Friday Rant: An Olympics Procurement and Supply Chain Post-Mortem (Part 1)

In general, the London Olympics -- from here in my office, just 30 miles from the centre of the City -- are being greeted as a huge success. Part of that is the performance of the GB team of course, and our discovery that our land is apparently filled with charming and amazing young women who can throw, ride, cycle, kick, box, run, or row better than pretty much anyone else in the world! Speaking as the father of a daughter, if that provides our young women with more role models who aren't silicon enhanced reality TV "celebrities," anorexic models, or vacuous footballers' wives, then that will be a fine legacy.

But moving away from pure athletic prowess, much of the success of the Games has been down to effective management of procurement and supply chain issues. But once the rose-coloured memories start to fade, it will be interesting to consider what worked and what didn't, particularly those aspects that have some relevance to wider matters. (It's of less value, for instance, analysing true one-off situations such as how rubbish our mascots were, although even then, I suppose it might help Rio do better in 2016!)

So first of all, the big successes. The construction programme came in ahead of schedule and on budget, although cynics would point out that the final budget was three times the first estimates, on the back of which the UK taxpayer signed up to the Games. But the management of the programme was exemplary. We've written a fair bit about it on our UK site, but it was a strong vindication for a highly professional and structured contract management programme, and of the use of the NEC 4 suite of contracts to control the process. Anyone who has been involved in construction procurement or contract management knows that managing risk and change are the key elements that can derail a programme. The performance in that regard was just excellent.

There was also a lot of good work done around sustainability and corporate responsibility. From the planting of gardens within the Olympic Park, to the use of canals for transporting materials in for construction, to the focus on visitors using public transport, there were good models for future projects.

And stuff worked. There were few of the delays we expected for security checks, everything started and finished on time, no one ran out of anything important -- and much of that is down to excellent work by procurement, supply chain and planning people in LOCOG and ODA over the last few years. Also, whoever was in charge of props procurement for the opening ceremony in particular -- a special "well done" there.

Transport was perhaps the most unexpected success of the Games. The two weeks proved how resilient London is despite our regular moans about the Tube or Southwest trains, and my experience of the venue-specific service was just amazingly good. Again, everything just worked.

So all good, and congratulations to everyone involved. However, there are a few issues that we might learn from (aside from the apparently totally random nature of the BMX races) -- and we'll cover those next week!

- Peter Smith

Discuss this:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *