An Act of Balance between Business and Technology

Edward Rodden, CIO, SugarCreek Packing Co.
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Edward Rodden, CIO, SugarCreek Packing Co.

Harnessing the Magic of Data Visualization

With the accelerating proliferation of devices, data is exploding in scope, size, speed and “geography” with pockets of data spread out in various databases across the network. Managing these data sets and being able to access, query and report across them in a linked manner will be more and more of a challenge. Advances in Data Visualization with simple interfaces that allow non-technical users to explore and build singular linked accessible “views” of multiple data sets will be an increasingly key focus as time advances. SugarCreek is currently focusing on this area to optimize data accessibility to the business. Furthermore, gaining a competitive edge requires securing meaningful and timely access to manufacturing process data while using our knowledge and tools to improve manufacturing processes and control those processes. This has been a focus at our new Cambridge City, Indiana facility where we are implementing a High Performance Work Team structure which we believe will result in higher efficiencies and lower labor costs while optimizing engagement of the work force.

"Security is a balance of allowing the business to operate freely but protecting it at the same time"

Accomplishing Newer Heights in Security Domain

Security in general is always a concern. As quickly as new protective measures are developed and implemented, there is a cadre of people out there trying to find ways to “break” them. At SugarCreek’s new Cambridge City, Indiana facility we have utilized a converged network design with a DMZ between the IT and OT space to improve security around remote vendor access.

SugarCreek is also in the midst of a Data Center refresh and is embracing the Software Defined Data Center architecture. Somewhat uniquely, we will run Cisco ACI up through the physical layer and VMWare NSX within the data center. One of the more significant reasons to utilize this architecture is enhanced security using Micro-Segmentation to add in East West security, something that is virtually impractical in a purely physical architecture.

Utilizing both Cisco and VMware SDDC solutions in a hybrid manner will position SugarCreek to follow the innovations as the SDDC evolves.

Safety is always at the forefront as well. We are moving into the next phase of technology at our new Indiana Plant which will include the use of Real Time Location Services. RFID tags will be attached to bump caps (required in our facilities) which will enable us to know where employees are at all times. Location tracking is of utmost importance especially in the case of an emergency.

Trends Impacting the Business

Collaboration tools (mobile) and data analytics (big data) are significant trends for us – focused on enabling people. At our new Cambridge City, Indiana facility we were able to cut costs significantly by placing cellular boosters throughout the 418,000 square foot facility. This allowed us to utilize the Wifi infrastructure and Jabber to extend the internal phone network to cellular devices.

Business Comes First

I am a typical as I have as much if not more experience on the business side having run operations, managed sales and marketing and driven R&D activity. My approach to any technology issue is from the perspective of business first, and I am heavily involved in the business side on an ongoing basis. At SugarCreek, we push our IT organization to actively understand the business, proactively look for solutions, and identify trends in the IT world that would put us in the forefront of technology in the food industry.

Driving Business with IT

The project to define and implement the latest practical technology in a meaningful way at our new Indiana facility has engaged all areas of the business like never before.

SugarCreek also actively markets our ongoing technology efforts to our customers, focusing on the practical connections of technology to the success of our business as well as theirs.

Growing Responsibilities for Security Maintenance

Security is a balance of allowing the business to operate freely but protecting it at the same time. As we grow, our security efforts will likely end up being the responsibility of SugarCreek's security team, charging them with validating the security of the network and our data.

A Final Advice

Not just in the food industry, but in any industry, I would encourage a CIO just stepping into her/his role to have a deep understanding of the business side and have the right context for the use of specific technology to support the business.

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