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Sound Logistics

I have always maintained that the success of a tour sound company lies in the ability to do many gigs back to back and in its ability to do logistics extremely well. For me, logistics begins with minimalistic paperwork but effective marking and standardizing of equipment racks & kit list.

So how does this all really work?

It begins from a decision to start getting organized rather than blaming others for faults we need to fix. It begins right from the time the order is confirmed. We usually start advance planning the kit list, make sure there are no double bookings. In such a scenario we either buy or sub-rent the gear that’s not available. Another major task is figuring out how long it takes to get to the venue with a buffer time of 3 hours for a city gig, 12 hours for a regional one and 24 hours for an outstation show. This only applies to the gear. The crew arriving also follows a near similar schedule and the engineers buffer time is only to make contingencies for flight delays.

Strike-In at the venue is much faster than loading out at the warehouse and the warehouse prep & Load-Out according to me is the most crucial aspect of the event from the perspective of an event company. I can assure you if this is done well and on time, it will ensure a good gig. One has to make a habit out of doing this for a lifetime, and there is no two ways about it.

Trucks & drivers: They are the lifeline of logistics, without doubt. Haven’t we had our fair share of nightmares & heart-burn with them? Mind you, they have very difficult lives with poor infrastructure and bad road conditions. It is a very challenging task and we have to recognize their difficulties even before we start hurling accusations.

Today’s transporters have vehicles and there is no shortage of them. Try and get vehicles of the right payload or well built containers and you shall realize that they are few and far between. Especially, the floor deck of all the vehicles are in appalling conditions. Picture this; the same guy who transports wheat grains also transports your expensive audio equipment.

Our touring duty cycle has increased so much last year that we had issues on our own vehicles, thefts, accidents, hospitalizations & vehicle tyre bursts due to overheating & always had to pay fines due to going over the vehicle payload.

This got us to think a lot about our fleet management & we then started putting systems & processes in place there too. Beginning with GPS trackers on all vehicles. This in itself improved our vehicles tracking & helped our back end staff with stringent monitoring of our transport vehicles. We applied new rules of how many hours in a stretch a driver can drive the trucks. And a maintenance protocol for all vehicles.

Transport via air: At the air cargo terminals, we have learnt that rules keep changing all the time and sending the gear early is always the best solution to avoid delays & heartburn. We have had incidents of airlines sending the gear to the wrong city or off-loading the cargo due to medical equipment being sent on priority (sometimes it’s the case of what they want you to believe, rather than what you need to know). Air cargo is so expensive that if you are disorganized then your profits will be eaten up in flights. Sometimes there is also an element of human error and operational mistakes like not loading the gear in the truck. It’s hard to deal with such situations.

Crew Logistics: Crew travel too can get tricky, I see the biggest cost over-run here because we are always booking airlines at the last minute not because we haven’t allocated the crew but bleed due to the fact that the client’s advances or confirmations came in very late. We sometimes don’t even book tickets till we have received the funds because cancellations are common & this is perilous when you have to book over 8 tickets for a set of crew travelling flights that are over 2 hours. But I find air far much better than train even for the crew if you have booked early enough. This gives them better opportunity to do more work and be more productive on site, reduces fatigue and in commercial terms, the per diem for extra days.

Accommodation is always the simplest thing but we always make bad decisions just to save a few bucks. Our first call to action is to stay closest to the venue. A lower priced, decent accommodation closer to the venue is better than a better place further away. And if the hotel is walking distance then that’s the best place to be in. According to me for the crew, the choice of the place has to be clean bed & bath & if they serve up a good breakfast, the crew is in sorted for start of the day.

Now thanks to aggregators like Ola & Uber, even local transport is a breeze & also a huge cost saving as against having to hire a vehicle for the entire day or probably two on bigger gigs. No brainer here.

Overall, any of our major projects the logistics comes up to nearly 35% of our total billing & you will understand why this concerns me the most. The moral of the story is not compromising on health & safety is subconsciously the motive of this foreword. Cost saving is the secondary aspect here, but important too!


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