Information sharing strategies in whitefish supply chain

Information sharing is one of the main supply chain strategies for reducing uncertainty and is vital for supply chain efficiency. All actors can benefit from sharing relevant information in a timely manner and improve supply chain coordination.

Whitefish supply chains are complex in nature due to seasonal variations, high supply uncertainty and rapid quality deterioration due to handling and temperature variations. In Norway, most wild cod is exported as lower‐value products preserved in salted, dried, and frozen forms. In‐season whitefish processors typically buy from coastal vessels that deliver fresh fish and in off‐season buy from sea‐going vessels that deliver frozen fish. This lack of vertical integration seems to limit information sharing between the fishing vessels and the processors. With limited data, there are limits for decision support at the processing stage and this also limits any data flow upstream in the value chain.

Information flow

The Event‐driven Process Chains (EPC) technique was used to develop an AS‐IS model of the whitefish processing chain depicting the current material and information flow practices between the fishing vessels and the processors. Case study methodology was used to analyse the whitefish chain including the fishing and processing operations. Information about the data management and supply chain planning practices was gathered through semi-structured interviews.

Management of food supply chains are particularly complex due to an intrinsic focus on product quality. Various motivation factors for supply chain information sharing are mentioned in the literature and include legislative requirements, efficient product recalls, optimization of business processes and product differentiation. In recent years, several studies have been conducted on the value of information sharing in supply chains and its impact on supply chain performance.

A lot of information is available about each fishing trip but is not being used in an optimal way to improve either the fishing operations or the production planning. In addition, detailed catch information such as temperature and product condition is available on‐board the fishing vessels but is not shared with the processors. If available in advance, this information can be used by the processors to improve their production planning decisions.

 

Considering quality

The information on quality and the fishing trip can be used to optimize the fishing operations, for example, selecting the best fishing areas. The information linked to each operation is already available in the existing systems such as the eCatch and TrackWell. The quality information is recorded by the processors in their internal databases.

Improved information sharing can in turn impact production planning and can be used for differentiation of the products in market. Access to real‐time catch and fleet information can be used to harmonize fishing effort by many fishing vessels and can also be used to decide the delivery times and locations of the different vessels. Use of historical information about season, catch area and effects on catch quality can be used to improve the fishing plans.

Further work is needed to study the willingness to share information in the supply chains, barriers and opportunities for both parties – the fishermen and the processors. In absence of vertical integration, the concept of vertical coordination needs to be explored where fishermen and processors willingly share information for mutual benefits.

 

 

By Maitry Thakur