Food Engineering

Maintenance On the High Seas

March 27, 2003
Alaska Ocean Seafood, a producer of surimi, uses a 370-ft. factory trawler that catches, processes and freezes fish while at sea. Sailing from Seattle, WA, the trawler spends about four weeks in the Bering Sea before returning to port. Maintenance to its "plant" and production facility while at sea must be accounted for at the headquarters in Anacortes, WA. Likewise, the trawler's purchasing and inventory requests must be tracked in the corporate accounting system.

Maintaining the trawler requires thousands of spare parts -- and thousands of inventory transactions -- each year. "Our inventory transactions are a key part of our financial system," says Dave Crumbo, finance manager with Alaska Ocean Seafood. "The trawler uses very specialized parts from all over the world, and inventory exceeds $2 million."

Alaska Ocean Seafood decided to link a maintenance software package with a financial software package to help capture inventory costs in the corporate accounting system. The company had some strict requirements for these systems.

Alaska Ocean Seafood chose MP2 Enterprise, a Datastream Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) software system utilizing the Microsoft SQL Server database. For the financial side, the company chose Epicor Software Corporation, a provider of client/server Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) business applications.

"Unlike most companies, we chose the EAM system first, since we had very specific requirements for any maintenance management package," Crumbo says. "MP2 Enterprise had all the functionality we needed, including an unparalleled inventory control system, along with impressive interface opportunities. We then looked at the ERP packages available for an MP2 integration."

Alaska Ocean Seafood uses a satellite link between the factory trawler and the corporate headquarters. Purchasing, maintenance and inventory transactions are entered into the MP2 system while at sea. "The entire purchasing cycle is being replicated, both in Seattle and aboard the trawler," Crumbo says. "We get real-time information about cost information and maintenance data."

A day of downtime for our trawler could mean the loss of $500,000 a day, according to Crumbo. "Our maintenance staff needs to have the parts available before they leave port. A controlled purchasing system through the MP2-Epicor link gives us that assurance."

The trawler's maintenance staff also enjoys the MP2-Epicor interface because of the wealth of information available. They have the parts needed for repairs, and if an order is made, they receive more updates throughout the process. "Previously, if somebody ordered a spare part, they wouldn't find out when or where it was due in until after the part arrived," Crumbo says. "Now, they can use MP2 to find the status of the order, when it is expected and other vital portions of the purchasing cycle. With this system in place, we expect to trim 10 to 20 percent from the inventory we carry. Our parts are expensive, and we're trying to find the optimal amount of parts to carry at any time. MP2 gives us that power."