In this exclusive interview, we asked Francis Ktenidis - DHL's Logistics Project Lead - about his experience on the Rugby World Cup 2015 and the challenges this type of tournament presents.
In terms of when the full team started the real work – this began in earnest two years ago, once we were confirmed as Official Logistics Partner and we began planning with the Tournament organizers England Rugby. With 20 teams, multiple training bases and 13 different match venues, we needed to ensure that well thought out plans were in place to ensure everything would be in place on match day, from the first kick off through to the final. Crucially, we had to understand the weights and dimensions of every bit of kit, object and product that we were asked to transport. And more importantly still, we had to ensure that the operations teams of England 2015 and the participating countries were well briefed on transportation and customs requirements so that they could build that into their own planning and work even more effectively with us.
What was the biggest logistics challenge of the Tournament and how did you overcome this?
In the run up to, and throughout the tournament, we were faced with a number of challenges. From delivering tickets – an important part of the fan experience – to remote locations through to ensuring the safe delivery of the Webb Ellis Cup, we were under intense pressure to perform. With teams traveling to the Tournament from around the world, one of our biggest advantages was having people on the ground in the home countries who could advise the teams and ensure smooth customs clearance and transportation to the UK. One of the hardest challenges was that the schedule of movements for the teams’ freight was very fluid and continuously changing – either driven by team requirements/changes or dependent on results later in the tournament during the knock out stages. Various scenarios and permutations needed to be allowed for to ensure every eventuality was covered off. In the end we reached version 28 of the schedule of movements for team freight by the end of the tournament. Another challenge was the logistics support for the anti-doping operation, which involved delivering the players’ samples to the laboratory in central London from all locations needed across England and Wales. The criticality this plays in ensuring fair play and integrity throughout the tournament meant that on-time collection and delivery were essential, despite the fact that timing of non-match samples was unknown.
Do you think you’ll apply your experience of the Rugby World Cup to future challenges or is this a unique event for logistics?
We’ll absolutely be able to apply the experience from the Tournament. The Rugby World Cup is of course a unique event, for the players, for fans and also from a logistics perspective, but I know that the experience we’ve gained will prove useful in the future.
DHL supports the logistics operations for a number of other international sporting events, such as Formula One and Moto GP, as well as entertainment events such as Cirque du Soleil and Fashion Weeks. The experience of delivering Rugby World Cup 2015 is very relevant to these operations, where you are under pressure to deliver large-scale events under intense time pressure with lots of moving parts. We are continuously learning how to enhance our service offering, and supporting one of the world’s biggest sporting events has given us valuable insight into how to further improve our planning processes and make our logistics operations even more efficient. We also recently announced an extension of our partnership with Rugby 7s and so will be continuing to work closely with the sport from both a sponsorship and logistics perspective. The working relationship we have built up with the national rugby federations and their operations teams will serve us well in delivering this event also.
One of the biggest takeaways from the tournament has been to see just how motivating our involvement in such a high profile event can be for our own people – not only the team who are directly involved in the delivery of the event, but also the rest of our staff around the world. Everyone was incredibly excited to see our company – and logistics – playing such an important role in an event that their friends and family are talking about. This is the kind of thing we’ll continue to capitalize on in future through our involvement in rugby and in other exciting partnerships.