The NFL season is in full swing and that means teams are expanding playbooks, studying upcoming opponents and fine-tuning their coaching schemes. The preparation of players and coaches is what the millions of viewers notice on Sundays, but it’s only a small part of the total NFL experience – a global brand that’s projected to generate revenue of more than $13 billion in 2016.

Coaches begin prepping for the NFL Draft in January and February, but front-office personnel and team associates never stop planning. Supply chain management is a year-round process in the NFL, including controlling critical elements of the game that most fans likely have never considered.

  • Food and concessions – Logistics is about getting the right product to the right place at the right time, and this becomes even more complicated when your product has a sensitive expiration date. Each NFL franchise has to coordinate with vendors to make sure enough employees are hired and enough food prepared to serve tens of thousands of fans over the course of a few hours. And it must be done in a way that doesn’t compromise the quality of the concessions.
  • Grass versus turf – The surface of an NFL playing field can create unique results on game day. Artificial turf can make players quicker and more explosive, but a field of thick grass can be safer for athletes. Whatever decision a team makes, a grounds crew is responsible for maintaining the field throughout the season. That includes tools to groom the field, protect against weather and keep the paint fresh from end zone to end zone.
  • Shipping and warehousing equipment – Pads, helmets and cleats may be the first pieces of equipment that come to mind when fans think of the NFL. However, they’re only three pieces of a much larger repertoire of must-have equipment. Monitors, headsets, tablet computers, fan souvenirs, signage, footballs and everything in between have to be purchased or manufactured, stored and shipped from stadium to stadium. Inventory optimization is paramount. If one major piece of equipment fails to arrive at the stadium, it can create issues in team preparation, network broadcasting or customer relationship management.
  • Fans and heaters – At the beginning of the NFL season, temperatures at stadiums in cities such as Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville and Los Angeles can top 100 degrees on the field. At season’s end, matchups at stadiums in Green Bay, New York, Foxborough, Chicago, Denver and Philadelphia may be played in sub-zero conditions. Fans and heaters become a matter of player safety, and NFL teams regularly test and evaluate cooling mists, oxygen tanks and other sideline-based equipment to keep players comfortable and healthy.

These are just a few of the dozens of behind-the-scenes, but integral, processes involved in America’s game. The NFL is known for its game-day strategy – the X’s and O’s of offense and defense. But without a top-notch supply chain, and some of the industry’s most progressive supply chain professionals, your favorite players wouldn’t have a field to play on, a stadium to play in or fans to play for.

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