Business Lessons Chief Supply Chain Officers Can Learn From Football

There are some key parallels between the world of football and the world of logistics and supply chain that offer insights for supply chain industry professionals to help drive efficiency and effectiveness in their logistics operations.

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Football is the flavor of the season. It can be a treasure trove of learnings for students, professionals and business folks. In that context, it might not seem too odd that professionals from the world of logistics management, route optimization software and fleet management solutions can learn a lot from the sport.

Particularly, the leadership, including chief supply chain officers (CSCOs), those in charge of ensuring that each and every product, shipment or order of any size, shape or form reaches the intended customers (B2B or B2C) on time and with optimal delivery costs.

To put it precisely, the three factors they would look to address are:

i)            Time taken for delivery

ii)            Cost of delivery

iii)           Customer experience

Here is where things like logistics planning, supply chain automation, order tracking, transportation management software, route optimization software, fleet management software, on-demand delivery, etc. come into picture.

It’s all about the “field” operations

In any football match, the game moves across the field through three zones: defense, midfield and the final third (also called the forward region). Parallelly, in the "field" in the world of logistics consists of the first mile, the middle mile and the last mile.

When talking about the first mile, it is the movement of goods from a manufacturer's or retailer's warehouse to the hub. The transfer of items from the hub to a customer's door is known as last-mile delivery. In between, the middle mile includes all the movements between the first and last mile.

If we compare this with football – defense, midfield and final third translates to first mile, middle mile and last mile. The last mile or final third is the most significant in both football and supply chain management.

Once we establish this mapping, it will be easier to understand the comparison between football and the supply chain.

The value creation is decided by how the ball or the package moves through the "field,"  which is further measured in terms of goals scored or packages delivered on time and such other metrics.

Move the ball forward

The main objective of playing football is to move the ball forward and score a goal. On the other hand, in the supply chain, it is all about moving the package forward to deliver it to the end customer.

There are many different strategies for moving the ball forward and scoring the goal: some teams like to go out there on the field and attack (full offensive mode), whereas some teams like to keep possession and build slowly towards the goal, and some teams even like to sit back and be defensive and get aggressive only on the counter-attack, and so on. Each and every team has its own strategy depending on the situation of the game, the players they have, etc.

In the supply chain world, different companies use different delivery strategies based on their limitations at different points in time. Some companies might focus on "time optimization" while others would choose "resource utilization." There are many different approaches for each of these strategies, and each and every approach has its own cost, time and resource implications. 

Similarly to football, flexibility in selecting the proper approach is critical for the organization to enjoy the success of any supply chain activity.

Assign tasks based on skills

Different players in the team have different skills, and therefore are assigned different roles. For example, players who are always the one to take the free kick or the penalty shot vs. those who would always be the one taking corner kicks for their teams.

Similarly, in the supply chain world, there are certain delivery associates who possess skills relevant for certain tasks. For example if companies want to deliver important documents, they will assign such deliveries to their trusted associates. Or if they want to ship “frozen items,” they would need to assign it to delivery vehicles that have “cold storage” capabilities.

Thus, it is important for logistics automation and planning software to be able to recognize these skills and assign orders based on competencies. 

The final third

The quest for scoring a goal is the most accentuated in the final third. And whether a team is able to score the goal or not depends on how and in what ways they manage this last mile on the football field.

Ability to optimize the team dynamics needed to make the final third effective is what separates the great teams from the not-so-great teams because this is where there are a lot of challenges like heavy opposition defending, chances of mis-hits, chances of getting injured etc.

For example, you can find one thing that great teams do in the last mile: they manage "rebounds" and “crosses” very well.

A "rebound" occurs when a player overturns the ball that was originally attended for its opponent. The team now has one more chance to convert this into a touchdown. The more agile and situation-aware the players are, the better their ability to convert these rebounds into points.

A “cross” is a medium- to-long-range pass from a wide area of the field toward the center of the field near the opponent's goal.

And great teams usually have players who’re great at delivering “crosses” and also have players arriving into interesting positions in the final third closer to opponent’s goal to take advantage of crosses, in a sense to “get allocated” to such incoming crosses.

What does this tell us?

In last-mile operations, there are many chances of getting unsuccessful deliveries for various reasons, and the last-mile delivery associate will have to re-attempt the delivery. If last-mile delivery optimization software have the capability to automatically "re-attempt" deliveries, it will help make overall delivery success metrics look good.

Also, "allocating" the ball to the right player at the right time is crucial in the final third because it is in the final third where most of the games are won or lost.

In the world of supply chains, it is critical to have efficient and optimal last mile operations. "Auto Allocation" is one of the most interesting features that can help supply chain managers. Through "auto-allocation," delivery management systems can automatically "allocate orders" to the "most relevant" delivery associate for each and every incoming order. This will further ensure optimum deliveries in terms of time, cost, and customer experience.

Visibility of the ball

The more visible the ball is to players, the higher their chances are of winning the game. This is also why the term "eyes on the ball" exists.

What does this tell us?

Supply chain managers will agree that visibility of the package for all stakeholders (customer, dispatchers, shippers) is the most important thing in the world of logistics. And here the important question is: how does your logistics management software provide end-to-end visibility for every package to all the stakeholders?

Being able to clearly "see" the package across the delivery lifecycle helps in providing the customer with a great delivery experience.

These are some key parallels between the world of football and the world of logistics and supply chain that offer insights for supply chain industry professionals to help drive efficiency and effectiveness in their logistics operations.