efficient RF capability comes into play to ensure that all receipts are quick & efficient to ensure arrival doors are not clogged up, inventory management is clear & visible, Value Added Logistics are performed on time and to the right degree, and despatch processes are slick to ensure that the despatch doors are not clogged up too. Time is going to be of the essence, no amount of money can buy extra after all!

Ring 3: Physical Distribution challenges on London’s roads. The road restrictions noted in Ring 1 will obviously have their greatest impact in London itself. The Olympic Route Network (ORN) covers around 280 miles of roads, 109 of which are in London itself under the management of Transport for London. Official Olympic partners will benefit from dedicated Games Lanes, but those who are not must contend with changes to signals, restricted turns into side roads and suspension of loading bays.

Ring 4: Taking into account ring 3, for London where is it best to position the Ring 2 operation? If it is located too far out of London, there will be even more pressure on the start of the transport leg to happen on time – the physical road open/close times restrictions means that everything has to run like clockwork.

Ring 5: Management, Measurement, and Billing. It is all too easy in times of extreme pressure to focus on the “Just get it done” approach. Whilst there is nothing wrong in reactive measures it is important to bring the administration of the Logistics business back under control as quickly as possible. Additional temporary warehouse staff doing more tasks and generating more despatches create one thing for the admin department – more admin. The reporting needs to be on-time and accurate, as replenishment of stocks during this time will be more difficult and expensive than normal, so solid forecasting is essential. Managers need to know what should have happened, what did happen, and adjust the next steps accordingly.

The other side of the stacked up admin in-tray is the billing – knowing what has happened is key to getting the billing right, and getting the invoices sent on time. It is important to recognise, however, that debtors will also have more work, therefore cashflow delays can easily creep in. Ensuring that this is tightly marshalled is vital for the overall health of the business.

During the summer of 2012 Freight & Logistics operations in and around London must continue to deliver the same standards of service with a significantly lower level of access to infrastructure than they are used to. There will be some proactive moments, and some reactive moments, so what tools are out there to assist?

Single integrated IT solutions offering End-to-End process management are a great technological tool. From the forecasting stage, through planning, physical operational process support, to Operational & Management reporting, and invoicing – a single IT solution can help take the strain. Modular solutions allow you to use your creativity to best use IT & Technology to support the shape of your business. Often with the current trend towards flexible on-demand pricing models this can mean that you can secure cost-effective solutions which will scale up & down with your operation through the peaks & troughs.

Visibility of your business in these tough times is vital. Workflow management tools can help ensure that what should happen does happen and maintain efficiency by reducing errors (and managing them when they do happen), sustaining smooth flowing operations, keeping human resources calm, and billing for it efficiently using as many automated tariffs as you can manage – because ultimately, it is all about the gold.

 Simon Clark is Vice President - BusinessDevelopment Europe for CargoWise®

Media Contact:  Lisa Tree, lisa.tree@wisetechglobal.com