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Taking tight control of materials

Co-ordinating the supply of materials to the Olympic site is a major challenge. By Jonathan Shortis

The 2012 Olympic Games presents the UK’s construction industry and its supply chain with its biggest challenge in decades.

With an overall budget of over £9 billion, a multitude of venues, up to 20,000 individuals all working within a dense, urban environment, it’s clear that a ‘business as usual’ approach to the Olympic project will not do.

Certainly, a ‘silo’ mentality when it comes to the delivery of construction materials and skills across the capital is likely to secure nothing but over-runs.

At present, the omens are looking positive, as the Olympic Delivery Authority team and its delivery partner CLM are seasoned operators with a track record of delivering projects on time and within budget.

Embracing innovation

To secure success when it comes to the Games, supply chain innovation will have to be embraced as perhaps never before. One innovation that is currently gaining credibility in logistics circles and is being seriously considered by the ODA is the use of a ‘control tower’ management approach.

This co-ordinates and synchronises deliveries of materials and plant to the project contractors and subcontractors – groups that are all too used to operating in supply chain isolation.

Part of this solution involves establishing marshalling areas, where materials can be security screened, checked and configured, before going onto their final destination in the right order – facilitating efficient construction. Such a facility can dovetail with the Olympic ‘security plaza’, where the movement of materials and workers can be tightly controlled so that the risks of infiltration, terrorism and theft can be kept to a minimum.

A key facet of this will be the correct synchronization of in-bound materials with manual handling equipment, cranage and hoists to minimise dwell time on site and maximise the use of these valuable resources. The wrong selection of specialist equipment at this vital juncture of the supply chain can cost time.

Road, rail, river and sea

Similarly, a multi-modal approach to the end-to-end supply chain using road, rail, river and sea transport in the most effective way, is an approach that has achieved a lot of ‘air play’. But it needs to happen in reality to achieve true supply chain efficiencies and minimum impact on the local environment.

Supply chain management was once seen as nothing more than a glorified stock control tool; a somewhat sleepy back office function. Things have now changed out of all recognition.

Better supply chain management will improve vehicle useage and labour productivity as well as health and safety. It can drastically improve management control, ensuring projects are delivered on time and within budget. In short, the supply chain will play a huge role in the successful delivery of the Olympic dream.

Jonathan Shortis is business development director at DHL Exel Supply Chain’s industrial division