Getting ready for an Olympics is like the well known duck effect. Everything seems calm on the surface, but there's is a lot of paddling under the surface.
With the Summer Games running for 6 weeks every 4 years and 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 each of the games.
This smooth running not only covers coordination of athletes from all the various national sporting organisations, but also support staff, travel, accommodation, equipment, sponsorship and more. Add to that, the ongoing hurdles introduced with Covid 19, and it takes a lot of organising.
One of the key aspects to the 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 225,000 items of clothing across Tokyo and Beijing.
Distributing kit is its own event, running over a period of up to 6 weeks in dedicated, centralised locations in advance of shipping out to the events. 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 the host nation.
From a process perspective, the whole activity involves the typical stock management activities such as goods-inwards, unpacking, stock taking, storing, picking.
The challenges for Team GB, are that they don’t have a fixed warehouse environment. All kitting-out events are entirely 'pop-up' and so have to work first time. They are completely reliant 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, it's quick, not reliant on IT and everyone knows how to write.
But 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 receiving the wrong kit, just at the point when you want the team focussing 100% on their performance.
Working closely with Team GB, we built a rich, mobile solution which bridged the gap between the flexibility of paper, and 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 providing live and full stock 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 Beijing and Tokyo builds on the solution we have developed with Team GB 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.
Having just completed the kitting-out event for Beijing for both Team GB and British Paralympic teams we wish both teams well in their endeavours in China and look forward to continuing our work with supporting the success of UK Sport as we start to plan for the next cycle towards Paris in 2024.
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