UK retailer Sainsbury’s is testing new technology that it says will help improve supply chain efficiencies and reduce food waste.
Specifically, Sainsbury’s new system will monitor the food coming off supermarket shelves on a minute by minute basis, enabling the company to make real-time decisions on where to send food from its warehouses.
Real-time information helps retailers better manage their supply chains, particularly in the food industry where factors such as weather play a significant role in consumer buying behavior. Sainsbury’s says the ground-breaking ‘real time supply chain technology’ will reduce the amount of un-purchased food by 15 per cent during periods of unexpected weather (of which there were six in Britain last year). In addition, the new supply chain management strategy is expected to result in an annual CO2 reduction of over 1400 tonnes.
“This new system allows us to react to any changes in buying pattern on the same day rather than overnight, meaning we can make far better decisions on where to send stock before it leaves our depots,” explains Tim Goalen, Sainsbury’s supply chain director. “Several times a year, shelves might be full of barbecue food for the weekend, only for unexpected rain to cause everyone to clamor for warm, hearty food instead. This new way of working will greatly reduce the risk of this. It’s not just the weather either. We will now know exactly what is selling well at any given moment so we can react more quickly than any of our competitors, and provide our customers with what they want on any given day.”
Sainsbury’s is already an industry leader with regard to minimizing the environmental impact of food waste. The company sends no food waste from supermarkets to landfill at all; instead all food waste is converted to electricity and fertilizer though a process of anaerobic digestion.