Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Supply chain management

Collateral control was always a giant pain for the Alaska Commercial Fishing and Agriculture Bank. I was hired to help monitor the canned and frozen packs of fourteen canneries and cold storages. It quickly became obvious to me that the traditional system was cumbersome and expensive. We had a Seattle office too, that helped monitor the packs of our customers that were headquartered in Seattle. Within a year I was able to streamline the procedures so they could close the Seattle office and lay off the other Collateral Control person in the Anchorage office.

Eventually the bank would just ask me to perform my "magic" whenever they wanted to know what the status of their product based collateral was. This wasn't a good system for the long run, because when I left the bank, the knowledge of how to do it left with me. They just quit financing packers.

But there are control systems that packers can use now that will pinpoint every scrap of data on every product. This is not only useful for bankers, but essential for the organization who owns the fish, brokers who might be helping distribute it, and clients wanting to know the availability of different products. The article you see when you click on "control systems" mentions Radio Frequency Identification of product along the way too, although this is not necessary to have a good information system.

A lot of the data would be entered when the product hit the dock, then in process in the plant, into storage in the plant, out the back door, onto bill of lading, into storage in the Lower 48 or in-transit, or to a customer. Every bit of data that you could ever want or need. The quality, species, product form, packaging, etc.

Some of the data that would be entered in the system is necessary for Hazard and Critical Control Point monitoring by law. You also have something to back up your quality claims. If this system was exended to the fishing boats, then you'd really have something. A fisherman could track his fish through the system and it would be identifiable to him as well. That could work for or against the fisherman.

It would work for the fishermans benefit if he was producing a high quality product, in the form of higher demand for his particular catch. If the plant dropped the ball and ruined the high quality of his fish he could seek redress. Customers would be demanding the higher quality products they saw on the inventory list. Some low quality product that sat around would eventually have to be sold at a discount and the fishermen that caught those would be rewarded accordingly.

It all would have the effect of finally providing a direct incentive for capital investment by fisherman and plant to improve quality. A fisherman could be entering his catch data, time it went into the hold, hold temperature, temperatures, say every six hours and anything else he wanted to enter, all on a little hand held like the UPS guy. Then download the data to the computer at the dock when he unloads.

The Native Corporation in Ketchikan set up a system like this and they are claiming great savings. Another company that I saw that now e-mails me all the time with information on control systems is Savvion. They will do a free consultation through this link. They'll also send you more information, free, than you can fit in a suitcase on how to manage business more efficiently; whether it be a fishing business, an Association, a public facility, or a private packer.

One thing that would help fishermen possibly link to the "business system," supplly chain management system or whatever it will be eventually called in the seafood industry, is a sat phone right on the boat. By laptop, a fisherman could link right into the system and enter their data in real time. That would help the supply chain managers immesurably in scheduling secondary production, the first processing.


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