#97: John Church EVP of Supply Chain & CSCO at General Mills

#97: John Church EVP of Supply Chain & CSCO at General Mills Featured Image

John Church is currently the Executive Vice President of Supply Chain & Global Business Solutions and the Chief Supply Chain Officer at General Mills.

General Mills is one of the leading American producers of packaged consumer foods, especially flour, breakfast cereals, snacks, prepared mixes, and similar products. It is also one of the largest foodservice manufacturers in the world. General Mills operates in more than 100 countries and markets more than 100 consumer brands.

John has global accountability for Procurement, Logistics, Manufacturing, Engineering, Human Safety, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Sustainability. In 2017, Church was also tasked to assume leadership and oversight of General Mills’ Global Business Solutions function, which provides business process solutions, information technology, and shared services to the Company.

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Connect with the Guest:

John Church: LinkedIn

Some of the highlights from the podcast:

  • How to deal with up to 3400% demand surge due to COVID-19
  • Building transparency, resilience, and flexibility to changing demand 
  • Food safety as the number one priority
  • 52% of greenhouse gas footprint from agriculture
  • General Mills’ innovation and sustainability initiatives
  • Creating win-wins for all

Show notes:

  • [01:42] Tell us a little bit about how General Mills has adapted to the new COVID-19 reality.
  • [02:42] On average, we’re seeing a 15% to 20% surge in our business, but in some categories like baking mixes and flour we’ve seen as high as 3400% increase in demand.
  • [03:15] What are the biggest learning you’ve got from this pandemic? And what changed in terms of your strategy moving forward?
  • [05:19] I certainly hope the level of transparency and agility we’ve had to put in place through brute force overtime, through better visibility, more digitization, et cetera, will serve us well and allow us to continue to grow our business accordingly and serve our customers differentially.
  • [05:47] How do you respond to the fast shift in demand that may or may not last indefinitely?
  • [07:14] We did a partnership with our customers, with the idea of feeding the most amount of people. It wasn’t about profits, it was about the service and simply satisfying our consumers during their time of need.
  • [10:20] How do you think about food safety? 
  • [11:19] We’ve ensured that the new manufacturing partners and our existing suppliers, as they’ve ramped up their capacity have been up to the same high standards as we are during this time of the pandemic.
  • [12:05] What are some of the tools that helped you most from a technology software platform perspective during this whole shift from monthly to daily meetings? 
  • [15:17] Can you assess a new supplier only online? Or do you also have somebody actually physically going at the ground level?
  • [16:32] What do you see as your greatest risk when you look at the end to end value chain now?
  • [18:06] Now probably we’ll have to have more capabilities with the disruptions that we’re seeing and the pandemic certainly has brought some of that to light.
  • [19:14] What is General Mills doing in terms of some of the key initiatives and also are you passing some of them to your service providers and vendors and how do you approach it in general? 
  • [20:03] In the case of food or at least in General Mills, 52% of our greenhouse gas footprint comes from agriculture and we don’t own any farms. 
  • [21:00] If we’re buying and making money to somebody’s expense it has to also be to their benefit, we have to make sure that we’re holistic in terms of how we think about that. 
  • [23:23] We are trying to find innovative ways to offset the footprint. The idea would be by 2030, we will reduce our greenhouse gases by 30% and that’s a science-based target.
  • [25:13] What type of specific hard and soft skills do you see badly needed and most needed moving forward in the supply chain?
  • [28:05] I don’t see digitization as a threat for either General Mills or its employees. It’s an enabler that allows us to go work on the next problem so that today’s work can be done in a more automated fashion. 
  • [28:55] He or she who collaborates the best will win in the new world because things are going to be more specialized. And I think that people that can think holistically and be able to work together with others is going to be really important.
  • [30:15] We’ve said that we want to move from a culture of knowing to a culture of learning because we believe that that’s what’s going to be really unlocking General Mills’ potential in the future.
  • [31:21] In terms of mid-level, would you be open to take non-industry people and what attributes would they need to have in order to add value to the FMCG business? 
  • [33:15] We’re going to have to hire more people in from the outside. We think that it’s an important part of helping us get better in real-time and allowing us to develop the rest of the talent along the way by seeding in specific folks. 
  • [34:14] How do you ensure that you keep yourself open to this plethora of new technologies and new ideas?
  • [35:01] Surround yourself with people that constantly challenge your thinking. Constantly remind yourself that there’s a lot you don’t know and that there’s always somebody smarter than you in the room and makes sure that you’re leveraging them. 
  • [36:55] What would be one or two pieces of advice that have helped you the most in getting where you are and that you might want to share with our audience? 
  • [38:35] If you’re a leader and you look back and there’s no one following you you’ve missed the boat.

Related Episodes:

#94: Susan Brennan COO of Bloom Energy

#95: Dr. Marcell Vollmer Partner and Director at Boston Consulting Group

#96: Sandra MacQuillan EVP & CSCO at Mondelēz International

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