The Smart List: StarKist runs global supply chain with SAP in the cloud

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StarKist is one of the largest and best-known names in the canned tuna business — a business that relies on complex global supply chains. Peter Caldwell, IT Director at StarKist, recently discussed how using a cloud managed services provider to run StarKist’s SAP environment helps StarKist scale and optimize supply chain and operations with limited IT internal resources.

How would you describe StarKist’s business?

Peter: I tell people we make the best tasting tuna and it comes from all over the world. Schools of tuna aren’t found in the middle of the US, so our plants and our manufacturing are located wherever tuna happens to be. We have processing facilities literally around the globe — from the South Pacific to Africa to Latin America.

What is StarKist’s business + technology vision?

Peter: We’re continuing to innovate by adding new products like chicken, salmon and the pouch offerings we’ve already introduced across the United States. From a technology perspective, we use SAP to track our inventory, manage our global supply chain, and predict what customers are going to order so our warehouses will have the availability to get it to customers on time. Availability is key, because we manufacture many different products. Making sure we have the right product in the right place at the right time, with a 50-day or more lead time, is a real challenge.

How have you gone about bringing that vision to life?

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Peter: We’re not an IT company — the IT group for our corporate headquarters is basically five people — so we partnered with IBM Services for Managed Applications to host and manage our SAP environment. This means I don’t have to have a 24x7x365 IT support team or maintain a datacenter. I’m able to rely on IBM Services to handle those things for us, which frees up my team to focus on other strategic priorities, like finding new ways to improve our business.

As we continue to develop our product portfolio and expand into other areas, we are building on our SAP application, which means we need to have the flexibility in the cloud to be able to add additional disk space, to have on-demand additional processing power, and to make sure that we hit all of our SLAs to provide availability for our international plant locations. This is core to our vision.

What trends are you tracking on the horizon?

Peter: [We’re tracking] a lot of opportunities for us to utilize advanced technologies that otherwise wouldn’t be available to us because of the scale of our IT department. As an example, because of our long supply chain and all the governmental regulations that are put on us to provide transparency to it, we’re evaluating technology such as blockchain, which we wouldn’t be able to do without IBM and their managed applications and services.

What does “building smarter business” mean to you?

Peter: An important part of building a better business, a smarter business, is choosing the right partner to leverage their expertise and take advantage of their experiences, their skills and their innovation to transform our own business.

Watch StarKist’s full story: