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Seachill 'achieves effective automation'

07 April 2011

Operating predominantly in the highly competitive own label retail sector, Seachill supplies fresh fish to Tesco

The company has demonstrated strong and rapid growth, coinciding with both the development of the fresh fish market and Tesco's increasing share of that market. Seachill presently employs more than 600 employees at its Grimsby production plant, which ships and delivers hundreds of fresh fish pallets a week.

Increasing customer demand for reduced lead time and faster shipping turnaround prompted Seachill to seek an auto ID solution that would enable it to automate its dispatch area and speed up its shipping and dispatching processes.

“Tesco’s short lead times were proving to be a great challenge,” says Steve Wallace, Seachill’s IT Manager. “We’d get orders late in the day, leaving a very small window to get products scanned and out the door.” He goes on to explain how Seachill’s then active system – which primarily involved the use of handheld scanners and manual processing of outbound products – became a bottleneck that could potentially limit throughput on large product volumes.

“Dispatch was having a hard time handling the influx of data during shipping peaks, making it very clear that we needed to research potential scanning and shipping automation solutions.”

At the start of the project, a number of options were considered, including RFID. However, the prohibitive cost of RFID tags, especially in the context of high volumes of relatively low-cost products, and concern over RFID’s potential sensitivity to the cold and damp conditions dominating the dispatch area deemed the technology impractical for Seachill’s needs.

“After taking all of our requirements into consideration and researching competing products on the market, we believed a solution using image capture like Visidot would be the only way to meet our scanning accuracy, speed, tag cost-effectiveness and system flexibility needs,” says Mr. Wallace.

Visidot Provides Seachill with Automation and 100% Accurate Shipping Verification

Seachill proceeded to tag a large portion of its fresh fish products with industry-standard Data Matrix (2D) labels. A Visidot gate with two readers – each of which is equipped with three high resolution cameras - an operator stand and Visidot SCT (Supply Chain Traceability) servers were then deployed at Seachill’s Grimsby production facility’s dispatch area.

The Visidot reader gate, which is capable of capturing very large quantities of tagged containers in a single scan, now captures thousands of outbound fresh fish cases a day, effectively replacing the far slower and outage-prone handheld scanning performed previously. The locally deployed Visidot SCT servers running Visidot SCT Director software enable dispatch area operators to perform ad-hoc shipping verification and apply corrective measures should discrepancies between incoming orders and outbound pallet stacks be discovered. Scanning of an entire stack of fresh fish pallets takes mere seconds and, once orders and products to be shipped are properly matched and verified, the pallets are automatically shrink-wrapped and sent on their way.

Tag information captured from all outbound fresh fish pallets is archived in image banks on the Visidot SCT servers, enabling future reference and easy production of proof of shipping or proof of product condition, if and when required.

Visidot also enabled SeaChill to comply with Tesco’s Advance Shipping Notification Requirements

Tesco has recently required that all its suppliers provide ASNs (advance shipping notifications) accurately reporting the content of every truck delivering goods to the retail chain. With hundreds of pallets shipped each day, speed and accuracy are of the utmost importance to Seachill. Following two successful Visidot implementations, SeaChill immediately looking to this technology to addresses the new requirement.

Upon completion of shipping verification, Visidot creates a SSCC (Serial Shipping Container Code) pallet label complying with GS1 standard. Tagged pallets are then fork-lifted past a dock-door Visidot gate on their way to the delivery trucks. Truck numbers are associated with all relevant pallets, and ImageID’s Visidot Director produces the ASN document, as required by Tesco.

“Visidot has demonstrated its strong traceability capabilities yet again,” states Steve Wallace, IT Manager at SeaChill. “Having already helped us reduce order lead times, Visidot now also enables us to comply with Tesco’s stringent shipping notification requirements – while increasing efficiency and assuring 100% shipping accuracy.”

Visidot Delivers - Seachill Application Benefits

 Zero shipping errors
 Complete supply chain visibility
 Image-based, operator friendly guidance for corrective actions
 Rapid, automated handling of fresh fish products
 Negligible tag costs
 Fast deployment & ROI

In addition to helping Seachill avoid shipping errors in the first place, Seachill also provides dispatch operators with guidance, should corrective actions be required. Mr. Wallace adds, “Per pallet scan times have effectively gone down from 7 minutes using handheld units to under a minute with Visidot, which provides us with absolute accuracy and essentially eliminates all shipping errors. Visidot has literally future-proofed our dispatch operations. We are now confident in our ability to handle any number of shipments within even the shortest of timeframes.”

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