Trident Seafoods is a vertically integrated harvester, processor and marketer of seafood, meaning the company controls quality and production processes "From the Source to the Plate®." That's no easy feat when your supply chain starts out swimming around in remote regions of the Bering Sea and ends on dinner tables around the world. Not surprisingly, a lot of technology is needed to support the manufacturing and distribution steps in between.
The next time you enjoy a filet of Alaskan salmon or Pacific cod, there's a very good chance you'll be eating a product from Trident Seafoods. Founded in 1973 and privately held, it is one of the largest seafood businesses in the U.S., with both offshore and shore-side processing plants, a number of value-added manufacturing facilities and its own fleet of fishing and processing vessels.
With a large part of the company's operations in Alaska, Trident Seafoods faces many unique business challenges--location, weather, and connectivity issues among them. "We needed to have 24/7 service from many different locations in order to record transactions into our ERP system. And most systems on the market at that time simply couldn't provide us with that level of serviceability," business analyst, Mike Wheeler, recalls.
Trident wanted to utilize barcode scanning and data collection to enhance the efficiency of inventory and manufacturing transactions. They needed a system that could operate around the clock, capturing transactional information through scanners in a mobile environment. Many systems weren't up to the task, some proved too costly, and others couldn't handle the large volume of transactions.
Trident's chief information officer, Rick Resto explained, "Our JD Edwards product had no barcode scanning data collection functionality. And we didn't want to go to a full-fledged advanced warehousing package. RFgen gave us the overall functionality we needed for a reasonable cost."
Trident has used the RFgen Mobile Foundations for JD Edwards solution to scan and capture critical information and create transactions, such as inventory transfers, work orders, order picks, and pallet labels for years. RFgen is flexible, scalable, and adaptable to almost any mobile transactions, plus it's tightly integrated to Trident Seafoods' ERP system, Oracle's JD Edwards.
The first order of business is to collect the initial transactions at the remote plants, where fish is prepared for transport on ships. The team at RFgen designed a process to output this information from various production solutions to .csv spreadsheet files and then import those files into RFgen to make the transactions available to JD Edwards. "RFgen gives us 24-hour system availability. We can take a file from any of our Alaska plants at any point in time, 24/7. That was a key system criterion for us," Wheeler said.
During the next steps of the process--sending seafood through the value-add plants in Washington, Oregon, and Minnesota and later shipping products around the world--RFgen captures transaction information through scanners and automatically records it in JD Edwards. With more than 150 people scanning or creating records--including many seasonal employees--ease of use is essential. The scanning screens are simple and sequential, prompting users from step to step.
RFgen transactions are the foundation for all inventory in Trident's ERP system. Workers use RFgen to:
Trident Seafoods uses RFgen so extensively that Wheeler jokes, "RFgen touches the flow of our entire product from the beginning to the end with one exception--we don't barcode the fish as they come out of the water."
A crucial capability of RFgen is the ability to store transactions at the value-added plant if network connectivity is lost. Using local servers, RFgen continues to collect transactions indefinitely and can perform multiple offline transactions on the same inventory until connectivity is reestablished. At that time, RFgen replicates and forwards information to the central server. This keeps production going, thereby avoiding any costly work delays. "RFgen's High Availability option prevents us from losing any transactions," Wheeler explained. "In a remote plant situation, that was critical to our need."
Recently, Trident Seafoods implemented new RFgen transactions for customers that wanted pallet labels to help them process products into warehouses more quickly. For those customers, the license plating process helps Trident Seafoods assemble and document each pallet as they put a pick together and prepare to ship it out. Wheeler described, "When the customer receives the pallet, all they have to do is scan the label and they know all of the information about the items on it--right down to individual product lot numbers. This is a critical improvement for some of our larger customers."
RFgen adds speed and efficiency to Trident Seafoods' operations. Wheeler shared that, "Last year we processed just under 1.2-million transactions. Right now, we're producing over three transactions per minute, 24/7--that's a lot of transactions!" Although RFgen receives quite a workout, TridentSeafoods enjoys "very solid behavior of the system," according to Wheeler, who "can't remember the last failed transaction in the scanning process that was not a user error."
RFgen is the right solution for the unique challenges of the seafood business. "From a strategic standpoint, high availability is critical, as well as the .csv processing for remote plants," said Resto. And license plating helps the company better serve very important customers.
The IT management team at Trident Seafoods also appreciates the low total cost of ownership. "We've been able to replicate our systems set up and the functionality as we add new locations into the process. We're able to expand our business without a lot of expense thanks to RFgen, which makes it even more valuable to us," Wheeler acknowledged.
"When we choose enterprise-wide applications we look for applications that allow us to expand our volume without any real additional investment in infrastructure and support. From the time we installed RFgen until today, we've nearly tripled the volume of transactions, but the support required has not really changed," concluded Resto.