As a food industry leader that has helped feed well over a billion people, Tyson Foods is no stranger to innovation. Seeing massive transformation taking place in the industry, Tyson has followed an aggressive expansion strategy to provide the scale and operational efficiency needed to bring affordable protein products to more people around the globe. A few examples include Tyson’s recent acquisition of Keystone Foods and the Thai and European assets of Brazilian-owned BRF, two companies whose assets would give the food industry leader the scale needed to accomplish its global mission.
However, ask any person who is involved in the world of M&A and they’ll tell you it’s complex, especially when it comes to managing and consolidating the different systems and assets that come with purchases. No one knows this better than Gene Pagel, Tyson’s VP of Business Integration, whose primary charter at the company has been finding innovative ways to integrate hundreds of acquired legacy systems into the company’s Global ERP strategy built on SAP S/4HANA.
Though these purchases complemented one another and expanded Tyson’s reach and capabilities, Pagel also knew they would add significant complexity to the Tyson organization if the team couldn’t successfully integrate them. For example, the assets acquired from BRF ran on legacy technology hosted on the previous owner’s servers in Brazil, making it difficult to coordinate with other Tyson divisions. As if this wasn’t challenging enough, Pagel’s team also faced the clock because the BRF technology had a looming regulatory deadline. Knowing this would be only one of many planned acquisitions across the globe, the company’s leadership soon realized it would need a unified solution to harmonize its international operations. After careful consideration, SAP’s S/4HANA solution quickly surfaced as the best foundation for Tyson’s global expansion strategy.
“When going through the decision process, it came down to a few big and small players,” said Gene Pagel, vice president of business integration at Tyson Foods. “We settled on SAP for one major reason — we needed a platform to bring the rest of our international business unit into the future. We needed a system that was compatible with the rest of the organization so we could operate as one Tyson.”
SAP was no stranger to Tyson at the time as the two companies had collaborated for years to develop innovation that set the standard for the food industry. With two decades of trust built supporting Tyson’s various technology needs, bringing SAP in to support Tyson’s international efforts became a no brainer decision.
John Tully, Managing Director for SAP North America’s South region and someone who has worked with Tyson for years, had seen first-hand how Tyson valued pushing the innovation needle.
“Think about Tyson’s core mission,” said John Tully, Managing Director for the South region at SAP North America. “They feed the entire world, and that’s a significant technological challenge, so it’s exciting to partner with a company that is driving impact at such a scale.”
The scope of the SAP S/4HANA project implementation included significant data migration from the BRF systems and other systems that were collected through acquisitions. One specific challenge was that Tyson had no direct access to these acquired systems, meaning the food leader was at the mercy of the previous owner for data migration. SAP S/4HANA presented a solution. Using a configured version of this solution unique to Tyson called Multinational Model Company, Pagel’s team successfully implemented pre-configured systems with localizations built in for the countries they were operating in.
By design, Tyson found that about 95% of the existing processes were a good fit for its operation, so the solution required only a small amount of customization. Even with additional complications from Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tyson team fully implemented the global ERP in about nine months, a testament not only to the S/4HANA solution, but to Pagel’s team for managing all these complexities during a pandemic no less.
“I think they deserve some real acknowledgment and recognition for what they were able to accomplish during COVID-19 with a 100% remote workforce,” Tully said. “There were some real lessons learned in terms of communication, collaboration and governance for an enterprise program. Everyone clearly understood the objectives of the program, the milestones and the roles that they had to play for this program to achieve its results. They also had to manage it remotely. That’s significant.”
In collaboration with SAP consulting as Prime Integrator, Tyson removed complexity from its processes and reaped the benefits of a more efficient global ERP network. SAP MaxAttention, the SAP premium engagement group delivering high value-add services, was also engaged throughout, safeguarding the project from design through go live and hypercare. By using SAP’s ERP and technology suite, Tyson has established an intelligent enterprise that facilitates better, faster decision-making at European facilities and better communication globally among assets.
Piggybacking off the success of the project, the Tyson team and SAP consultants moved directly into a new project aimed at streamlining and restructuring the SAP solution to adjust for changes related to new regulations and trade agreements resulting from Brexit.
“The people on the business side in Europe just rave about the system, the functionality and the new information they have through the SAP Fiori interface,” Pagel said. “We held over the SAP consultants for another project to restructure what we just did, and the timing worked out great. We couldn’t have done this without the SAP consultants. I can’t imagine trying to work with another firm on something like this.”
The events of 2020 have shined a light on the importance of digital transformation and interconnectivity in global enterprises. To become more resilient, the world’s food supply chain leaders need structured data at the push of a button. With modern ERP solutions and other critical enterprise technology, organizations like Tyson can now access data in minutes that used to take hours, allowing personnel to make informed decisions faster. Capabilities such as these will be increasingly important in the global food sector in years to come.