Action Learning

Reducing Waste in the Seafood Industry

Credit: Manuel Sardo

OPS-LAB

Seeking efficiency

Gorton’s of Gloucester, a major U.S. producer of fish and seafood, was established in 1849, and since that time the company has been trusted to provide products that surpass expectations and help consumers lead healthier lives by eating more seafood. Gorton’s has been a partner with Operations Lab since 2011, and for several years before that sponsored similar projects with the MIT Sloan Leaders for Global Operations and MBA programs. In 2016, Gorton’s approached Ops-Lab to tackle an all too common problem in the seafood industry – "trim loss,” or the loss of some portion of edible fish that occurs during the production process. Gorton’s is dedicated to preserving the health of the worldwide seafood supply through sustainable practices. This project supported Gorton’s sustainability mission and also realized productivity savings.

Applying rigorous analysis

The Ops-Lab team examined Gorton’s trim loss data over time and used data mining and statistical analysis to identify several key factors that affect how much fish is lost during production. The team then zeroed in on the variable deemed most likely to make Gorton’s process more efficient and designed experiments to determine the best method for reducing trim loss.

After conducting a sequence of experiments on site at Gorton’s, the Ops- Lab students developed a robust strategy for enhancing the company’s seafood production process. The team’s recommendations had an immediate and lasting impact by helping the company reduce trim loss. As one company leader said, “[The team’s] dedication to the project and leadership helped Gorton’s have new insights into the trim loss issues. We so much appreciate their collaborative efforts, enthusiasm, and professional approach to the problem and their recommended solutions.”