What can the logistics and transport industry learn from the Tour de France?

  • 14/02/2019
  • 9 minutes

The Tour de France is the biggest cycling competition in the world — for more than 20 days, cycling teams participate in various tests in France and other countries in Europe. There are 21 stages, each requiring distinct skills from the athletes and a lot of coordination between them.

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For those who don’t pay attention to details, the Tour de France can merely seem like a long bicycle run, not presenting that many obstacles apart from the distance to be traveled. Likewise, logistics and transport activities might not seem that complex at first sight, being nothing more than transporting merchandise from one point to another.

Under a sharper look, the two have much in common and require considerable strategic efforts in order to be efficiently carried out. Rafael Llerena, CEO of Easyfresh Logistics, understands this relation well, and talked to us about the lessons the Tour de France can teach about logistics.

“Long distance races require constant faith in what you do. You might lose a client, but the number of other possible commercial targets to replace it is impressive. And that happens all the time”, says the CEO.

He continues, “An opportunity can arise at any moment soon after a failure. As in the Tour de France, the job of a transport and logistics professional demands willpower, belief in the service portfolio, and clear long-term goals”.

Want to know in what other ways a cycling competition can help you improve your work routine? Keep reading!

Dealing with uncertainty

“Uncertainty is clearly the greatest challenge of the logistics industry”, affirms Llerena. He highlights how the fastness of the operations’ events and the changes in the sector’s scenario don’t allow those involved to rest their attention for even one second. For the CEO, you need to always be ready to adapt to the new market circumstances in order to survive.

The Tour de France competitors also need to deal with uncertainty at all times. After all, in a race, positions can change quickly. Attention is fundamental to not lose positions, just as the transport and logistics professionals need to stay alert to keep up with changes in the market so they don’t fall behind.

Llerena mentions, as an example, the way geopolitics has become a more and more essential factor in the transport and logistics of containers. It’s not something charterers, agents, or any logistics professional can control; however, they all need to adapt to the current circumstances.

Investing in teamwork

The Tour de France is run by teams, whose members organize strategically during the whole route of the competition — in certain moments, they might switch positions to minimize the effects of the wind on the group, for example. Working completely alone would make the race much harder, just as the logistics efforts would become impracticable without efficient teamwork.

The articulation between all those involved in transport and logistics activities is fundamental to the success of the operations. This goes for the company’s team itself and for the dialogue with other logistics agents. In the case of a charter, for example, good dialogue between the charterer and the shipowner is fundamental.

Llerena points out that logistics is a business done by people. To improve working with them, the CEO suggests that “the ability to bring together the best team and to keep it motivated, well trained, and focused on the consumer should be a resource to overcome the challenges that arise.

A good team must be able to find solutions for the clients in order to stand out among the market competition. For that, you need to combine determined management, genuine will to carry on, and investment in human resources”.

Being transparent in communication

Cycling for more than 20 days as a team would be practically impossible without good communication between the team members. In that competition, simply counting on the best cyclists doesn’t guarantee victory — everyone needs to be aware of the strategy.

Working with transport and logistics is similar. Llerena emphasizes in particular the necessary care when orienting the people who have entered the field a short while ago. “A young person only makes the way from A to B instead of considering all the aspects of the job functions, limiting their understanding of the business and the reasons why they are carrying out this or that role”.

Transport and logistics — and the Tour de France —involve many steps, making it necessary that each detail is properly communicated. Therefore, it’s possible to get to the next one without communication failures and possible losses.

This is valid for the team and, of course, to the business partners, who expect that contracts and negotiations specify exactly what is expected of each part. As we’ve mentioned in our post about the biggest mistakes made by charterers, not knowing your counterpart is a huge oversight.

Valuing good leadership

In the cycling competition, a good leader is fundamental: he’s the one who encourages his team partners to carry on. Actually, in the case of the gregarious — cyclists that support the main competitor —, the team configuration is set up precisely to help the leader’s performance.

In logistics, the role of the leader is of no less importance. Llerena tells it: “I started working on the sector in the late 80s and I’ve had the opportunity of acting in many departments. I have a university degree and did other studies, but no professor has taught me what I’ve learned from the managers in each department. They guided me and really educated me”.

He believes that, nowadays, the scenario for those starting out in the industry isn’t different. From the CEO’s perspective, the newcomers’ training often lacks depth.

As in the Tour de France, a good leadership should be able to motivate the whole team in order to gain better results. Without it, the competition would lose its course.

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