Le Grand Depart Yorkshire…A supply chain success?

By Howard Roddie, Senior Supply Chain Consultant (@HowardRoddie)

The close ties between FuturMaster head office in Paris and our UK headquarters in Yorkshire were strengthened recently with the arrival of the Tour de France in gods own country.  As has been discussed previously, Le Tour presented Yorkshire with unprecedented logistical and supply chain challenges.  So how did it go, was everything OK on the day?


Le Grand Depart Yorkshire

Well, first of all, the event was a huge crowd pulling success.  Official estimates put the crowds at approximately 2.5 million over two days.  A fair bit more than expected.  Huge crowds lined the route, from the large well-connected cities like Leeds, to towns, villages and onto remote hamlets connected only by the thinnest and hilliest veins of the road network.  But despite this, everyone got there, got fed, got home again and we all had a great time.

This was all achieved by great planning.  The organisation was fantastic; efficient but unobtrusive.  Managing the traffic in these situations can be a minefield: tell us where to park and we’ll all turn up in the same place at the same time.  Tell us nothing where to park and we’ll all turn up in the same place at the same time. Tell us nothing and you’ll get a different type of problem.  You can have planned chaos or unplanned chaos.  I suspect that what actually happened was a bit of game theory where options of arriving a few days before the event were spelt out in detail, making camping an easy option.  Parking details, however, were vague and sketchy, requiring a fair bit of research to work out.  Arriving very early was advised.  The result was that people took a huge variety of decisions and the arrival times were staggered.

In my own case I arrived at the Côte de Grinton around 11am, queued for two minutes to get into a car park filled with 700 cars (one of at least three fields east of Grinton open for business) and walked straight up to the packed hill climb in about 20 minutes.  I even managed to stop for a bacon buttie at a pop-up cafe in a farm-yard half way up.  I’d arrived at least an hour earlier than expected and the road was lined with tens of thousands of people.  I am still amazed.

Now you would think that once the riders passed, chaos would ensue as everyone streamed through Grinton’s narrow streets, but no!  Even though everyone was leaving around the same time, the narrow road out of the village coped remarkably well with a mixture of bikes and cars that would be toxic in London.  My total delay on the 25 kilometres back to the motorway was about ten minutes.

All this was down to planning, by the police, local authorities and individuals.  Everyone played their part.  This is the key for any exceptional event.  Product promotions are driven by capacity planning on the supply side and, often unwittingly, game theory on the demand side.  Mechanisms such as price, multi-buys and so on are used to influence consumer decisions to match exceptional supply.  Workflows are used to pull the whole process together and consumers are given the information needed to help them to make the right decision to ensure an exceptional event succeeds.  Over here in Yorkshire, we’re proud to be able to make that happen, whether it’s our authorities managing the Tour de France or FuturMaster planning our customer’s promotions.

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