For a business wanting to cultivate a better world, it all starts with the supply chain, says Carlos Londono, vice president of supply chain at restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill.
“We have this belief that food should be good for you, and everything that we do around food should be done with integrity,” says Londono. “What that means in supply chain is that we have to have extremely high standards around the quality of our food and everything that we do.”
That can mean a variety of things, including reducing waste in transportation and warehousing. Deploying a radio frequency identification (RFID) system to track inventory aids visibility in multiple supply chain nodes, and can allow for a reduction in the number of trucks on the road and miles driven, Londono says.
It also allows for maximum traceability — an absolutely critical capability when dealing with fresh food. But there are other advantages, such as allowing a company such as Chipotle to pivot rapidly from restaurant service to “dark” kitchens delivering orders received online, which it was able to do during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ultimately, sticking to its purpose means a company has to be prepared to reject product at the risk of running out of inventory. “If there was a situation where we were not able to meet those standards, we would prefer not to … serve that food and give up the revenue. We are 100% willing to do that,” Londono says. His advice to companies that would like to develop a purpose-driven supply chain: “Make sure that you invest in your supply chain appropriately, because some of these things are expensive.”
“It's difficult to set up these hyper-specialized supply chains, so you therefore need to have a very, very good idea of how you're going to invest, including and especially in people,” Londono says. “Your people are the secret weapon.”
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