For some supply chains, the peak of peak season comes before Black Friday — right before. Turkeys, cranberry sauce, yams and certain varieties of potatoes (not to mention the flakes in a box) all have a few very big sales days coming up next week.
And as in any supply chain, with so much food being moved around the country so quickly, there are bound to be mistakes, errors and accidents — all adding up to wasted food. Though often blamed on consumer fickleness, the $270 billion annual problem of food waste is really in the hands of corporate players and should be on the radar of any conscientious supply chain manager.
Waste of a finished product spirals into waste upstream in the supply chain, in the form of carbon emissions, manpower and biological and chemical inputs into the soil.
Food waste in particular hits a nerve with supply chains and the general public because of the essential nature of food itself and the number of people on the planet without enough of it.
But the world of non-perishable goods faces similar concerns. Current trends spreading through retail supply chains are increasing the similarities.
Some of the largest U.S. retailers are slashing inventory. Even with Black Friday a week away, stores are doing their best to have enough of what they need, but no more.
Sneakers and socket wrenches and toy trucks may not perish the way food does, but they do become unproductive in the system. At least for apparel, shoppers are cycling through trends faster, leading some brands to take a chisel to their lead times so they can take advantage of a trend before it expires.
Clearance racks are full of items that have lost much of their margin, with more than 30% of online orders returned, and a surprising amount of that merchandise is either trashed or destroyed. Just because an unsold item won't rot doesn't mean it isn't a waste.
The solutions to wasteful supply chains may be very different for food and non-food, but the thought process is similar. How can the product get to the end user faster while it's still fresh and optimal in value?
More and more, it behooves supply chain managers to use food waste as a lesson — how would you change your operations if your product were perishable?
Try this thought experiment and let us know how it goes. Then on Thursday, you can be even more thankful if your supply chain doesn't require refrigeration.