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Del Monte Foods hold its position with automation technology and supply chain agility.
There’s a good chance somewhere in your pantry, you have a few cans of Del Monte Foods’ products. Even if the name only sparks a hint of familiarity, upon seeing the logo you’ll recall the brand—which has roots all the way back to 1886 in Oakland, California—is known for its quality and longevity.
The $1.6 billion provider of packaged fruits and vegetables is a leader in the categories in which it competes. Its produce is picked and packed at the peak of ripeness with no GMOs and no BPA. In fact, Del Monte became the first major U.S. food producer to adopt nutritional labeling on all its food products.
You’re also probably familiar with its other brands as well: College Inn®, S&W®, and Contadina® are also known as high-quality competitors in their respective markets.
“A lot of people know the brand name,” said Bill Pollard, former Vice President of Supply Chain at Del Monte Foods. “Today, we’re a 100-year old brand that is reinvesting and reinventing to maintain our spot as a top, nationally-branded food company.”
We had the opportunity to talk to Pollard before his retirement from Del Monte Foods and learn about his leadership style and how it’s influenced the company’s spot in the industry today, as well as what the future holds for the brand and its new leadership team.
Supply Chain Serendipity
Pollard became an accidental supply chain professional after being recruited to join a company’s supply chain from a friend. Today, however, he realizes just how different that landscape is.
“The importance of the supply chain has changed so much in the last 35 years,” he said. “Think about how it has evolved from a low-visibility role at most companies to now having supply chain executives in the boardroom.”
From Pollard’s generation, most of the entrants to the supply chain discipline “stumbled into the role.” Today, major universities offer extensive supply chain educational programs.
“Young people today see the supply chain as a career path, and education and preparedness for these roles is quantum leaps ahead of where it was when I left school. It’s changed the clock speed of businesses: inventories move faster, orders are processed much quicker. There’s an enormous amount of change. It’s fun to be in the middle of it.”
Pollard’s leadership style has changed over the years, something he credits to the nimbleness of the Del Monte Foods’ brand.
“I was fairly command and control throughout my career. At Del Monte, I was part of a transformation project where a majority of the people involved didn’t report to me. This allowed me the opportunity to shift, to listen and build consensus, and collaborate to build high buy-in among my team.”
The Nimble Del Monte
Del Monte’s ability to be nimble in its market is a key component of the company’s success. Through Pollard’s 12-year tenure at the company, there have been three different types of owners: the company was publicly held, bought by a private equity firm, and owned by a foreign company in this decade. With each new owner came a different leadership team, and yet Del Monte Foods consistently remained a top player in the marketplace.
This agility is seen throughout the brand and Pollard again experienced it firsthand during times of acquisition. One procurement in particular stood out to him from his career that reflected not only the nimbleness of the brands, but a particular achievement he was proud of from his professional life.
An acquisition in Arkansas included a distribution center complex “…that was a classic turnaround project”, according to Pollard.
He further clarified, “We moved a lot of Del Monte people into the facility and instituted standard operating procedures, metrics, continuous improvement and lean strategies, and invested in a lot of training. Conversely, we moved people from the Arkansas site to Del Monte to model how we wanted things done.”
Pollard and his team doubled the location’s productivity in its first year as a Del Monte facility.
But it wasn’t just personnel involvement that got the location up to speed. Upgraded technology quadrupled productivity in its first two years of being implemented.
Pollard, although happy to be retiring, does seem a little sad that he won’t be involved in the day-to-day changes the supply chain industry—especially in the food and beverage industry—is seeing.
“There was one executive who said that it’s almost a business-to-business-to-consumer marketplace. Brands like Amazon are changing how food and beverage is being sold and delivered to the consumer, and we’re learning how to adapt to that as our trade retail partners learn new ways to reach the consumer.”
Supply chains today have to operate at the lowest cost possible, but also learn how to do things faster and innovate their chains faster. It’s a unique challenge, one that Del Monte is up for.
The Amazon Effect
“We recently started selling directly to Amazon instead of through distributors. We’ve literally had to build a supply chain within a supply chain.”
When Del Monte ships its products to Amazon, the company is shipping to a fulfillment center. With this comes the understanding that there are different data expectations.
“Amazon has specific requirements, different from when we send to a brand like Kroger or Walmart. It wasn’t a large investment, but we had to get new equipment to produce the label that goes on the outside of a pallet for Amazon’s specifications. It was a small price to pay to keep up with the pace of this brand, though.”
Del Monte’s New Talent
After Pollard’s retirement, his position will be headed by two people, one in charge of planning and the other in charge of logistics in the supply chain division.
“Having one position made sense when the company was formed,” Pollard said. “But the company—and the industry—has been through a lot of change. They will be able to be more hands on than a generalist like me. It will allow each leader succeeding me to focus on a narrower functional area.”
Although Del Monte Foods is already agile in its space, Pollard believes this change in personnel structure will create more opportunities for agility.
“The new structure will allow the company to be nimbler. This speaks to what the company wants to do on a broader scale, too.”
“This isn’t just about how the company wants to organize the supply chain. The company is interested in bringing new products to market, fast tracking new product development, and making sales and marketing more agile.
“Del Monte is investing in leadership capabilities, strength, and experience.”
Del Monte Foods, Inc. is one of the country’s largest producers, distributors and marketers of premium quality, branded food products for the U.S. retail market.
Del Monte Foods, Inc. brands include Del Monte®, Contadina®, College Inn®, and S&W®. Del Monte Foods Inc. is not affiliated with certain other Del Monte companies in the world, including Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc., Del Monte Canada, Del Monte Asia Pte. Ltd.
Del Monte Foods HQ
205 North Wiget Lane
Walnut Creek, CA 94598