Want to know what it's like to head operations at Rally Australia, the final stage of the World Rally Championship? Learn from one of our own, Konrad Stempniak.
I’ve always seen Rally as one of the most prestigious events on the World Rally Championship calendar. It is the event that sets many of the benchmarks for safety, innovation and design that are adopted across the other world stages.
I recognised an opportunity with Rally Australia a few years ago. Given the scale of the event on the world stage, I knew it was a challenge Kennards Hire would want to consider.
After flagging the concept in December 2015, the business took the time to analyse the potential this event would have in terms of ROI and the opportunities (and impact) across the whole of our operations. We had to be sure that we were capable of handling an event of this magnitude.
It was given the green light and, having a background in project management, I put my hand up to manage the entire project.
The day it was approved we started working out the scope for Rally Australia 2016. It took several visits to Coffs Harbour to become familiar with the different site requirements; to understand each critical element of the event; and ensure we knew exactly what expectations Rally Australia had.
Safety was the major factor. There was an incredible amount of planning in the background to ensure we not only keep our team safe, but also the spectators and drivers.
Getting it all together
Pre Rally is really about defining the scope and the track for the next event with discussions starting about three months after the Coffs Harbour event. These discussions focus on safety, logistics and delivery. What did we learn from this event? What innovations are on the cards that we can implement for next year? What other capabilities and experience can we provide? What is happening internationally that we can deploy here?
Rally Australia occurs in November. By March the following year, we are already defining the scope of the next Rally Australia stages and what these stages will look like.
The two months leading up to Rally is really when things start to ramp up. We are completing our safety checks, working with stakeholders, compiling our mobilisation schedule, sourcing equipment inventory, organising inductions, and finalising logistics - what equipment can get in early and what can come in later and where it all needs to go.
The Kennards Hire team also works closely with Coffs Harbour City Council, the local Police and Rally Australia Safety Team to make sure everyone is across our movements.
One month out our equipment is arriving into Coffs Harbour and it’s time to get the ball rolling in terms of set up.
Behind the Scenes
Rally is such a dynamic event site. When there’s cars racing down south, we’re still finalising the components of the Triple S stage. When Triple S is happening, we’re removing items from stages down south. There is constant movement and buzz during the events and well into the night.
There’s a lot that’s not seen by the public and, for the most part, people aren’t aware that the Kennards Hire team are constantly working in the background to manage and maintain equipment. For example, I got a few call outs where the toilets were in use much more than anticipated so pump outs needed to happen as soon as possible! Most people would assume pump outs only happen well after the event ends or overnight.
After the final flag
After Rally, it is all about bump outs and debriefing. The Kennards Hire team is straight in there meeting with Rally Australia organisers, discussing what worked, what didn’t and how to deliver even more efficiently next year. We complete a cost analysis for the entire project to make sure our estimations for the event were realistic.
From a marketing perspective, we start to analyse how Kennards Hire’s sponsorship of the event made an impact. We put in place strategies to keep the Kennards Hire brand top of mind for the spectators. We need to send out that message that while Rally is over, we are still around – making their next job easy.
It is interesting because we get sensational opportunities off the back of Rally. I get calls from new contacts that I met at the event and potential leads months later. From a business development perspective, the Rally is not just about branding, it’s about creating new connections and potential new business relationships.
2016 vs. 2017
The biggest learning experience for us in 2016 was subcontractor management. In 2016, we had a challenge where generator ran out of fuel, and that was purely because we assumed the sub-contractor knew where to go and knew what the expectation was. We didn’t make sure our sub-contractors were just as much across the event as we were. We had the generator back up and running in half an hour but that wasn’t ideal us. We changed that this year.
During the first event, I was too involved and tried to handle way too much on my own. I was getting into the weeds of every small detail, erecting fencing and handling scrim instead of overseeing the operations. This year I took a bigger picture view and we gained efficiency in delivery times and significantly better stakeholder management.
We were 100% better prepared in 2017, and the vibe was so different to 2016. Several times the guys from both our team and Rally Australia were astonished that we were so far ahead we thought we had missed something. It was more of a collaborative effort between ourselves, Rally Australia and all our stakeholders. It was actually enjoyable and a lot less stressful.
Rally Australia also changed up some operational aspects. For this event, one person managed each activation site, whereas in 2016 there was only one person we went to for the whole event. This change made the whole operations incredibly more efficient as there was one person committed and dedicated to one specific area instead of several areas. This certainly helped us better manage operations across the entire event.
In terms of equipment, there was enough equipment to fill up six football stadiums, and if put end to end, the equipment would stretch over 1000 kilometres.
One thing we definitely learned this year is to put a big tag on our CEO’s, Angus Kennard’s WRX keys so we don’t lose them! Somehow, we managed to lose track of our CEO’s rally car keys when it came time to remove the vehicle from the Service Park display. We found them in the end but it was a bit of a comical “shake your head” moment when trying to locate them.
The Rally teams are always tricky to manage because they’re last minute, they need the equipment there immediately and the equipment they need could be quite unique and not something we typically carry in our network.
We had one team need a double glass door fridge and they needed it immediately. It doesn’t seem like a complex item, but it’s not an item we carry as standard for hire so we had to look at sourcing the item well outside the city limits.
We also got a call at 4:30am in the morning that four portable toilets had been pushed over on their side and needed to be ready to go for a stage at 7:00am.
The Kennards Hire Team though were up and ready to go as soon as I called, and drove through back roads communicating with Rally Australia personnel on route to ensure we’re not getting in the way of an active race, to get those toilets right side up and back in working order.
The trick to being on top of these time critical requests is to be on your game across what needs to happen when and for who. Everything can snowball quickly if you’re not. You need to know where all your crews are, and know when to say no.
Moments of Reflection
At the Triple S stage on Friday night everything is done. Everything is locked in.
It’s at this moment I was able to reflect on the achievements of the Kennards Hire team and watch the customers enjoy themselves. I stopped myself and thought, “look around and enjoy the moment.”
I reflected on how lucky we are having a team that’s always ready to help out and get the job done, at how our CEO worked with the rest of the team and got his hands dirty erecting fencing and making deliveries. I was lucky to be able to execute the event with friends and close colleagues. I was given the opportunity to own such a massive project and say we did it, we made everyone’s job easy.
This year we need to make sure we’re not complacent. We’ve got a great track record in safety and delivery and we can’t rest on our past achievements in 2018. We can always be smarter on where we activate, how we activate, how we can get maximum brand exposure and where can we capture those moments.
From the perspective of Kennards Hire, Rally Australia demonstrates our capability of delivering a global event within a critical deadline, working with a large number of stakeholders and a complex infrastructure job over a massive area. This year it was roughly a 1500km2 area to manage Rally. To have that infrastructure and the requirements of exact placements is critical. It showcases our team network, and our capacity to get the right equipment in when it’s needed. The way that everyone collaborated to deliver two days ahead of schedule this year is a magnificent achievement.
It also highlights the quality of our gear, the standard and detail of our work, the dedication of our people and shows how we can service any job – small to big - easily.
We have two years’ experience now. It can only get better from here.
Originally posted on LinkedIn.