You know when you get your internet shopping delivered and it doesn’t have a key product, and even worse, it has been substituted for an item that you will never use? Well that is what can happen when Supply Chain Systems go wrong. Do you know why Ocado has industry leading levels of order accuracy (99.3% of all orders in the last year we delivered as expected)? Our Supply Chain Systems don’t go wrong.
We have complex forecasting algorithms that accurately predict the demand of over 40,000 products across three warehouses for the next 28 days. The algorithms can predict seasonality, promotion uplift and can also predict how much a product will sell before we have even sold a single item. You might not know what you want for dinner next week, but we do.
Our Ordering Systems are placing just in time orders for products that cost over £2 million in total on any one day. We place almost 2,000 purchase orders a day to cover the demand of two retailers.
If we’re not predicting the future with our forecasting engines or solving complex assignment problems with our ordering logic, we are writing real time Availability logic to inform shoppers what is in and out of stock in milliseconds. This precision engineering is what we do every day and, if we get it wrong, lives* are literally on the line.
So how do we do it. The advantage Ocado has over store-based competitors is its data. We can draw on a significant amount of data to accurately predict what demand we will see over the next month. That data goes through several stages to clean up and remove outliers. Once the data is processed and determined to be valid, we can draw conclusions from this. We then use linear regression to project into the future and place our purchase orders based on this predicted demand.
I think the proudest achievement that I have been part of is being able to launch Morrisons.com in under 9 months. This involved the re-engineering of core parts of our systems, keeping Ocado.com growing and functional while adding a whole new business onto our processes and workflows.
The first thing I would say about my team is that we are all great software engineers, every single one of us. How we achieve greatness is varied and no two people get there the same way. Some are quiet, some are loud. Some are into gaming, some are into Disney theme songs (ok that last one is just me…). We are together but not the same, as the advert goes.
Looking around at them all now, I see two pairs of engineers solving problems together. Each is asking and answering questions posed by the other person (or even themselves). One engineer is ‘in the zone’: headphones in, look of concentration on his face, slight rocking of his head when he gets to a guitar solo… and I imagine is currently smashing out some awesome code that will inevitably get rewritten 15 minutes later. Two other engineers are engaged in a debate about the correct use of the word ‘literally’. This could go on for a while…
This is what is happening now. Give it an hour and we might all be in a room, debating the direction we should take on a product we are building, or listening to someone’s experience with a new technology. Give it two hours and half the team will be in the kitchen boosting their caffeine levels, the other half will be debating the correct use of the word ‘literally’. Come on guys, we literally just talked about this!
Does this sound like the type of team you want to work in? If so, apply through this role and hopefully we’ll see you soon:
Will Peck, Team Leader Supply Chain Systems
*Christmas turkeys don’t grow on trees.