May 17, 2020

Olympian Appetites

Supply Chain Digital
London 2012
Freddie Pierce
3 min
Phelps scarfs 12,000 calories a day during training
What does it take to make the Olympic Village tick? To keep the multitudes of athletes – 16,000 representing 200 countries to be exact – ha...

What does it take to make the Olympic Village tick? To keep the multitudes of athletes – 16,000 representing 200 countries to be exact – happy, healthy, toned and ready to perform at their peak?

Delivering the goods on time and making sure everything runs smoothly is no small feat, a champion event in and of itself, and worthy of Supply Chain Digital’s attention. Here, we delve deeper into the netherworld of the Village.

Running with the Big Dogs                                

The intricacies of the supply chain procuring materials for the Games comprise a ripe opportunity for contributors to gain recognition, increased exposure and in short, the opportunity to forge a long-lasting, successful business endeavor.

“Virtually every UK manufacturing sector has a major opportunity to advertise its products,” a column released by VEGA proclaimed. Food and beverage merchants, makers of athletic clothing and health products, and pharmaceutical distributors, to name a few, will be given the chance to flex a little muscle as well, given they’re up to the task.

Logistical challenges will abound, including the exacting demands of the organizing committee which have been likened in past years to a diva’s backstage demands. Suppliers better be on point.

Often, past host cities’ sole endeavor was to paint a happy picture for the masses, and be able to collapse with an exhausted sigh of relief at the resolution of the madness. This time is different, though, as London’s bid placed a particular emphasis on the calculated, deftly allocated management of available resources.

The International Olympic Committee chose the site with the specific intent that the Games would leave behind a legacy of sporting, with a resounding effect on the economy for generations to come.

UPS Logistics Prepares to Meet the Challenges of London 2012

Primed and Ready for Action

While we all know the immense amount of grub, not to mention fancy electrolyte-enhanced sports drinks, needed to keep these thousands of studs and lithe beauties in tip top shape before their explosive expenditure of energy, some of the supplies needed to keep everyone happy are not what you’d expect.

Known to be a hotspot of budding international camaraderie, the Olympic Village at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver saw 100,000 condoms provided – roughly 14 per person per day (!!) – yet demand called for back-ups.

Apparently, distributors had failed to take into account the somewhat fearsome amount of stamina these young athletes train their bodies to achieve. This year the organizing committee will up the ante by distributing 150,000 condoms.

To match their voracious appetites for fun, Olympians need to take in a phenomenal amount of food to keep their bodies running at maximum capacity. Gold medalist Michael Phelps has admitted to taking in a whopping 12,000 calories a day to fuel his 8-hour-a-day workouts.

Dubbed the “largest peace-time catering operation in the world” over 14 million meals at the Village will be made up of 25,000 loaves of bread, 100 tons of meat, 232 tons of potatoes, 330 tons of produce, and 19 tons of eggs.

That Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience

After the start guns are exhausted, the podiums have been mounted and the celebratory drinks guzzled, an undeniable fact remains: everyone involved in the logistics of the 2012 Olympic Games will have made an invaluable contribution.

Viewers know the athletes participate in a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but everyone involved in the behind-the-scenes work do as well. And the Games would not be possible without them. 

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Aug 2, 2021

Procurement Outsourcing: Partnering with Outside Experts

6 min
To adapt to an unpredictable world, you can transfer specific procurement processes to outside vendors—cutting costs and re-focusing on your core products

In coming years, supply and demand will fluctuate, new technology will change the way procurement teams operate, and skilled workers will be in short supply. Outsourcing procurement is now a priority. Explained John Piatek, GEP Vice President and Thought Leadership Council Chairman: “In the face of wild swings in consumer demand, trade wars, tariffs, and chains bent and frequently broke.” Therefore, companies need to know how to recover. 

The Rise of Strategic Procurement 

The pandemic placed procurement on a higher level within business operations. Executive boards that previously overlooked or undersold the value of procurement started to sit procurement managers around the table with strategic advisors to mitigate risks, optimise costs, and drive growth. ‘‘This year has demonstrated the importance of bringing CPOs into C-suite conversations”, explained Jennifer Brown, Principal, Deloitte Consulting. “They bring significant value to the table.” 

Procurement teams now race to find skilled, third-party vendors to provide services they can neither afford nor prioritise. Outsourcing of S2C can give companies access to expertise, capabilities, and scale they may not have in-house,” said Iliana Filyanova, Partner for McKinsey’s Manufacturing & Supply Chain. For example, expert outside firms can analyse market conditions, supply specialised goods such as semiconductors or uniquely designed parts, and help develop a strong IT infrastructure. 

To be clear, if your team can skillfully outsource, a whole new world opens up: you can rapidly adjust to market conditions, scale up when demand spikes, and scale down when dips hit. 

Why Outsource? 

First, you can cut costs. Suppliers in Southeast Asia and other low-cost countries can provide large amounts of materials and products at excellent prices without the political backlash that often accompanies offshoring. But outsourcing has several advantages. When you get specialists on board, you can shorten development times, hire additional staff without having to train them, and digitise your procurement systems thanks to IT experts. 


Additional Benefits 

  • Increases focus on core tasks 
  • Provides staff more time to fulfil their priorities 
  • Supplies next-gen technology expertise 
  • Reduces operational costs
  • Helps prevent duplicate payments 


These benefits only accrue, however, if your team carefully defines the scope of the operation. When you try to hit the bull’s-eye on a dartboard, you aim directly at the centre. It takes a certain angle, force, and skill. Likewise, procurement teams must figure out what and how much to outsource. Outsourcing still requires spending, and teams will want to get good data before they sign a final contract. In addition, staff members should be on board with the rationale and objectives of the outsourcing project—otherwise, your darts will miss their target. 

How To Successfully Outsource Procurement 

According to McKinsey, teams should focus on three main steps. 


  1. Determine which categories to outsource. Focus on non-core business areas. These are any services that support your core product, such as freight and shipping, facilities, and IT infrastructure. 
  2. Select the right metrics. Build supplier scorecards, in which your team decides upon two to three key criteria such as low unit prices, supply chain resilience, and quality of product. 
  3. Partner with the appropriate people. Ask potential firms questions to assess their domain expertise; diversify your search to take in a variety of global organisations, and consider their technical skills—even if you’re not hiring the vendor for IT. 


If these focus areas seem too broad, Deloitte recommends a phase-by-phase process.

Deloitte: The Seven Stages of Outsourcing

Starting the Search

First, companies should Assess and Prepare. These steps include defining vendor requirements and starting to engage. In these phases, you may do some background research but not engage with them directly. Web searches can yield initial results, and consultants can also help—especially those who know the strengths and weaknesses of your industry. After you have your list narrowed down, you can produce a strong, detailed RFP.

Naturally, your RFP will attract the relevant suppliers, and you’ll be able to move to Evaluate. If you’ve chosen strong metrics, two to three top vendor proposals should stand out. Be forewarned, Deloitte said: the next part is tricky. Committing, or negotiating your final contracts, will lock you into a potentially multi-year collaboration with a vendor. Take your time: you can deliberate over competing offers, as well as request that additional support be built into the contract. 

Negotiating the Best Deal

Advocate for your best interests! “I moved forward to negotiate with a current contract manufacturer with whom we had an important volume commitment with high prices,” said Elodie Cramer, Associate Director of Biogen. “We were in a single-source situation, with no active alternatives.” She opted to pursue dual sourcing, as well as insist on open vendor discussions. At the conclusion of the talks, she had bartered better terms: 29% lower costs, 75% less volume commitment, and improved vendor quality and service. 

Additionally, teams should discuss details such as how to optimise taxes, meet regulatory compliance, and protect ESG standards. Safety-catch measures like these may seem to extend the outsourcing process, but they’ll ensure that you don’t end up spending more over the long term. Compliance, after all, can drive 30% to 50% of savings, and talking about it upfront is for the best for all concerned. 

Closing the Case

Once you’ve reached acceptable terms, you can Transition, handing the project work and resources over to your vendor, and Optimise, following up to manage and improve the relationship. Don’t forget to dot your i’s and cross your t’s—Deloitte even recommends an end checklist. Sign the contract; create a people transition plan; complete consultations with any oversight committees. After signing the paper with a flourish, you can then rest easily, confident that you’ve followed a strategic outsourcing system. 

Companies To Emulate 

Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Slack, Alibaba, Acer: even major multinational companies seek to outsource specific systems, technical skills, or materials. When Unilever integrated its ERP platforms into a single system, outsourcing saved the company an annual €700 million. Slack outsourced its universally-known colourful design label to MetaLab. Alibaba outsourced to US firms to compete with eBay. Acer outsourced manufacturing to maintain a small, agile team. As a result, these companies improved their international reputations, offset their internal weaknesses, and built strong vendor partnerships. 

As executives increasingly turn to procurement to make their global operations less costly and more resilient, teams that strategically outsource work will stand a better chance of bringing good news to the next management meeting. Said Ryan Flynn, Principal, Deloitte Consulting: “CPOs are uniquely positioned to help their organizations navigate a historically disruptive time and build the agility required to thrive.” 

Yet to do so, they must act with intent. “Successful outsourcing—outsourcing that drives transformation and helps achieve broad strategic goals—requires companies to follow a disciplined process,” wrote Deloitte. In short: Outsourcing initiatives succeed not by luck, but by design. 


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