The logistics of a supermarket – the unseen truth

When people go to a supermarket, they see a wide variety of goods they can choose from. What they don’t see if the amount of time and effort it takes to get those goods in the supermarket. The whole process that these goods undertake from the initial production point to the shelves can be referred to as logistics.

How do the products end up from their production facility to the supermarket?

logistics in the UK

It all begins when a product is finished. At this stage it is ready to be consumed but it still needs to get delivered to the consumers. There are 2 main elements that define logistics:

Distribution

Depending on the place of this production facility, the product is shipped using trucks, airplanes, trains or even boats. A supermarket has hundreds of products and they come from around the world. Handling this distribution process can be either the supermarket, or an external company specialized in logistics. Most companies will externalize the distribution process to companies that have more experience and more equipment. These companies have a whole fleet of trucks and other vehicles they can use. The goods from a supermarket are loaded and shipped on a regular basis (daily, weekly or monthly depending on the product). However these goods will not reach the supermarket just yet.

Storage

warehousing ukBecause delivering products each day to the supermarket straight from the production point has many flaws, supermarkets have an intermediate place to store the goods until they are needed. This place is a warehouse and it is used to store the goods until the supermarket needs them. These warehouses are huge and can store anything from food to electronics. Shipments arrive and depart all the time and in many ways this can be seen as a major nod in the whole logistic plan. The supermarket checks its inventory and makes a list of what it needs. Then, each day, trucks go and pick up the goods from the warehouse and deliver them to the supermarket.

This whole process is a simplified version of the real thing. In reality, each major supermarket has a handful of national warehouses (huge ones used to supply the local ones) and several local warehouses (usually outside major cities where they operate in that supply the supermarkets). Their whole distribution network is like a Swiss clock. Everything is documented and checked. Every egg carton can be traced at any given time. The supermarket knows exactly where a particular set of DVD players is.


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