Christmas Trees in December and Bloomsday T-Shirts in May – Difficult Supply Chain Challenges

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I participated in the 2013 Bloomsday 12K run/walk in Spokane, WA on May 5.  This is an important and well-known road race, mostly because of the event’s size.  About 50,000 people participate from the surrounding areas and some from across the country.  It’s a fun event with bands and fans all along the hilly course and a big party at the finish line.

At about mile 5, while I was desperately trying to take my mind off my aching feet, I started to think about the supply chain support required for special events like this.  Bloomsday is exceptionally well organized and managed, and the supply chain challenges are especially difficult.

Just getting people lined up in the proper time/age groups at the start of the race is amazingly orderly and efficient.  And consider for example, making sure that there is enough water poured into cups and ready to hand to 50,000 people at 4 stations along the route.  Water is critical to keep participants hydrated in the warm May sunshine and for their successful finish of the race.  These are major logistics challenges of a huge event like this, and the Bloomsday logisticians did a remarkable job.

There are other considerations, too.  T-shirts at Bloomsday are legendary.  The design of the annual t-shirt is kept secret until race day, but behind the scenes, ordering 50,000 shirts must be a daunting task.  The tag inside my t-shirt says it was made in Mexico.  Sourcing t-shirts must have included months of planning for production and importing into the US.  The shirts (in the size we ordered) were available at organized distribution tables at the end of the race. 

These kinds of big events are akin to other supply chain challenges such as pumpkins and costumes at Halloween and Christmas trees in December.  It takes a lot of talent and effort to get the right products to the right place at the right time.  Bloomsday Supply Chain people are some of the best.  Well done Spokane Bloomsday, well done!


About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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