Refrigerated & Frozen Foods talks with Lisa Webb, director of distribution and seafood procurement at Gorton’s Inc., The Gloucester, Mass., company is a leader in frozen branded and foodservice seafood.

R&FF: How is Gorton’s logistics group structured?
Lisa Webb: Distribution is part of Gorton’s operations group and we have five key functions: warehousing management, transportation management, inventory management, sales forecasting, and seafood procurement. The department is headed by the director of distribution and seafood procurement, who reports to the vice president of operations.

R&FF: How do you approach national warehousing, transportation?
Webb: Gorton’s uses third-party providers for all warehousing and transportation needs.  We’ve established long-standing relationships with a small core group of outstanding service providers. We treat these relationships as true partnerships.

Our supply chain partners are the last to touch our product before it is delivered to the customer. From the customer’s perspective, they are “Gorton’s.” For that reason, we partner with companies that provide the highest standards of service, quality and are “best in their class.”

R&FF: You’re now past a busy Lenten sales season. How did that go?
Webb: A highly seasonal business like ours certainly presents challenges to the supply chain – from procurement and production planning to the physical logistics of moving the volume. We are proud of continuous Lean Thinking improvements across our entire operation.

We continue to maximize efficiency and maintain tight inventory controls in the face of several variables. These include (1) unique harvested raw materials that can only be sourced once or twice a year; (2) changing consumer tastes; and (3) highly seasonal volume. Gorton’s continues to provide innovative, sustainable products to consumers while we maintain matchless customer service and manage costs.

R&FF: What else is on your “to-do” list for 2011?
Webb: We want to continue to improve efficiency by increasing electronic data sharing and reporting with our supply chain partners. We also want to improve inbound traceability and reduce damages/claims to decrease the risk of food safety issues.

R&FF: Gorton’s is widely respected for its annual  supplier conference. What are you telling  warehousing and transportation partners?

Webb: We have made tremendous progress across our supply chain during the last decade. In keeping with our Lean journey, we will emphasize continuous improvement at this year’s conference this June in Beverly, Mass.

Despite our progress – and all the positive things we are doing – there always are things to improve. There are also a few specific areas where we will promote “best practices” among our 3PL’s and establish some uniformity for certain processes and reporting. We continue to work with suppliers to identify productivity savings – to offset rising costs in a challenging economic environment.

R&FF: What issues most concern you?
Webb: With the cost of fuel largely beyond our control, it is imperative that we work closely with supply chain partners to maximize efficiency and reduce cost and waste – in areas that we can control. We are watching the changing nature of global demand – longer term – and thinking about any imbalances related to supply versus demand. We also are concerned about continued softness in the U.S. economy, the weak U.S. dollar and the impact this has on consumers’ branded product purchases.

Background: A 24-year company veteran, Lisa Webb joined Gorton’s in 1987 and worked for six years as a research food scientist. Gorton’s promoted her to director of purchasing in 1993 and gave her added responsibility for seafood procurement. Last year, Gorton’s promoted Webb to director of distribution, an additional post.Education / Training: B.S., Food Science, University of Rhode Island

Personal: Webb is a board member of the National Fisheries Institute, McDonald’s Global Fish Board and the Global Ground Fish Forum Council. She also belongs to the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, and the Institute of Food Technologists. Lisa also describes herself as the proud mother of four boys.