Growing up in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, one of my fondest childhood memories was going to Bob Evans restaurant on Sunday morning for breakfast with my family (I always ordered blueberry pancakes and cran-grape juice). As I grew up and moved around to different states, Bob Evans restaurants weren’t always nearby – but things are changing…
With Bob Evans Farms, consumers can access these recipes in their grocery aisles – what’s referred to as the “refrigerator retail segment” that is part of Post Holdings.
I sat down with Andy Norman, their VP of IT, to talk about the role technology plays in bringing their beloved products to life.
Below are some highlights from our conversation – you can listen to the full audio on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Soundcloud. And be sure to subscribe to our channel to get the latest episodes as soon as they drop.
On the role technology plays in food manufacturing
“One of the things I've loved about being in technology throughout my entire career is every place needs technology…From a manufacturing perspective, as I mentioned, it's not only the systems and solutions that we're using to forecast what we need to sell, how we need to make it, make sure that it's safe for our consumers, but also safe when we're working in solutions in the Cloud, we're touching the network. We have operational technology that we have to keep safe in the actual manufacturing facilities. We have our core ERP that's working with ancillary systems in the Cloud and how we're enabling those.
On the commercialization process and how its evolved with the push for product variety
“To be honest, a lot of that historically has been done manually, whether through emails, whether through spreadsheets, or we have great people with great ideas, and it's how do you put tools in place that help with that? …We're looking for ways and have done ways where we're taking our products and putting them in smaller footprints, whether that's a cup or a single serving of our mashed potatoes or mac and cheese, or we're being asked by the grocers for family style packs at a Costco, at a Walmart, if you will. It runs across the gamut and you have to build those and manufacture them and then it has different specs, different packaging and solutions that ultimately can stress a supply chain or stress a manufacturing facility if not done right.”
On the future of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning)
“As we look to move to the Cloud…I'm starting to see a trend really around the ERP itself is shrinking. You're still going to have your order-to-cash, you're procure-to-pay procedures in place, but you're starting to look for purpose-built solutions around the edge, edge applications that are SaaS or cloud-based that can bolt onto your ERP footprint and help keep you scalable and malleable.”
On his favorite product and packaging trend
“I like what's happening in the packaging space where it's serving the needs of families or even larger groups with family packs or bigger segments at the Costcos. We just recently joined Costco as a family too, and it's changed my wife's world. But then also at the same time, the singular cup size servings for something, if you want to take mashed potatoes to lunch or take the mac and cheese to lunch. Before you were taking a pretty large tray that might serve more than just one person. Now there's that singular option, but also a family style option across it. The variance to serve the different needs of what our end consumers are looking to do in their life is pretty exciting.”
On the benefit of being part of Post Holdings during COVID
“We're fortunate that we're part of Post Holding, we have a portfolio of brands and consumer packaged goods…During the heart of COVID, we actually saw an increase in sales, and in volume, and demand based on everyone eating at home more. Whereas one of our sister companies, Michael Foods that does the commercial side of the business, it services restaurants, cruise ships, schools, they saw a decrease in that demand because everyone was staying at home. Now that's flip-flopped a bit, right, and leveled out, but being part of a portfolio of brands really helps you weather those types of events. But at the end of the day, we're able to service what our customers and ultimately the end users want, whether that's getting it at the grocery store, getting it when they're going to a restaurant or at a different location.”
You can learn more about Bob Evans Farms here.