Event logistics: The Herculean task

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Speed, precision and on time delivery is key to event logistics. Compliance is especially critical at international shows, where specifications change dramatically from country to country.

Bringing a carefully planned event together has always been a logistical challenge. Be it a guitar pick of the lead guitarist or the piston of a Formula 1 car which gets assembled on the track - it’s a herculean task for a logistics planner to keep tabs on every shipment ensuring everything reaches on time at the right place and in the desired form. With concert touring and music festivals now a major revenue stream for the music industry, artists are under increasing pressure to squeeze as many shows as possible into their international tour schedules. And the logistical challenges presented by back-to-back shows in different cities and often different countries are becoming greater. Official logistics partner to Gewandhaus Orchestra, DHL transports the entire orchestral equipment on concert tours, not only within Europe but also to Asia and America. DHL Trade Fairs & Events, a DHL Freight subsidiary, accounts for logistic planning as well as transport of more than 100 musical instruments and the complete orchestra equipment. This year, the Asian tour kicked off with its first concert in Shanghai. Under the conductorship of Riccardo Chailly, the orchestra then travelled to performances in Japan. After eight performances in five cities, the ten-day tour ended in Tokyo. “When we are handling an event, we are responsible for building that event from the ground up. We have to make sure that each and everything required gets to the venue at the right time. Even the slightest of miscalculation can lead to serious blunder. How a watch doesn’t function just by the mere absence of tiny bolt, similarly the proper execution of many events depends on the tiniest of entities,” explains Ravi Subramanian, senior vice president and managing director – India, DHL Express. Valued at nearly 2.5 million euros, most of the orchestra’s instruments, which are highly sensitive and irreplaceable, the logistics provider used special shock proof transport boxes that monitor the instruments’ temperature. Furthermore, DHL transported the orchestra’s complete equipment, including music stands, stools, conductor’s rostrum and wardrobe. The logistics partner’s comprehensive services also include handling of customs formalities. “While orchestrating events, we are accustomed to mastering everyday industry challenges. Not only this, we have to anticipate and plan on responding to unforeseen difficulties. Of all the numerous challenges that we face, the most crucial ones are international supply chain management, material handling and permits required,” said RS Subramanian, SVP & MD - India, DHL Express. DHL has partnered with a number of international events like the IMG Fashion Weeks (globally) and the Lakme Fashion Week in India, Formula One Grand Prix, Formula E, Cirque Du Soleil, Manchester United Trophy tour among others. Organizing international sporting events is equally a demanding task, regardless of whether it is the World Cup, the Olympic Games, sailing regattas or athletics championships. In order to ensure the perfect logistics, logistics experts start preparations and planning well in advance - approximately three years before the actual event takes place. “Firstly, we are building our teams, locally as well as worldwide and define responsibilities within these teams for the planning, coordination and organization of logistics services related to the event. During these three years, we go step by step, arranging all necessary phases such as: Analyze event and country rules and regulations, establish handling manuals, clarify customs procedures, develop transport concepts and infrastructure solutions, actual operation and transportation of goods, customs clearance, warehousing and distribution, venue management, just to name a few,” Christian Schultze, Head of DB SCHENKERsportsevents gives a step-by-step lowdown on their planning phase. DB Schenker has provided logistics services to large international sporting events like the Munich 1972 and Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and recent events such as 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Various factors are taken into consideration while planning for an event like the venue and the duration of the event or series of events. Taking an example of F1 racing where nowadays each team travels around 160,000 kilometres (100,000 miles) between races and test sessions each year, an event of such nature calls for a very stringent schedule. “We have to plan every detail to the tee as we have to make sure that all the cars and equipment arrive at the circuit right before the practice round. For this purpose, DHL has developed a concept for racing that integrates all parties who play a role at a racing series or event. No matter whether it is a race car, motor home, kitchen, VIP tents, rain tires or TV equipment – everything is transported punctually and reliably to the destination by a single source. The planning for such an event happens months before so that each potential problem can be rooted out before it arises. All destinations, all circuits, all venues have been properly mapped out so that nothing stands in the way of an on-time processing of the event,” explains DHL’s Subramanian. Speed, precision and on time delivery is key to event logistics. Compliance is especially critical at international shows, where specifications change dramatically from country to country, another significant factor is the custom regulations that every country adheres to. There is no worldwide standard. For example in Brazil, currently temporary imports cannot be arranged by Carnet ATA which is the most common way to import goods for a short term. Also, medication for the participating teams is always a challenge. Customs clearance also has to be discussed in advance as clearance of goods for sports events always requires special customs procedures. Logistics planners prepare themselves to such challenges with a mixture of comprehensive planning, thoroughness, knowledge and the right amount of flexibility. DB Schenker’s Schultze recalls a hurdle faced while handling logistics for the FIFA World Cup 2014. “We had a major ocean freight shipment for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. All of a sudden the ocean carrier changed the routing of one of the vessels, which led the vessel to arrive later than originally planned. In order to make up for the delay we used all our long-term experience, managed to arrange a special customs procedure and accelerate the process to one day. Additionally, we always plan a little time buffer. This way we were able to deliver to the event site just in time.” 

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