As a participant, I had the opportunity to participate in diverse roles on my team at Orion Racing India based out of K. J. Somaiya College of Engineering in Mumbai. I joined the team in September 2015 and participated in a few competitions such as FS India 2016, FS Germany 2016, Formula Bharat 2018 and FS Hungary 2018. During these years, I was on the Suspension team, the Marketing department and then eventually led the team as Team Captain in my final year. I also got to participate as one of the team’s drivers during all those years as well.
After graduation, I did a 6 month Business Administration course at DHBW Stuttgart and began my journey as an Operations Executive at Ather Energy in Bengaluru.
From my experience as a participant in Formula Student, logistics planning played a major role in our preparation for the competition, and inevitably, our success as well. For both domestic and international events, I was responsible for the paperwork involved with transporting the vehicle and also with the logistics involved in managing team transport, accommodations and meals during the competition.
Logistics planning for an event consists of two areas:
- Vehicle packing and delivery
- Team travel and hospitality
Throughout this article, I shall do my best to highlight the important parts for both areas, and also include some tips on avoiding common hurdles faced.
VEHICLE PACKING AND DELIVERY
Within our team, we had appointed a few members who would be responsible for packing the vehicle, components and spares. These individuals would also be responsible for pit setup and tear-down at the competition as well. Having individuals assigned for this task for the first step in preparation for vehicle logistics.
Planning for vehicle logistics for a domestic competition must ideally begin not later than 2 months from the first day of the competition. For international competitions, you must plan much ahead as there is so much involved – quotes from logistics aggregators, customs, carnet application, crate manufacturing etc. The possibility of having your shipment costs sponsored is higher, if you begin the process earlier as well.
It is important to plan for your shipment to arrive at least 2 days earlier than the competition start date. Yes, there might be an additional cost involved, but in hindsight, it is worth it over the uncertainty of whether the vehicle will arrive by Day 0. At the same time, your team will have the opportunity to check for any damages to the vehicle during transport and will have time to address these issues as well.
Whether it is domestic shipping or international shipping, it is important to have paperwork ready. Common documents may include your packing list, proof of insurance, proof of registration for the competition, list of all team members travelling, cross-border or customs documents such as Carnet and perhaps a permission letter from your educational institution.
Before packing, create an inventory (or packing) list. This is most certainly required for international shipping, and also many domestic transporters ask for the same. Try to be as detailed as possible with your packing list.
When it comes to packing, it is helpful to ensure that there are no loose parts and components. With exception for the vehicle and tires, use stackable storage crates with lids to pack parts, components, fasteners and spares (if any). Having boxes on wheels will prove to be pretty effective for some. Our team invested in foldable plastic bins (like the ones in the image below). When empty, they occupied less space in our pit at the competition and in the workshop as well.
Once you have your packing list ready, you can build a quick CAD model consisting of a storage unit holding your vehicle, boxes and tires. Doing so will help assist with quick packing at time of shipment. For this step, it is important to select the carriage size of the transport vehicle being used. From experience, do not book a Tata ACE to transport your vehicle. You may most definitely have to take out your tires to be able to fit into the carriage. The Tata 407 carriage is the minimum that would fit the track width and wheel base of your vehicle. And a Tata 1109 carriage will be comfortable to fit your vehicle and a whole lot more.
In my experience, avoid transporting your vehicle with the dampers assembled – you can replace shocks with rigid links. Remove any body-works or wings. Also, after packing your crate or truck (or before), remember to deflate your prototype vehicle’s tires to minimum pressure and place the vehicle ‘in-gear’.
If you are making an overseas shipment, it is best to plastic wrap all your metal parts and also add a bag of absorbent in the crate, to avoid rust damage.
Tips if you are designing a crate to ship your vehicle:
- Keep in mind the length, width and height of the container that the crate will be shipped in.
- Plan on whether the container space will be shared with another travelling team’s vehicle to save on costs.
- Design your crate to allow for forklift accessibility. Ensure you have hollow rectangular boxes on the bottom width of the rate so that the forklift can lift it from either of the side. Crossed stilts will be benficial as well.
- Design your crate with two levels to allow for storage of other items, in addition to the vehicle.
- Eye-hooks at the inside corners of the crate will be helpful for using tie-downs to secure the car and any loose items.
TEAM TRANSPORT AND HOSPITALITY
Traveling to a competition is expensive. Costs not only involve vehicle logistics and transportation, but also travel and hospitality costs for team members attending the competition.
It is important for the Team Captain to review the budget and determine which costs will be managed by the team budget and which costs must be borne individually. This will help team members decide on their participation accordingly, based on their finances.
Certain competitions have limits to the number of participants allowed from each team. Read the rules and be aware of the restriction. Assign each section lead of the team to select 1-3 members from their section who will be attending the event. Communicate their roles and responsibilities, including event scheduling and important events so that your team members are aware of their accountability to the team during the competition.
Once the member participation is sorted, start collecting their details such as Full Name, Contact Email Address, Phone Number, and Emergency Contact information. It is also ideal that all traveling members are covered under insurance. Create a spreadsheet of this information and have copy shared between the Team Captain and Vice Captain.
Most teams recommend using a travel and tours agency to book hospitality packages. These packages may include:
- Travel to the competition city
- Hotel stay
- Meals (Breakfast, lunch, dinner)
- Travel between Hotel and Competition venue
- Sim card availability (for international travel)
- Language translator (for certain international competitions)
A team does not necessarily need to book a package with an agency and they may choose to book each aspect themselves for cost savings. However, if it is your first time traveling to a specific competition, having the guidance of an experienced travel agency is definitely worth it and will save a lot of hassle during the event – especially when all you want to focus on, is the competition itself.
Preparing your competition logistics well ahead of time, allows your team to be well-equipped for the competition. Being successful at a competition doesn’t only mean having a well-tested vehicle; ensuring that your vehicle and your team reaches the competition on time removes the uncertainty of missing out from the important parts of the event.