Just-in-time supply chain: guaranteeing freshness and minimising waste

Linda Rietveld
Sep 4, 2018 · 4 min read

It’s Sunday morning and you’re preparing brunch. The avocado from the supermarket feels ripe and ready for eating. But instead of vibrant green flesh, it’s all brown mush. You toss it away and try to enjoy an avocadoless meal.

Globally, ⅓ of all food produced is wasted. But when supply chains and conventional supermarkets allow fresh produce to sit on shelves for days, is it any surprise that food ends up in the trash?

We use a just-in-time supply chain. This minimises waste and guarantees freshness.

So when Picnic delivers groceries on a Thursday, you know that by Sunday the avocado will be on toast, not in the bin.

Image for post
Image for post

Just-in-time supply chain

A just-in-time supply chain is a simple concept: minimise the number of goods held in stock. Perishable goods (meat, apples, avocados) become part of a fluid supply chain and never sit for long periods in storage. This reduces the time between harvest and consumption, maximising freshness for all the products that our customers order.

Image for post
Image for post

But running a just-in-time supply chain is no easy feat. It requires on-the-minute coordination. Each step has to be synced: from production, receiving orders from suppliers, turnaround, to final delivery.

Image for post
Image for post

As Picnic’s Supply-chain Planner, my aim is to always deliver the best product and guarantee freshness to our customers. I am the tip of the iceberg of a diverse team of analysts, computer scientists and operational experts. With machine learning and AI networking, we create superior forecasting models. This gives us real-time visibility into the supply and demand data and allows us to only purchase what customers want. That accuracy means that, unlike conventional supermarkets, we don’t keep an oversupply of goods, thus minimising waste across our supply chain.

Helping out suppliers

At times of harvest, suppliers often have oversupply issues. Picnic’s app-only store allows our assortment to be flexible and reactive. In combination with a just-in-time supply, we can collaborate with suppliers to distribute the oversupply of fresh produce.

Image for post
Image for post

When a supplier has an extra 1000 kg of plums, we place them in our store at a bargain price. We’re offering great deals to our customers while cutting waste up the food chain.

Building and equipment innovations

To complement advanced technologies, our supply chain is backed by building and equipment innovations. During the 12 hours that perishable goods are held in the supply chain, everything is stored at the right temperature and under optimal lighting to ensure freshness. Well-designed loading and unloading bays allow the operations team to make quick turnarounds across our distribution network, resulting in a smooth flow of goods from the supplier to the customer’s doorstep.

Image for post
Image for post

Picnic’s just-in-time supply chains is so effective that by the end of each day, there are no perishable goods left in stock. The shelves are empty and ready for next morning’s delivery.

Champions League Logistics

By arranging our just-in-time supply chain to the utmost precision, we prevent food spoilage and maximise efficiency across our operation. Avocado dilemmas are prevented and Picnic’s customers always enjoy fresh products. Moreover, with each order they make, they’re contributing to a system that minimises food waste.

A just-in-time supply chain is impressive. When it’s combined with next day delivery with twenty-minute time windows and an operation that’s being scaled across two countries, my team is playing Champions League logistics every day.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store