Getting ready for an Olympics is like the well know duck analogy; all seems calm on the surface, but to get there, there is a lot of paddling under the surface.
Whilst the Summer Games only run for 6 weeks every 4 years (Winter in the intervening 2 year cycle), the success of the athletes whilst competing is equally impacted by the smooth running of the support activities, both during and in the run up to the games.
This covers not only coordination of athletes from all the various national sporting organisations, but also support staff, travel, accommodation, equipment, sponsorship etc. Add to that, the hurdles introduced with Covid 19 this year, and it takes a lot of organising.
One of the key aspects to this organisational challenge, is ensuring that the teams have the correct kit for all events, be it athletic attire or formal wear for ceremonies, with this years quantity of kit running to more than 150,000 items of clothing.
Distributing this kit is its own event, running over a period of 6 weeks in a central (UK) location in advance of shipping out to the Games. Here, sponsors, suppliers, support teams and the athletes all come together to check sizes, try clothes on, engage with the marketing teams and ultimately leave with their packed bags ready to head out to Tokyo.
From a process perspective, the whole activity involves the typical stock management activities such as goods-inwards, unpacking, stock taking, storing, picking.
The challenges however, for TeamGB, are that they don’t have a fixed warehouse environment (its pop-up), they rely on volunteers for helping with the kitting out and can’t invest in long term stock management solutions.
Surely the obvious solution is to use paper (with a bit of Excel)? On the face of it, it gets the job done, its quick, not reliant on IT and everyone knows how to write.
Reality proved to be different with early events. Lost paperwork, missing information, wasted time, loss of stock control, lack of trust in the process and stress were common, but more importantly athletes were potentially receiving the wrong kit, just at the point when you want the team focussing 100% on their performance.
Working closely with TeamGB, we built a rich, mobile solution which bridged the gap between the flexibility of paper, and the large scale, but often inflexible stock management systems.
With Bluetooth integration between the mobile devices and barcode scanners, the system was fully mobile, linking back to a central cloud server which provided full stock management reporting together with dashboards and billboards for the waiting athletes with their scheduled slot for shopping and status of their kit packing.
A strong focus for all, was on the design of the system. With a planned turnover of volunteer ‘personal shoppers’ throughout the event, the system needed the absolute minimum of training, with errors being virtually impossible. This allowed the operators to start quickly and spend their time focussing on the athlete rather than the system, further enhancing the experience for all.
The system for Tokyo builds on the solution we have developed with TeamGB over four subsequent Olympic Games, with the provision of an integrated service which includes enhancements, 80+ ruggedised iPads (including Mobile Device Management) and on-site support services.
With planning for the Beijing Winter Olympics already advanced and a similar long-term relationship with the British Paralympic Association, we look forward to continuing our work with supporting the success of UK Sport.