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Corporate Information Technology Assessment of General Mills

MGT 6530-Managerial Application of Technology
The College of Saint Scholastica

Executive Summary
General Mills is one of the largest food companies in the world, and uses an extensive array of information technology (IT) to support its day-to-day operations. This paper focuses on three primary IT areas within General Mills: supply chain, data retention and marketing. Specific technologies reviewed for this assessment include an extended Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, data back-up system, and mobile marketing. According to Vandy Johnson, director of Information Systems (IS) operations at General Mills, “our philosophy at General Mills is to have one system, one platform, one architecture” “to do things that are both very good and very simple to do” (Hochmuth, 2003). This philosophy of simplicity is sustained when General Mills acquires existing companies, such as the acquisition of Pillsbury in 2001. General Mills replaced the entire architecture at Pillsbury and converted the existing ERP to SAP (Hochmuth, 2003). General Mills utilizes technology in a variety of ways throughout various functions and across their enterprise systems. With the ever changing digital economy, there is always an opportunity to leverage new innovated technologies. This examination outlines how IT systems are used today at General Mills, the technological advantages and disadvantages, and recommendations to better leverage the use of the technology.

Company Review and Description
General Mills is a milling company founded in 1856 by Cadwallader C. Washburn, as a lessee of power rights to other millers along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Washburn eventually formed his own mill, where he produced flour that was in many international competitions, and he won so many competitions that it led him to change the name of the flour to Gold Medal. Gold Medal is still the number one flour brand in the United States.

General Mills’ focus changed as post-war American consumption changed. Industrial developers of flour led the way with pre-packaged goods demanded by new American consumers. The demand for cake mixes, cereals and other easily-prepared goods grew dramatically during this change in consumption, and during 1942 to 1995, General Mills owned a variety of companies, including Eddie Bauer, Rainbow Crafts and Parker Bros (“General Mills, Inc.”, n.d.). In 1995, General Mills refocused their efforts on packaged foods.

General Mills owns some of the most popular consumer brands, including Betty Crocker, Green Giant and Pillsbury. These iconic brands led to the production and supply of a staggering number of goods, and General Mills provides consumers, on average, two million pounds of Green Giant vegetables, 60 million boxes of cereal and five million cups of Yoplait yogurt per day.

General Mills operates under four business segments: U.S. retail, international, bakeries and foodservice and joint ventures. Fiscal year 2010 net sales for General Mills were $14.8 billion, up 1% from the previous year (“Annual Report”, 2010). To achieve consistent benchmarks that satisfy consumers and shareholders, General Mills must continue to innovate.

Through the development of such initiatives like General Mills Worldwide Innovation Network (G-WIN), individuals and groups outside of General Mills have the ability to introduce new ways to improve or introduce products, packaging, processes and ingredients that will improve the consumer’s experience. General Mills recently entered into a joint venture with Nestle to develop the Cereal Partners Worldwide (CPW) Innovation Center. The CPW develops new platforms for future growth, including product innovation, technology, packaging, and nutrition research and development.

In order to continue innovating and adapting to the changing food industry while satisfying stakeholders, General Mills...
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