For the purpose of this article Logistics will be defined as the storage, transportation, setup, take down, and maintenance of durable equipment and fixtures.
The best possible situation is one in which the convention obtains a single centralized storage facility. It can store all the equipment at once and it is located in proximity to the venue. A necessary consequence of this is that the equipment will remain unused most of the time, and therefore must exist in addition to similar equipment that the people use on a day to day basis. For example, a Computer in storage exists in addition to the computer with which you are reading this wiki.
Similar to the above, but instead the gear is stored in various places throughout the city. In personal homes, in mini storages, or elsewhere. The key point to remember is that the gear is stored in the off time, idle, unused, and/or unneeded.
Loaner gear is used for its intended purpose during the off season. Usually by the owner. During that time it can break, move away, become obsolete, or a thousand other terrible things may happen to it. A loaned VCR will be set up and playing tapes during the 51 other weeks outside of the con week. At any time a grilled cheese sandwich may be inserted into the tape slot. You will constantly have to evaluate and reevaluate your loaner gear to make sure you have met you needs.
Assuming you have the money, this is the best of all worlds. It will be current gear, not obsolete, in working order, and you dont have to store it in the off season.
In the real world, you gear will be a combination of all 3. Warehoused gear gets old, dusty, and obsolete. Loaned gear is cheap, but unpredictable and undependable. Most event companies that make a living hosting events like parties, professional conferences, or seminars rent their gear from specialty firms. Unless they are so prolific in their usages that they essentially become their own rental company, and decide that the cost benefit analysis supports buying, storing, maintaining and the depreciation of the gear.
The key point is that you cannot fully execute you plans without preforming a cost benefit analysis of all these considerations. Using Entirely loaner gear may seem like the only answer, but a realistic analysis of the true cost of the loan in terms of labor, complexity, and headaches may not balance the dubious value it provides.
If you expect to use more than 10 pieces of durable equipment, then you will probably need a list. Such a list should contain the following fields
- The type of item
- a uniquely identifying name
- The owner
- The on-site responsible party
- the replacement cost
- If it needs 24/7 locked door security
If you choose to have a centralized inventory control, you will need the space on-site to temporarily store and warehouse all of the gear during the function. This will cause huge square footage needs at the beginning and end of your function, while it will remain idle during the majority of remaining time. You will also need to have a manned desk to track the check/in check/out of the inventory.
An alternative solution would be to decentralize the execution and organize the flow of material directly to and from its utilized location. This actually takes less dedicated centralized manpower, but more upfront planning and documentation. There is also the risk that high value property may be lost, stolen, or damaged because it was not under the direct supervision of a responsible convention staff member.
If you have off-site warehoused gear the you can afford the luxury of kitting. This is when you pre-kit all the gear for a given worksite into labeled bins. Bin labels should be on the side of the bin so that they are still legible when stacked, and it's best to label only one side so that bins that are reused the next year don't inadvertently have conflicting labeling on different sides. These kits can be taken directly to and from their worksite. The value is that Logistics is merely concerned with the bins, not the contents. Each department that so kitted the bins is solely responsible for its contents. This has many good advantages. Some of the disadvantages are: redundant gear adding to weight and volume, forgotten gear, and naturally it requires have gear to pre-kit and the year round warehouse in which to do it.
See Route Planning
Most gear needs power. You must anticipate all the power needs your gear will require and reconcile that with the available receptacles. The questions you must answer follow below in order of increasing complexity:
- Are there sufficient quantity of receptacles?
- Will you need extension cords?
- Will power supply converters (wall warts) prevent you from taking full advantage of the receptacles you have?
- If you need power strips, what is the minimum number you need to accommodate all your worksites?
- Have you identified the difference between power strips and surge suppressors?
- Have you identified which gear needs one and not the other?
- Will the overall power draw (watts) of your needs overload the circuits?
- Which plug receptacles that you see on the hotel room walls are part of the same circuit?
- How does the hotel rate the load capacity of convention space?
- Will you need to rent specialty power supplies (generators) from third party vendors?
Words should be included about getting insurance for rented items, rented vehicles, and lost and stolen property.
Quoting Carsten Turner
The majority of the job of logistics is recruiting. This cannot be understated, as it's as much a job of getting an adequate supply of warm bodies as it is a job of actually moving things. A good starting point would be about a dozen people for loading and unloading the truck. This may seem small, but consider that dealing with the truck can involve exposure to weather.
About a month before con, a call out to the departments needs to be made, inviting all comers to a tagging party, where department heads visit storage and identify what materials need to be loaded onto the truck and which can be left behind. A knowledgable logistics head will know that a certain amount of stuff will go, such as art show panels and pipe, the coolers for food-prep, and so on, but tech will certainly need to identify their stuff, we might have a fridge provided to us by the hotel, etc. No amount of interest from the departments is too much in this regard, however, as tagging is generally done in the colder weather, again, it's a matter of overcoming adversity of the masses to get out and do it. Budgeting for pizza or the like is an effective motivator. A good strategy is to use labels that are around 4x6 inches with "$convention-NN", where "NN" is the year of the current con, and then have interested parties write "YES" or "NO" in magic marker and affix to the desired articles. Encourage prominent labeling. It's good to count on having two or three such tagging parties to allow for individual scheduling issues.
The current incarnation of Arisia, an ambitious 2000-person regional, requires an 18 foot Ryder truck filled twice. In the past, if the foreman played a heroic game of "Tetris", a single 24 foot truckload was manageable, however, experience has shown greater efficiency in two 18 foot loads and a lesser emphasis on Tetris. Most rental agencies won't want to know us 'til about two weeks prior to con, however, for budgeting purposes, calls might be made long in advance. Don't skimp on the truck: fannish conventions are heavy and driving an overweight truck is dangerous. In a fairly known saga, the original author of this article found himself 50% overweight at a Connecticut weigh station at 2 AM, unable to continue home from Lunacon: Lunacon took the hit of a $1,600 fine. Art show panels and pipe is *heavy*. So is everything else, and don't forget the combined weight of a driver and passenger with their personal effects will approach 1/4 ton.
Try and arrange loading the truck on Wednesday night, having the driver take the truck home if he lives in a safe neighborhood. Don't forget to lock the truck. Unload at the hotel as early on Thursday as possible, then return to storage for more stuff. It's possible to have both truck runs done and have the truck empty by mid afternoon Thursday. A good plan is to get a truck with a lift gate *and* a ramp if possible. Load the truck via the ramp at storage, art show panels against the nose of the truck, pipe next, and then as much heavy stuff next, up to the point of the axle. Use load straps liberally. Pile lighter stuff on top of the carts. At the hotel, a ramp will move stuff off the truck faster than the lift gate ever will. However, in the case of wheeled road cases, and their great weight, care must be taken. This is the time to get 10-11 bodies on deck. The important rule is that the stuff in the road cases is replaceable. It will cost a fair amount of money to do so, but no amount of money will replace the health or life of a fan injured in an accident. Therefore, if the road cases look like they're "gonna go", stand aside and let gravity run its course. It's easier to fix broken art show stuff than broken bodies. Fandom is full of funny stories; it needs no tragedies. Have one person act as a spotter and look out for bystanders. Road cases can weigh in excess of 500 pounds. Gravity is particularly cruel and merciless. NO-ONE should be standing in the area of the end of the ramp (i.e. stay clear of the "line of fire"). 1 or 2 people will be on the truck, rolling the cart to the edge of the ramp. The others will be evenly apportioned on the left and right sides of the ramp, controlling its decent. Again, if control of the cart is lost, let it go. Moving carefully, guide the cart down the ramp and then off to the elevator. If possible the 1 or 2 people in the truck should try to provide support.
In some hotels, a good plan is to get everything into the Ballroom, then stage it such that department heads can come down and grab their stuff. At this point, logistics should try and provide what carts and hand trucks as can be spared to facilitate this, but remember, the emphasis is in getting the truck empty. If the truck is empty by mid afternoon, this usually isn't a problem as most staffers aren't at the hotel yet.
During con, the logistics head should be ready to provide food-runs to the "creature-comfort" departments. Generally, Saturday morning, department heads should be taking stock of their supplies and generating shopping lists. Some time in the afternoon, a run to Costco or the like will be needed.
On Sunday, encourage department heads to start packing what they can as soon as possible and coordinate with Tech to determine where things can be staged in the Ballroom. As soon as is possible, begin loading the truck. Assume that this will go on until around 8 or 9 PM. Again, pizza makes a good bribe. More importantly, volunteers will need to be fed in general. Monday, bring the truck back to the hotel as soon as it's empty for the remnants of the con. Things like Operations won't have been entirely struck until then.
If possible, consider ways to get more of the con onto wheels. When Arisia built custom carts for them, the artshow pipe and panels became a cakewalk to move. When one considers that in years before then, every section of pipe was hand carried to the truck, then into the hotel, you can imagine the great advance that was. Likewise for the tech gear. Current carts are a form factor of 2x4 feet and a mostly uniform height, to allow for placing lighter things on top. Rather than make one cart that will hold everything, yet be unmanageable by anyone other than Chewbacca, break up the load and consider what the average fan can deal with. Large wheels are friendlier on hotel carpet and roll over things like extension cords and such more easily.
If possible, secure a few FRS radios. One in the storage unit and one at the truck will provide a lot of sanity. If the logistics head and his deputies have radios, there's a great savings in brain cells.
Quoting Michael Leuchtenburg
If it's cold out, you should bring warm clothes that you can move in - some people will be working partially outside for all of this. Keep in mind that you'll be moving, so you may want layers so you can have a bit less if you're particularly active or more if you're idle. Gloves, preferably ones you can still lift things in. A water bottle. A snack.
Warm up before you start moving stuff! Do some nice dynamic stretches, some calisthenics, something to get your muscles warm. You'll feel better the next day and be less likely to injure yourself.
We'll have people with experience helping out with everything, but for those who don't know, here's some info about how to do load-out from storage: We use a sorting system that involves stickers stuck on everything that's going.
When you're rolling something over a bump, take the weight off the wheels as they're going up over the bump. That'll help keep things from getting shaken off the cart and also keep the wheels intact. The easiest way to do this is to just lift up the front a bit. Even if you can't actually lift it off the ground, it'll still help.
Make sure you avoid rolling over wires. In this case, you really do need to lift up the wheels, or lift the wire over the cart. This is especially true on hard floors and with heavily loaded carts.
Whenever you're rolling anything, make sure it's loaded up. Rolling a full cart? Put a couple of bins on top. They're all built to have things stacked on top of them.
If someone is backing up a truck, at most one person is needed to help them out. If you're doing this, don't just wave them forwards. Show the distance to nearby obstacles by holding your hands up about that far apart. Move them together as they approach the obstacle. Make sure you can see them in the mirror - if you can't see them, they can't see you!
Be sure you pay attention to which kind of wheels are on rolling carts. Some of them ("smart" wheels) turn left and right, some of them just spin around. If you've got the smart wheels in the back, a cart will move differently than if they're in front.