Lobster, crab, langoustine, scallops: an image of the feasting associated with the holiday season, on the Christmas dinner tables of homes across the UK and around the world.
A large proportion of British seafood is fished or harvested off the coasts of Scotland, with the shellfish category alone - of which 90 per cent is exported abroad - a major contributor to Alba's economy.
Like any business, the modern fishing industry today relies on IT to get the job done - arguably even more than some sectors, due to the demand for the freshest, tastiest produce possible.
Keltic Seafare, a 50-staff-strong firm based in Dingwall, a town of about 5,500 in the Highlands overlooking the Cromarty firth north-west of Inverness, has taken advantage of modernised IT systems to continue a growth trajectory that has enabled it to become a leading live shellfish supplier in Scotland.
Glen Smith, financial director at Keltic Seafare, says the 22-year-old company outgrew its old accounting system when revenue expanded from £3m to £6m during 2011 and 2012.
"The increase meant the volume of data we were handling began to overwhelm us. Our sales processing system was gradually slowing down and becoming increasingly unwieldy," Smith says. "We knew for some time that we needed to upgrade but we weren't looking forward to all the upset that comes from installing a new system."
That's where East Kilbride, Lanarkshire-based Eureka Solutions, a specialist reseller and developer of ERP, business intelligence, automation, accounting and CRM offerings, comes in.
Aileen Primrose (pictured, right), commercial manager at Eureka, confirms that the expansion issues suffered by Keltic were not unusual ones; many companies experience similar growing pains.
"In this case, however, the challenge was to improve the operational efficiency of the business. One issue, in particular, was that the company never knew what quantity and type of catch they would receive on any given day. This was complicated further by the fact that fisherman sell their catch by weight while chefs want to order by the number of shellfish," she says.
"The result was that the company had to accept orders based on unknown stock quantities and predictably this caused a lot of issues over the fulfilment of orders. Adding the daily delivery was also very time consuming, due to the amount of manual effort required."
Keltic Seafare specialises in hand-dived scallops, creel-caught langoustine and native lobster from the clear waters between the Isle of Skye and the Orkney islands, as well as white and brown crab and occasional or seasonal items such as winkles and Scottish mushrooms.
So it's no surprise that time is of the essence when it comes to serving its restaurant-based, supermarket, consumer, and wholesale customers in the UK and overseas.
Fishers working for Keltic catch the shellfish and send it to one of four warehouses for processing. Crustaceans can be inclined to attack or even eat each other in close confinement, so certain types are best kept separated.
From there, teams pack and pick each order by hand at speed, with next-day deliveries from Thurso to Truro, via central London, the goal as set for them each weekday by the phone sales and mail-order teams.
Keltic also air-freights produce to top restaurants in major cities including Paris and London, and to the south of France as well as even further afield, with its international trade increasing by 1,633 per cent between 2007 and 2013.
It had been using Sage, which made the upgrade to Sage 200 a virtual no-brainer. On top of that, Eureka customised its offering, meaning that the shellfish company can now enter the volumes of daily catches into the system by weight, with the system converting this into quantities.
This can be merged directly with the inventory in real time, so the sales team has the latest information on what has been caught, bought and sold in seconds - entered into the system by field staff wielding tablets, at the catch-processing centres.
Meanwhile, Eureka's own Sales Order Plus module allows unprecedented, fast access to information on individual customers - many of whom are very busy people who don't want to have to explain their needs in detail on the phone each time they place an order - including order history, special offers, and customer favourites.
Eureka not only advised on and deployed the new system, but has trained staff and will continue to be involved in support, according to the company, which also confirmed that key to this deal was its long experience with similar regional companies, as well as in the fisheries, food and drink, and catering sectors.
Keltic's Smith says the sales team can now take phone orders more efficiently with full confidence that they can be fulfilled - just in time for the corporate hospitality and Christmas seasons. Previously, sales teams had to handle customer enquiries and requests without knowing what stock was available at that moment.
"We have benefited greatly from the increased capacity and functionality of the Sage 200 upgrade," Smith confirms. "But we are still on a learning curve and working hard alongside Eureka Solutions in training our colleagues on how to make the most of the many and sophisticated elements of the system. It is steadily becoming an essential management tool."
A seafood diet for growth
Five facts you might not have known about the Scottish seafood industry:
■ In 2010, 20,000 tonnes of langoustines - also known as Dublin Bay prawns - worth £117m were harvested in the UK. Most were exported live to main markets Spain, France, Italy, China and Vietnam. The next biggest shellfish export was scallops, of which 14,000 tonnes worth £88m were caught - most destined for French, Italian and Spanish tables.
■ Scottish fisherfolk in centuries past were superstitious about a a number of words, including the word "salmon" - they referred to it as the "red fish" instead.
■ There are eight main methods of catching fish or seafood in Scotland: creel, small or great line, fixed net, drift net, trawling, ring net, seine net, and purse-seine net.
■ Lobsters and crabs may be kept alive in special tanks onshore for as long as several weeks before being sold for consumption.
■ Salmon (nearly all farmed) is Scotland's largest food export, with 83,000 tonnes, worth £397m, sent abroad in 2010.
Sources: Scottish Fisheries Museum; Seafood Scotland.
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