What sort of Logistic problems have you had to overcome?

The following article was submitted by Julian Bayley-

The First is Challenging and the

Second can be Troubling

We have been running tours of our facility for several years now. We have the routine down pat and although the commentary might change from time to time depending on the tour group, there are videos and large story boards to keep everything on track. Our visitors include service clubs, business associations, church groups, school outings, banks and credit unions and a variety of professional service providers such as engineers, marketers, advertising people and so on attending conferences in the area.

Even with such diversity of interests, each group tours the plant and most times, come up with the same questions. Some like to get a little more technical than others, but overall, the answers are always similar. Typical questions include how long does it take to produce a 300 lb block of crystal clear ice ?; what is the most challenging project you have ever done ? What is your most exciting project ?; Which sculpture has made you the most proud ?

We like to think that every sculpture we produce ranks high on the pride list, but when you come down to it, the sculpture is almost secondary to the process of getting it to the event, setting it up and breaking it down afterwards. One word says it all – LOGISTICS.

A sculpture is a sculpture is a sculpture. What makes each one different is what it takes to deliver it on time, set it up properly, and break it down after the event. And the funny thing is while we have the talent to create stunning pieces of art, the ultimate success of a project very often falls into the hands of someone who knows absolutely nothing about ice carving.

It may simply be the driver who delivers the sculpture, or the girl who looks after shipping, the guys who set it up, It has to be a team effort and it has to work every time a sculpture leaves the facility. Logistics play heavily into each project a carver undertakes.

It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s a one block sculpture for a wedding or a multi-block piece for a corporate event, there are always logistical challenges to be addressed. It’s the same thing with huge projects that involve thousands of blocks such as an ice lounge or even simply delivering a tractor trailer load of raw blocks – the only difference is the challenges are magnified.

For my own interest, I listed some of the issues we have had to deal with over the years and some are pretty amusing while others are high on the frustration scale. They all make interesting reading.

Temperature problems in either direction – high or low – are guaranteed to create hassles and headaches. In Dubai, a strike kept two containers of ice sculptures on the dock for five weeks in temperatures in excess of 140 degrees ! Worrying about insurance called for a quick trip to the UAE only to find the reefers were still running and the containers where in the middle of a bunch stacked several high – and everything survived.

Turned out we were not out of the woods either. The containers were delivered to the large shopping mall where the project was to be installed, only to find the ceiling over the dock was 3ft lower than planned, and the containers could not be backed up to the dock. Result – hand carrying every single ice component – the temperature had not dropped !!

Narrow stairs and corridors with sharp turns often limit the use of dollies and pallet trucks. Weight is a common problem, too, which restricts access to some floors, not to mention the problems they cause on roads to an event site. Heritage buildings with delicate furniture and beautiful hardwood floors, and historical venues with manicured lawns and gardens often create situations where the customers – and their event planners – ‘have a bird’ when they see our crews come in. Liability looms large.

The L word can frighten all of us and we have had our share of worries. We have also learned how to deal with it. For example, it’s worth taking photographs of your work and the display area – we were once accused of damaging an expensive hardwood floor when one of our drip pans leaked. In fact, it was the caterer’s problem when a buffet dish overflowed – well away from the sculpture.

A wedding in California at a magnificent mansion overlooking the Pacific ocean in Malibu tested our capabilities, and our patience. The wedding ceremony was to be held in a one-of-kind tent. While guests were arriving and walking through the amazing garden, the operations crew – 14 strong, were hiding in the bushes, behind walls and trees – with all the ice.

Once guests were settled, the crew had 45 minutes to set up a number of ice bars and other sculptures and dispose of the cardboard boxes – the trucks had already been parked well away from the site. The caterer had to bring out the shrimp and other goodies and arrange them suitably in the same time frame. The objective – maximum ‘wow’ factor.

We like to think we know about the ice component of any project, but logistics are often another matter altogether.

We have a full time person focused on little else than getting shipping quotes – containers for overseas projects, reefer trucks for road transport, air fares for crews traveling to different locations, arranging hotel accommodation – and always trying to secure the best possible pricing. It’s not just a matter of talking to travel agents and shipping companies, either. For instance, there are considerations about avoiding war zones – and other potential trouble areas – that have to be taken into account.

The Canadian Tire ice truck was a definite challenge. Once the customer had approved the idea of a drivable ice truck and not a truck completely frozen in ice as was first suggested, the designers went to work.

Obviously, there was a lot of detail to be covered, but add in the logistics and things get complicated and a little testy. First, where do you find an appropriate truck at a reasonable price to fit the budget ? Secondly, how do you get it to the studio, then arrange to have the body removed, the chassis strengthened to carry 11000 lbs of ice, the engine lowered to be able keep everything in proportion, and how do you prevent the engine heat melting the ice ? It’s all logistics

On top of this add even more to the mix. Where do you shoot the television commercial given that there would be a large number of people involved – photographers, videographers, sound people, lighting technicians – a total of around 50. Hotels had to be found and food provided. Logistics again !!

Here are a few more challenges we faced and they are documented in our photo albums.

When the casino opened in Windsor, Ontario close to Detroit, we were part of the celebrations. For maximum impact, It was decided to set the sculpture just above the water in the fountain at the main entranceway. No problem – except ! One of the operations crew eager to please, volunteered to jump in the water. He quickly found out it was more than 6 ft deep – he’s a non swimmer. Alarms sounded, security rushed to the scene, water everywhere and luckily no damage. Funny though – very much so !

Carving in winter can have its problems – especially in Canada. We built a temporary ice lounge on the Rideau Canal, Ottawa – in temperatures of minus 52 degrees. Even had to heat the ice walls so blocks could be fused, and not explode. Our guys were also interviewed live on a major radio network – a real test of stamina considering the interviewer was speaking remotely from a warm studio and seemed in no particular hurry to finish the session. Same thing in Winnipeg, Manitoba – minus 54 degrees this time – ironically while building a warming hut for cross country skiers and skaters on the Red River.

We started making large blocks – 2 meters x 1 meter x .5 meter. Production was fine, but what we didn’t do was to really investigate potential markets. All went well until our first order. We found out the weight limits on the road to South Beach in Chicago were weight restricted. The blocks had to be cut in half which sort of took away the impact of using large blocks !

On another occasion, we had a container load of raw blocks going to the UK when the ship’s refrigeration unit broke down halfway across the Atlantic ocean. Opening the doors at the back created a near perfect imitation of Niagara Falls. This happened at Christmas time when blocks were needed for the season. Logistics came into play again and another shipment had to be rushed to the customer,

Occasionally, logistics do work in your favor – two containers of ice blocks and sculptures traveled safely through Hurricane Katrina on their way to Australia – nothing broken, not even a scratch !

When we load containers, we try and make certain sculptures are unloaded in the order they are to be used. This is imperative when working in hot climates. Greece had the hot temperatures, but the ice was destined for the Island of Rhodes and had to be loaded on to a small ferry. This of course, re-arranged the loading plan significantly and the crew on the island had to scramble to beat the heat.

The Disney Castle in Times Square, New York involved a high degree of logistical expertise. First, there is timed entry to the Square – miss it and you can’t get downtown. Credit to our trucking company who did a dry run to make sure he kept to deadlines. He had to take toll roads and many other obstacles into account that could well have delayed him.

This was a huge contract for us and we worked with US colleagues to get the job done. We built the components in Canada and our US counterparts took care of the build. In all, 40 people were involved to be able to pull the job off. Many components were fused together in the studio and were then packaged and loaded on to the trucks. Some weighed as much as two tons. A very skilled crane operator handled the ice components in the Square with a 60 ft high crane.

On site, the team had seven hours to build the 31 ft high castle and be ready for a television broadcast at 5 am. It all went like clockwork, but then the challenge was removing everything by noon ! Try disposing nine tons of ice in three hours – logistics !

I have mentioned some of the logistical challenges we have had to deal with. I am sure you have had just as many hurdles to jump, too. Drop us a line and share some of your experiences.