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Going for gold
01/05/2012 | Channel:
Logistics / Packaging
Alan Williams, UPS Director of 2012 Sponsorship and Operations, discusses the Olympics with Libbie Hammond
What is your career background and how did you get to where you are today?
I am UPS’s Director of London 2012 Sponsorship and Operations overseeing a team of seven logistics experts based within the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) offices in Canary Wharf. I have responsibility for UPS’s London 2012 Olympic programme that includes operations planning and execution, marketing, environment and sustainability programmes and community and corporate responsibility projects.
Prior to my current role, I worked for UPS for 21 years across several markets in Europe, including the UK, and the US, primarily in operations, industrial engineering and strategy.
My most recent pre-Olympics role was the project manager for the development and successful opening in 2008 of UPS’s $105 million superhub in Tamworth, UK, the second largest UPS facility outside of the US. This included overall responsibility for the integration of the UPS and Lynx Express transport networks following the acquisition of Lynx in 2005. Prior to that, I was responsible for UPS’s operations in France, where I was based for six years.
Could you explain what you do as a company and elaborate a little on the company’s history?
UPS is a global leader in logistics and we offer a broad range of solutions including the transportation of packages and freight, the facilitation of international trade, and the deployment of advanced technology to more efficiently manage the world of business. Headquartered in Atlanta, we operate in more than 220 countries and territories, delivering over 15.8 million packages every day.
UPS was founded in 1907 in Seattle and first entered Europe in 1976 when it established domestic operations in Germany.
We ran our first service in the UK in 1985 and went on to open a full-scale UK-based operation in 1988 through the acquisition of Ark Star/Atlasair and IML Couriers. To further enhance our capabilities in the UK market, we also acquired Carryfast Ltd. in 1992 and LYNX Express in 2005.
UPS has plenty of experience helping to deliver the Olympic and Paralympic Games in many locations, starting with the Atlanta 1996 Games, followed by the Nagano Winter Olympics (1998) and Sydney Summer Olympics (2000). In 2008, UPS served as the Official Logistics and Express Delivery Sponsor of the Beijing Olympics, similar to the role UPS will play in the 2012 London Games.
Can you tell me about the status of preparations ahead of the Games?
We have been busy developing plans for London 2012’s logistical operations since September 2009. As well as preparing for the Games, we have also been tasked with competition logistics for each of the 44 live test events organised by LOCOG as part of the London Prepares series. Most recently, this took us to the North Greenwich Arena, where we organised the logistics, installation and breakdown of the gymnastics events. These events were particularly poignant for us as we had the honour of watching our UPS London 2012 Ambassador Louis Smith captain Team GB’s gymnastics team as they successfully qualified for the London 2012 Games.
The first two test events clusters are almost complete, and we have been delighted with the progress we have made. These events have enabled us to test and observe the most crucial logistical processes that will operate at every stage of competition during the London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games – from initial venue delivery and installation, to transition between different sports and events, through to final venue breakdown - in a live environment alongside athletes and organisers, who all need the freedom to focus on competition without worrying about where their equipment is.
For us, this is crucial, because until you test your plans in that live environment it is very difficult to prepare for the challenges that crop up beyond your contingency planning - what we call the ‘unknown unknowns’.
To give you an example of this, we co-ordinated the logistics around the road cycling test event in the summer. It was the same weekend as the London riots took place, and so at the eleventh hour our team was required to secure all the road barriers we’d deployed to prevent them being stolen by the rioters. Bearing in mind the road barriers stretched for nearly 2km of road, this meant buying nearly every padlock in the capital! My team worked tirelessly over the course of the weekend to complete the task. It was a tough challenge at the time, but as a result we now have better contingency plans in place in the event something similar were to happen during the London 2012 Games.
Can you expand on UPS’s role with the London 2012 Games?
UPS is the Official Logistics and Express Delivery Supporter of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which means that we will be responsible for virtually all the distribution and logistics services required to produce the London Olympics. By Games time, we estimate that we will have handled 30 million items including one million pieces of sporting equipment.
Staging an Olympic Games and Paralympic Games is probably the biggest peacetime logistical undertaking in the world and our role is much more intricate than simply the delivery of items for the Games - it will include other complex tasks such as supply chain planning, inventory and warehouse management, and many unique special logistics projects crucial in staging what promises to be the greatest Games ever.
What was the business rationale behind the partnership – why did UPS decide to get involved?
We believe that taking on the responsibility of the Logistics for the London 2012 Games is an important investment in expanding our brand and growing our business. What better way to demonstrate UPS’s capability as a leader in logistics than delivering one of the world’s most complex logistical events. Crucial to this is the fact that UPS is providing critical logistics services to London 2012 in a value-in-kind arrangement, which in exchange provides marketing rights to share our story. Being integrated into the team delivering the games allows us to demonstrate and tell our story in a way that simple sponsorship dollars would not allow us to. We found this to be the same case with the Beijing 2008 Games, where UPS also partnered in the same way, and our role there enabled us to raise brand awareness by a significant amount.
Can you give me more details on the scale of the Olympic Games?
I think the best way to understand the scale of operations that UPS will be responsible for is to imagine turning an Olympic venue upside down, everything that falls out – except the people – will be handled by us.
The most fascinating thing about delivering an event like the Olympic Games is that each of the venues pose their own unique challenges. For example, during the London Prepares series at the ExCel arena, we completed competition logistics for seven different Olympic sporting disciplines in just a 19 day period, seeing UPS deliver items from 9000 pieces of furniture and 7870 square metres of sports arena flooring to five truckloads of safety mats for the wrestling, judo and taekwondo competitions.
Although all Olympic Games provide their own individual set of challenges and opportunities – by building on our expertise at the Games in Beijing – we have been able to learn from experience and approach the unique challenges London poses in an informed way in order to tailor the necessary solutions to enable us to deliver what we believe, will be the best games yet!
And about the working relationship with LOCOG?
Our partnership with LOCOG is unlike any other project I have worked on. The key to its success is the one-team approach we have adopted with LOCOG. Our core team works day-to-day alongside LOCOG’s logistics team in its offices, and for me one of the great aspects of the job is looking out onto the office floor and not being able to pick out the UPSers from the LOCOG personnel, such is the level of integration between the two. We truly are all focused on one thing – delivering the best Olympic Games ever.