In 1929, at the beginning of the Great Depression, 16-year-old Thad Garner bought a barbecue stand with his college fund savings to help feed his family. From this start, Garner Foods grew into a small organization with a huge reach, selling tens of millions of jars of salsa and condiments globally.
The company’s vision has always been based on putting food on the table for family. During World War II rationing, Garner Foods needed sugar for its barbecue and Worcestershire sauces. Heyward Garner, Chief Operating Officer at Garner Foods, says, “My great uncle Thad, who employed his brothers, sisters, mom, and dad, knew that they—and his customers—were depending on him. He went to Fort Bragg to see what the US Army needed there and got into making jam so our company could get sugar from the military and supply it with nonperishable food.”
Today Garner Foods has 116 employees and big commitments to filling orders for millions of bottles of sauces all over the world. The company operates six production lines to make sauces and tortilla strips. Employees are spread across four separate company locations (a bottling plant, a raw materials facility, a finished goods distribution center, and an office building), and the company’s sales people live and travel all over the United States. In a typical day, workers order and receive raw materials, manage finance and marketing, ship finished items, and dream up new products. Ongoing collaboration across locations is crucial for keeping the production lines humming, the supply chain working well, and for meeting rigorous food safety standards.
Efficiency is also a big concern. Garner says, “We can’t really turn off our plant when it’s running. We have to make sure that our production lines move as efficiently as possible and that everything is clean and sanitized. If we shut down, people would have to go home. We would lose raw materials. No one wants to throw away fresh vegetables. Food—maybe the most fundamental, universal human concern—is near and dear to everyone, and waste goes against everything we stand for.”
To support operations, the company ran Microsoft SharePoint Server and Exchange Server on-premises. But the Garner family felt it was time to get out of the hardware management business and focus on its employees and improving efficiencies, especially for its two-person IT team.
Any new IT solution would have to be flexible enough to work well across different devices. Garner employees use mobile devices when they’re out visiting customers or doing quality checks and tracking shipments in company facilities. And they need PCs and laptops to work in the office or at home, running presentations and capturing new product concepts and recipes.