Cycling becomes even more popular during the summer months and the 105th edition of the Tour de France, which this year takes place from July 7 to July 29, adds to this popularity. The tour covers 3,351 km over 21 stages. It’s an annual multiple stage bicycle race primarily held in France, but sometimes passing through nearby countries – this year riders will travel through Spain for 15km.
Now, a supply chain may not have quite as many stages as the Tour de France but it can be just as complex with different markets, customers, suppliers, products and their manufacturing processes throughout the entire network.
At first glance, cycling and supply chains don’t seem very comparable. One is a sport and the other a key to business success. But they both heavily rely on other participants to achieve success in their own fields. For example, in cycling races, the support crew plays a huge part in the coordination of the event and in supply chains, it’s a team effort from all the divisions to get the right product to the right customer in a timely manner. Both cycling and supply chains have similar features to accomplish this; from training to using the right tools and overcoming scandals.
Like any athlete or sports enthusiast, training and development are of high importance. All competing athletes undergo intensive training months ahead of the event to build up their pace and stamina to not only make it to the end of each stage, which can be over 100 km and sometimes 200km long, but also for better chances of a good result and to avoid injuries. The Tour de France route consists of 8 flat, 5 hilly and 6 mountain stages with 3 of them being altitude finishes. Therefore, the participants need to condition themselves to be able to ride in these environments and still have enough energy for the remainder of the competition.
Supply chains can also significantly benefit from training. As the supply chain industry constantly changes and grows, there are more jobs that need to be filled and new jobs that will be created. However, education is necessary to build the next generation of skillful supply chain management workers. Some retailers and businesses are offering employees the chance to expand and develop their skill-set with financial and academic aid through college assistance programs. This is a program that Walmart has recently expanded their investment in. Investing in employee education can help companies not only retain their workforce, but also indirectly increase consumer satisfaction as these learning opportunities will empower employees to work more effectively.
Furthermore, companies can also implement training schemes for new technologies and software they have invested in, such as inventory management systems to develop and optimize parts of their supply chain as well as reduce costs in the long-run. This way companies can reap the benefits of these new technologies and employees will be more engaged and productive as a result.
The Right Equipment
Like most sports, it is essential to use the right equipment and wear suitable clothing when training for and competing in cycling races to avoid any injuries. This includes a helmet, cycling shoes, sunglasses, a lycra suit, gloves, and the perfect road bike of the right size that corresponds to the rider’s body type and style of riding. Having the appropriate equipment provides cyclists with a higher chance of performing well over the 21 stages and winning the yellow jersey and Tour de France trophy.
In terms of supply chains, the tools and devices used will also have a major impact on the end result. There are a lot of new technologies that can assist companies in operating more effectively. For example, robotics in the warehouse can operate at a quicker pace than standard warehouse workers and as a result fulfil more orders with fewer errors. Last week, Geek Plus Robotics installed one of the largest automated warehouses in Asia for an e-commerce company so they can work more efficiently.
Moreover, some companies are investing in greener supply chain strategies with the help of semi-autonomous electric trucks, like the Tesla Semi, and platooning systems, to better align their business with their objectives and values. For instance, FedEx has pre-ordered 20 of the Tesla Semis and more recently showcased their platooning system as part of a strategy to decrease their environmental impact and improve their logistics operations.
Almost every year since the Tour de France began back in 1903 there has been some kind of doping allegation. However, for the first 60 years of the race, doping was allowed, but for the past 30 years it’s been prohibited. Nonetheless, some cyclists in competitive sporting events like the Tour de France still use banned athletic performance-enhancing drugs in an attempt to get better results. So, cyclists are tested after the race to make sure the results are honorable. One of the most famous cases is the Lance Armstrong case which saw him stripped of seven of his Tour de France titles. And this year, a doping case was dropped just a few days before the race began, allowing last year’s winner – Chris Froome, to still compete.
It seems that the Tour de France has had a bit of a head start over the supply chain industry on being transparent and ethical. But over the last couple of years, supply chain transparency has gained some momentum. In the last year, a lot of retailers and brands, particularly in the fashion industry, have increased their transparency efforts by disclosing more information about all of their operational activities, and improving their stance on human rights and environmental issues. Being transparent allows all stakeholders, companies and customers to evaluate their actions and make more knowledgeable decisions on their processes and purchases. Just like the anti-doping measures in the Tour de France, it seems that supply chain transparency will soon be a standard practice that every company must comply with.
Supply chains are constantly changing, but with training, new technologies and honest mapping of the network, the supply chain can run more efficiently like the Tour de France.
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