The entire world is gearing up for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, held in Qatar from Nov. 20 through Dec. 18, 2022. Over the course of four weeks, 32 teams and over 1.7 million fans will descend on Qatar for this event — which marks the first time an Arab country has hosted the World Cup. In all, 3 million spectators are expected to attend 64 World Cup games spread across eight separate stadiums. 

With a population of just 2.9 million and a land area of nearly 4,500 square miles — about half the size of New Jersey — Qatar is about to become an epicenter of global logistics. Consider the demands placed on retailers, hotels, restaurants, and the stadiums themselves as they attempt to meet the very specific, time-sensitive demands of millions of tired, hungry, thirsty consumers. Food, beverages (for example, beer, health drinks, and water), consumer goods, and apparel will not only be in high demand — but these products will have to be matched very accurately to the preferences of soccer fans converging on Qatar from every corner of the world.  

It’s a difficult situation for supply chains, in which demand “localization” will play a key role, even though that demand will be centered in one small geographic spot. Consumers will be looking for certain food and beverage brands that make them feel like they’re on their home turf. Retailers and food & beverage service providers will need to have the right range of product offerings available, in the right quantities, at the right time, to meet the needs of people coming from all over the globe. And that population is subject to rapid changes in demand as their home teams are eliminated from championship contention.  

If this sounds nearly impossible, consider that it’s only part of the supply chain, logistics and commerce challenge associated with the World Cup. Around the world, fans will be gathering around televisions in bars, restaurants and their homes to watch the matches at all hours of the day. According to FIFA, a staggering 3.572 billon people watched the 2018 World Cup Russia, with 1.12 billion viewers for the final match. Again, demand localization and delivery timing are critical — and conditions will change quickly as the tournament progresses.  

How can the world’s consumer products, food & beverage, and apparel manufacturers — along with their retail and logistics partners — hope to meet this enormous international demand, while still making a profit, in today’s volatile business and economic landscape? 

It’s hard to see an upside in the past two years of extreme supply chain disruption. But today, organizations in every industry are far better equipped to take on this type of large-scale supply chain challenge than they were prior to 2020. They’ve embraced powerful digital solutions, enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), that help them gather near real-time data from across the end-to-end supply chain, then apply those insights to make rapid, fact-based decisions that dynamically balance customer service excellence with profit margin protection. Those solutions are purpose-built for ensuring success in complex, fast-moving market environments like the upcoming World Cup tournament.    

Four Keys to Victory During the World Cup 

Today’s AI- and ML-enabled solutions are positioning companies to master four key supply chain challenges associated with the 2022 World Cup:  

  • Agile demand planning at the speed of change. In the ever-changing world of international sports, relying on static demand forecasts and manual calculations is sure to lead to relegation. Instead, companies need to leverage AI, ML and predictive analytics to autonomously capture and consider near real-time data from a range of internal and external sources, including change in weather conditions on game days, current team standings, and future match schedules. They should also adopt the best forecasting models that accommodate uncertainty based on recommendations of the demand planning system — and prepare the supply chain in advance for a variety of statistically likely and less likely outcomes. Like an elite midfielder, the end-to-end supply chain can pivot quickly as demand shifts over the course of the tournament.  
  • Tightly integrated demand and supply planning. In supply chain operations, as in soccer, teamwork matters. Everyone needs to be working from the same playbook. That means the dynamic demand forecast must be shared across the entire value network, allowing all stakeholders to manage volatility and resolve disruptions via a unified supply chain plan. Matching supply as accurately as possible with demand requires tightly integrated planning actions that are focused on the shared goals of speed, customer service, and agility. As conditions inevitably change, collaborative scenario planning resembles the half-time meeting in the locker room where everyone revisits and updates the strategy. Soccer and supply chain are both team sports!!  
  • Logistics excellence from the first mile to the last. With all due respect to Cristiano Ronaldo, moving products halfway around the world — from raw materials sourcing through final customer delivery — is a lot more complex than moving the ball across the pitch. Companies first need to have the right formation, or logistics network, in place —including physically and financially optimized suppliers, manufacturing sites, and regional warehouses. Products must be passed through the supply chain strategically, avoiding high costs, and delays via dynamic freight bidding, optimized routing, and load building, and productive labor and truck scheduling. Logistics teams only get one shot at delivering the right product to the right place at the right time, profitably. There’s no stoppage time in the real world. 
  • Lightning-fast ordering and fulfillment. Few things are more frustrating than seeing your home team earn a red card in the final moments of the game. To earn the win, companies also need rapid, accurate capabilities in inventory availability and commitment, as well as order promising. Getting the ball into the net means having visibility into where products are located right now, where they’re needed, and how quickly they can be promised. Informed by near real-time transparency, the entire supply chain team and partners can enact an orchestrated response that scores in terms of product availability, shopper satisfaction, revenue generation, and inventory turnover. 

Why Not Get an Assist from Blue Yonder? 

The World Cup supply chain challenge may seem overwhelming — but Blue Yonder is helping leading consumer products, food & beverage, and apparel brands, as well as their logistics and retail partners, emerge as champions. From beer to snacks and sports jerseys, Blue Yonder’s solutions will be fueling the journey of critical products around the globe during the upcoming World Cup. Whether or not the World Cup impacts your own business, these capabilities can help you master the everyday levels of supply chain complexity and volatility we’ve all grown accustomed to. 

Why should your company trust Blue Yonder to digitally transform its supply chain capabilities, establishing leadership in the four key areas above? Because Blue Yonder has an impressive record of helping thousands of businesses, including household names in consumer and retail industries, to master tough supply chain challenges like those associated with the World Cup. 

Not only do Blue Yonder’s solutions represent the leading edge in AI, ML, predictive analytics, data science, and probabilistic forecasting, but they’re delivered via a cloud-based, central platform that ensures actions are integrated and executed across every node of the supply chain. It all adds up to a winning playbook that will unify all team members and earn your company its own global championship — and you won’t have to wait four years to hold the trophy above your head. 

Terence Leung is the Global Senior Solutions Marketing Director overseeing supply chain planning, execution, control tower and platform. Connect to him on LinkedIn