Push or Pull: Which is Better When Dealing With Perishable Goods?

Supply chains work off of a push or a pull method. That is, either to push (predict what consumers will want, produce that item ahead of time, and have it ready when the consumer asks for it), or to pull (the customer orders something, and this begins the process of production ““ a “made to order” solution). Both methods have their strengths and weaknesses, of course. The Push method leads to the potential for overstocking and wasted money, the Pull method can lead to extremely high production time and a high level of customer/supplier interaction which can take both time and money. But this article by Dr. Tom McNamara explains how most groups use a combination of the two: The reality is that due to operating constraints and system limitations, many companies employ what is known as a “push/pull” system. This is really just a hybrid, comprising many elements of both push and pull methods. While already challenging, the difficulties of operating a supply chain can become exponentially greater when we are talking about fresh produce. For a Wal-Mart, Tesco or Aldi, managing the procurement, shipping, distribution and sale of such goods as fresh fruits, vegetables and fish, the problem of coordination can be enormous. And with profit margins razor thin, the penalty for getting something wrong can be severe. The waste possible in fresh food supplies is a very real and very costly issue. McNamara states that losses from unsold fruits and vegetables can be as high as 15 billion dollars a year ““ almost half of all fruits and vegetables in the US go uneaten. This loss can be reduced through a more intelligent combination of push and pull ““ starting with the farms, potentially.

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