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Bash versus bread logistics

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LOGISTICS Bureau has been sponsoring the Variety Club Bash through Tip Top bread for many years. The charity is aimed at helping children in need and it does a wonderful job in fulfilling some of the less fortunate children in our country.

This article is written to demonstrate the differences in logistics between the bread industry and an event such as the Variety Club Bash.

Each year a group of maniacs go on the charity rally, the Variety Club Bash. A bunch of old cars go from somewhere in Sydney usually a place starting with the letter "B" to somewhere else in Australia also starting with the letter "B". This year the Bash went from the Bakery to Barossa!

The bakery of course was Tip Top's state-of-the-art facility at Chullora in Sydney's West. So whilst the Bash Cars were starting on one side of the bakery building the fleet of trucks were lined up on the other side ready to deliver the daily bread to customers.

Supply chain requirements for both activities could not be more contrasting, on one hand you have event-based logistics and on the other you have FMCG logistics.

Planning for both activities whilst similar at the methodology level is very different at the day to day planning level.

At a broad level you need to Plan, Source, Make, Deliver and Return for example understanding bread demand, planning supply, baking the bread, delivering it to customers such as grocers and corner stores and then binging back what is not sold is similar to events like Variety Club's where you have to understand demand, (which in this case is also the source of supply, as an event like this needs demand from those good folk who give up there time and supply money to help children in need) then you have to create the event and deliver it to the participants. But this is where the similarities end.

Stuart Telfer, Variety Club Bash events manager starts his planning well in advance of the event. He first decides the Bash Route taking into account factors like daily driving distances for the cars.

If participants drive too far in a day there is no time to set up camp and catering for over 100 vehicles. If cars breakdown then there needs to be enough time to get them back on the road and into the event ASAP.

Most daily stints consist of about a 450km drive. Once the route is known, Stuart uses the old method of a compass and protractor to work out the nearest towns along the way making sure that the cars go over as much dirt road as possible. He then modifies the route to meet the distance/time criteria.

But this is only the route, he then must ensure that each of the remote towns that they stop at has the capacity to cater for the hungry 400-500 "dirt cowboys". Many of the tiny schools get a first hand chance to participate in the process and they are offered the opportunity to cater for the Bash.

Then there is the logistics of ensuring a smooth transition through the towns so police, councils and other relevant organisations are contacted during this first survey.

With the rough cut planning done, it is time to execute the plan or in his words "hit the road". All the planning details are validated during this process and the contacts are established and routes checked and support logistics put in place. Accommodation is booked, usually every spare bed in town is booked an some!

Once he returns from the first drive with updated plans he then contacts all the various police forces and local area commands informing them of the final routes selected and times, dates and traffic expectations.

It is at this point that the "planned Bash" is announced to the participants. This then creates a spike in the various town's activities as 400-500 Bashers swamp each hotel and each town in order to book it out to ensure they have a bed for the night. If people miss out there is always the options of camping in any town and that has been adopted many times in the past.

Now it is time for the media planning which runs right through to Bash Start Day or in logistics terms "go live" date.

Once the first drive is done Stuart then drives the route twice more, each time refining his plans for catering, traffic, road conditions, communications with various Town organisations such as Women's Associations, Rotary, YMCA etc. Stuart also checks out the logistics of getting to each place for the support crew of helicopters, light planes and semi trailers who carry the bulk of the Bashers gear. All in all a monumental planning exercise.

Contrast this to planning for bread! Planning is a continuous process in bread logistics as it is a daily product involving the shipment of hundreds of thousands of loaves to thousands of customers all over Australia including remote and outback locations.

In many States the bread must be on the shelf at a certain time each day as there is a daily purchase peak time in the morning and evening. Because of the fact that many consumers will not take bread from a partially empty stand it is essential to ensure that the shelves are fully stacked with bread ahead of the daily sales peaks.

This imposes major constraints on the distribution fleet who must deliver all the product into the major retailers to a very small time window. To compound the situation if the bread is not sold on the day it was delivered fresh, it gets returned to the manufacturer free of charge. This imposes major reverse logistics problems.

Planning for bread starts with the base demand, which is based on historical performance and used to conduct an initial baking run. There is a daily cut off time for all orders which means that you can then do a second bakes based on the variation between the planned supply and the actual supply for any give day. Remember when you are dealing with machines of 5000-6000 units an hour or even greater you still need to bake for a lot of hours in a day if you are to have enough to meet the demand.

This is why companies have extra bakeries located near to their marketplaces to ensure that enough capacity exists to cater to daily demand.

Assembling an order for bread becomes problematic because, for example, most bakeries have 2-5 baking lines in them and these lines produce different types of products. Changing between products often requires the makers to change the baking tin which itself takes time and reduces the amount of available baking time for that line.

Similarly, if you have to send an order out with multiple products aboard then the trade off becomes making shorter runs of products to ensure that the range is complete to enable a delivery to take place. Now we get into space problems because if you need to bake various products for various lengths of time you then have to marshal the finished product and when you are dealing with thousands of customers, this exercise takes up a considerable amount of room in the breadroom (the warehouse).

This also means that the operations process must be balanced to ensure that you can either get the bread out of the door in the fastest possible time or use more space to store more bread whilst vehicles are being loaded for despatch.

Another major decision is whether a delivery vehicle takes only major retailer orders termed as "bulk" deliveries and others only deliver to small customers like the mums and dad stores as this affects how long a vehicle stops at a location and how many kilometres are travelled between deliveries. The goal is to optimise the relationship between vehicle type, kilometres travelled and stopping time to ensure economic delivery costs.

Planning for bread really is about supply more so than demand and if you get it wrong there are big penalties to pay in terms of lost revenue. Getting bread to the various locations around the country to feed the hungry Bashers is a different challenge.

For example last year, Tip Top, the major sponsors and suppliers of bread for the entire event had to get product to Warburton, 400 kilometres west of Alice Springs! To meet these rigorous requirements the bread sometimes has to be shipped frozen and then thawed prior to consumption.

So whilst planning for daily deliveries of bread is complex, planning for an event like the Bash also has its difficulties.

This article shows some of the diversity in supply chain planning. Logistics Bureau services many types of customers with many types of supply chain planning needs across major multi national organisations.

We are proud to support the Variety Club of NSW Children's Charity.

*Maurice Sinclair is the CEO of supply chain consulting firm Logistics Bureau.

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