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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Life's a Picnic

Creating the best milkman on Earth.

Linda Rietveld

Written by

Managing the just-in-time grocery supply chain at Picnic

Life's a Picnic

Creating the best milkman on Earth.