« April 2007 Table of Contents
Processing & Services: On time — or not at all
Customer service necessary for tracking seafood through the distribution chain
By Lauren Kramer
April 01, 2007
As seafood makes its way from ocean to table worldwide,
transportation is critical. With a perishable product, timing
is everything and shipments can cost millions of dollars if the
product is delayed. Technology can be an invaluable resource in
tracking seafood through the supply chain, providing real-time
information that eliminates guesswork and makes scheduling and
delivery that much more predictable in what would otherwise be
a very complicated process.
Scoring Systems of Sarasota, Fla., specializes in providing
Web-based documentation of seafood from sustainable fisheries
with a system called Point to Point Traceback.
"The documentation begins as the fish are caught, at that
exact location," says William Kanitz, company president. "The
records of the catch are moved from the catch site, to the
vessel, to a dock or wharf and then to the processing
Most of those records begin on paper at the catch site,
unless the fishing vessel has access to RFID, satellite or
Internet. "It only takes a couple of seconds to write down your
location based on your GPS," Kanitz explains. "The records are
transferred to an electronic system when the fisherman gets
back to shore and the data gets into the hands of the
middleman, and they are kept intact so when the seafood is
packaged for the grocer, wholesaler or broker-buyer, the
information moves with it."
Customers log in to the
online system with an encrypted
password to review the record of the catch, and pay Scoring
Systems 55 cents per catch. The customer can access the
shipment record for up to 220 days.
Alaska Quality Seafood is one of those customers, using
Point to Point Traceback since fall 2006. "Previously we used
manual data entry, utilizing database software and spreadsheets
to track the seafood," says Hugh Bertmaring, AQS spokesman.
"What I like about Scoring Systems is the fact that the
database resides on neutral ground, and cannot be manipulated
by members of the supply chain. It's accessible 24/7, and the
support staff is willing to work with their clients to
continually enhance the product."
AQS's goal is to have easy access to quality data from the
seafood's point of capture, beginning with the inspection
process and ending at packaging. "We report on this data for
quality reporting, and also to identify trends and initiate
corrective measures in harvesting and processing, if
necessary," says Bertmaring.
"Scoring Systems' technology makes this possible at a very
reasonable cost, allowing us to label incoming fish catches,
report on them and then follow these lots through
Different companies need to track their seafood at different
points in the supply chain. For Fortune Fish in Chicago, the
challenges were in driver overtime. To overcome these mounting
costs the company turned to Cube Route. The Toronto-based
company provides on-demand logistics-management solutions to
optimize routes for maximum efficiency and gain real-time
visibility into delivery operations.
"Our application is purely for tracking logistics and gets
installed on a drivers' cell phone," says Andrew Roszko, Cube
Route's VP of on-demand transportation management. "It tracks
the driver with GPS and holds them accountable for their time,
as well as helping with their route planning."
Every driver receives a route plan with a specific estimated
arrival time. "With this mobile application, we can see what
the driver actually does, giving the company more control over
what's going on and what the reasons for overtime are," Roszko
explains. "We don't offer real-time traffic feeds, but we
configure vehicle speeds, so if the vehicle is going downtown
during a high traffic time, we'll slow down that profile."
Cube Route's subscription-based service is delivered via the
Internet, with a set-up fee of approximately $4,200. "This
allows a smaller customer to get up and running with minimal
cost, and after that, it's on a subscription rate, based on
volume, for every stop that we track," he says.
According to Roszko, within the first week of using this
system, Fortune Fish's overtime was reduced by 30 hours. But
acting as a Big Brother tool is just one of the functions of
this technology, route planning is another major tool.
Say, for example, you have 20 trucks on the road and 300
customers waiting for seafood. "Cube Route provides an
efficient way to build your routes and maximize the amount of
product on the trucks," Roszko says. "With the mobile
application there are real-time updates into the Web site,
which enables your dispatch and customer service staff to see
exactly what's going on in the field."
If customers call in, you can tell them exactly what time
you'll be there. And if a delivery is running behind schedule,
you can take a proactive stance by calling the customers on the
route and informing them of the delay, adds Roszko.
Luciano Morra worked at Federal Express for 12 years before
founding PeriShip in Branford, Conn., five years ago. His
company, a non-assets-based logistics provider to the
perishable foods industry, acts as the middleman between the
seafood customer and FedEx, providing personalized customer
service on shipments.
That service includes weather monitoring, nightly pre-alerts
to major FedEx sorting locations, tracking analysis,
intervention to correct any issues that develop in transit and
personalized customer e-mail updates on the status of all
"Today, for example, we had a shipment on a flight coming
from Seattle that was delayed, which meant the shipment didn't
make a connecting flight," Morra says. "First we focused on
protecting the product, getting it into refrigeration. Then, my
supply chain coordinators placed the shipment on another flight
and organized pick up and delivery at the other end to ensure
it was delivered on time. This all happened so seamlessly that
the customer didn't even know the box was delayed."
While FedEx has state-of-the-art systems that capture
real-time information on the millions of packages moving
through its system, the company cannot offer the kind of
individual attention and oversight that perishable shipments
require, says Ray Garrison, CIO at PeriShip.
"We understand the demanding requirements of the perishable
foods industry, and in FedEx we have an information resource
that enables us not only to monitor each and every PeriShip
shipment moving through the FedEx system, but to take proactive
steps toward issue resolution," Garrison says.
PeriShip uses the FedEx Ship Manager Direct XML applications
programming interface to connect with the FedEx information
technology system. This enables the company to receive
real-time information on the status of each package shipped by
"Our servers, using software applications that have been
certified by FedEx, are in constant contact with the FedEx
servers," Garrison says. "Every five minutes, our system
updates the status of every shipment we are monitoring. FedEx
provides the time, location and status of each package, and the
PeriShip servers take this information, summarize it and
present it to our staff of logistics experts, who review and
The process of reviewing shipment status defines the service
PeriShip provides, he adds. "No matter how intelligent a
computer algorithm might be, it takes a person with years of
experience and an intimate knowledge of the express-shipping
environment to recognize a situation that requires action. The
role of the information technologies is to collect and present
information in a timely and concise format, so as to enable a
person, at a glance, to review the overall state of the system
and recognize those instances where intervention may be
Robert George, owner of The Crab Broker in Las Vegas, has
used PeriShip for two years. His company, which supplies more
than 50 boxes of fresh seafood daily to chefs and upscale
retailers, was left in a quandary when DHL went through a
transformation and could not ship product in a timely manner
for two weeks.
"At 8 one morning, I called PeriShip and told Luciano, 'I
have $10,000 worth of seafood that has to be shipped today,'"
says George. "Within two hours, he took care of everything.
With a minute's notice, PeriShip did a perfect job, so I just
stayed with them."
George's shipments require overnight delivery to the
customer's back door in some 150 cities. The company shipped
10,000 packages last year, and spends between $30,000 and
$40,000 a month on transportation costs.
"I can have the greatest suppliers of seafood and sell it to
my customers, but if the product doesn't get delivered on time,
it doesn't matter how great my seafood is," says George. "I can
control just about everything except the delivery of the
product, and with PeriShip, they take control of that."
Scoring Systems, Cube Route and PeriShip each provide a
different yet important role in tracking product through the
seafood supply chain, catering to the various needs of their
respective customers. But for each company, it's clear that
while technology helps, it can never replace people to evaluate
data and communicate delays or formulate an effective Plan B,
where necessary, in the movement of seafood worldwide.
Contributing Editor Lauren Kramer lives in British