Olympics provide supply chain management masterclass

olympic rings london 2012
 Photo: Associated Press

When the millions of viewers around the world watch the 2012 London Olympic Games, they see their nations' best athletes competing for a chance at glory. Supply chain management experts, however, can see a hidden side to the games. The Olympics are an immensely complex event, meaning that there are dozens of ways logistics professionals can learn from their organization and transfer those lessons to everyday processes.

High-level strategy

According to the U.S. News University Directory, there is an overall supply chain management plan in place in London. The strategy was the brainchild of the Olympics committee and contains security concerns and a sustainability focus. According to the source, the organizers have made sure that each of the many partners taken on board for the games are aware of these central tenets.

The security in place is worthy of special mention, as high profile events such as the Olympics are closely-watched as possible sites of terrorist action. The plan in place is a model for companies in safety-conscious fields. U.S. News reported that organizers ran background checks for every worker involved, whether or not they are long time employees. Organizers also insist on oversight for every load and unload procedure. Goods in warehouses are subject to inspection as well.

Olympics suppliers, according to the source, are going even further with control of the packaging goods are sold in. All items are fully packaged, even clothing. The end goal is that nothing is physically handled before purchase, with officially licensed garments sold in standardized sizes and wrapped in plastic.

The news provider indicated that one of the special qualities of the Olympic supply chain is the rapid way it comes together and is disassembled again. According to the source, the immediate collaboration required to make it all work is very much in the Olympic spirit.

Widespread attention

Many news sources have weighed in on the importance of innovations leveraged within the Olympic supply chain. According to the Supply Chain Standard, experts John Mead and Mark Lythaby are especially interested in the processes that accompanied the building of the stadiums for the games. The researchers, the source stated, emphasized that the processes involved were a model for companies dealing with hard deadlines. Constructing an arena for the games has no middle ground - if it is not ready for its events, the project is a complete failure.