Lallemand: changing the world through microorganisms
Lallemand has existed since the late 19th century, when it was founded in Montréal by a young immigrant from Alsace: Fred Shurer. His name proved challenging for the locals to pronounce, so he was nicknamed ‘Lallemand’ ‒ French for ‘the German’. Shurer would keep the iconic nickname and later go on to bestow it on the company.
In 1923, Shurer started producing baker’s yeast in the Préfontaine Street plant in Montréal ‒ still in operation today ‒ to supply the North American baking industry.
A privately held company that specialises in the development, production, and marketing of microorganisms, such as yeast and bacteria, and their derivatives. Lallemand provides microbiological solutions for dozens of different industries, from human and animal health and nutrition to baking, oenology, brewing, food ingredients, probiotics, and biofuels.
Fundamental trends supporting Lallemand’s growth are stronger than ever, including consumers’ desire to:
- reduce antibiotic intake (Animal Nutrition, Health Solutions, Pharma)
- reduce their energy footprint (Biofuels)
- seek differentiation and enjoyment in food (Baking, Brewing, Oenology, Distilled Spirits)
- include more plant-based protein in their diets (Bio Ingredients)
- use fewer chemical preservatives (Specialty Cultures)
- reduce exposure to chemical fertilizers and pesticides (Plant Care)
Overseeing a rapid digital transformation
Marco Petruccelli is the Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer at Lallemand. He has been overseeing the digital transformation of the company over the past two years, in large part accelerated by the global pandemic.
According to Petruccelli, going through the last years with the pandemic has highlighted the importance of microorganisms and their increasingly essential role within the environment, our food and our health.
“The overall pandemic has not hindered us. It's only accelerated us, following on various customer trends that became even stronger, such as an increasing consumers’ desire to eat healthier and reduce antibiotic intake,” says Petruccelli.
A truly global player
Emerging trends have brought Lallemand’s work into sharp focus, with an attention to the overall energy footprint, and consumer desire for differentiation and enjoyment in food, partially stimulated by frequent global lockdowns and baking show spin-offs leading to a plethora of baking worldwide. For those looking to reduce the amount of meat in their diet, there’s also increasing demand for plant-based protein options.
The company is popularising microorganism products to improve plant productivity and vitality without releasing undesirable pesticide residues into the environment, aligning with consumers’ desire to buy healthier foods.
“A lot of our products, outside of what could be considered the standard yeast applications, are focused on key scenarios that our modern world is looking towards. We hope to help our world be a better and healthier place,” he says.
We have a lot of new business requirements in today’s new world that are being addressed with a lot of new tools and processes, all at the same time. Expectations are extremely high, and we have been supporting our business successfully through today’s new business demands” Petruccelli states.
Digital transformation is providing the digital backbone and becoming a true business enabler for every company in today's world - and Lallemand is no different, according to Petruccelli.
“It's not the typical digital transformation we're going through; it's really a digital transformation that is catalysing a wider business transformation. It’s a significant change impacting Lallemand users.
“At the same time, we've been a steadily growing company for decades. In that sense, nothing has really changed other than things just going even quicker. Our internal business customers are asking for more modern and optimised solutions to help them become more productive. They are constantly searching for improved ways of doing things at lower costs. We need to ensure we’re delivering new solutions that meet their expectations. The speed of change is far greater than ever before, and our team is up for the challenge and we’re having fun at the same time.
“I’m tasked with making sure that we remain agile to meet our changing business demands and can pivot as needed, remaining innovative and failing fast. The important part is we're moving forward as a company and leveraging technology in the most optimised fashion,” Petruccelli says, outlining his role in such a critical transformation.
Lallemand has over a hundred sites globally, present on all continents and found in 100+ different countries. As a very multicultural organisation, Petruccelli says that they follow the important philosophy of “think global and act local”.
“In the morning, we could be talking to our users in Europe, South Africa, or South America, then in the afternoon, we could be assisting our users in North America, and in the evening, we can see ourselves working with our business colleagues in Australia. We're interacting with our businesses the way they require, and it's not a one-size-fits-all scenario,” said Petruccelli.
Operating jointly as both CIO and CTO
In an increasingly common pairing of responsibilities, Petruccelli sees his roles as CIO and CTO as complementary to each other, yet very distinct: “You can't lose focus on either one. As CIO, I try to ensure that we're really focused on day-to-day operational excellence, from an internal technology perspective, as well as from an operational process and strategic value perspective, leveraging the technologies and the tools that we have in place, while maximising our IT team’s abilities,” he says.
In my CTO role, it’s about not settling for the status quo, reflecting on the ever-changing nature of technology: “We must constantly be looking at emerging technologies and not be intimidated by them. In the past, some technologies were deemed to be too complicated or too costly. We now need to be looking at things in a different manner, because those emerging technologies are not only going to be key to our new upcoming technology ecosystem, but they’re what’s going to help us serve our business and become more efficient.
“Just a few years ago, our industry was still in a debate around the safety of public Cloud services ‒ an interesting debate that I'm glad to see is gone. I regularly research the market to understand which technologies would provide additional value and operational efficiency versus which are mere buzzwords that don't really apply to us. Some are also marked as ‘interesting’, but it may not be the right time for us.
Back to his joint role at Lallemand, Petruccelli added: “My two roles are very complementary, but they’re also a reflection of two key strategic focuses that need to be considered at all times,” says Petruccelli.
Benefits of migrating to the Cloud and new technologies
“Covid forced us to rethink the way we work. February 2020 is when I joined and, in my interview, I remember discussing with the executive team the importance of implementing Microsoft O365, but the benefits of the overall platform were not clear then.
“Two weeks after my start date, the pandemic hit and we were forced to significantly accelerate our O365 implementation plans. We completed the project in roughly nine months. The business benefits of the implementation of new applications like Teams, OneDrive, SharePoint, Planner etc. have been a game changer for us, especially to have this capability available throughout the pandemic. We have had our virtual office available for everyone 24/7,” he said.
Petruccelli explained that video calls with each other and Lallemand’s customers significantly reduced the business impact of not being able to travel to each other's location and actually made them more efficient.
“Without the possibility of leveraging public Cloud services, this would have taken years to get in place resulting in a big business impact. Cloud services truly saved us,” he added.
Since the introduction of public Cloud technologies, there’s been significant efficiency and improved productivity for the Lallemand users.
“We are working towards having the data we need in real time at our fingertips, rather than waiting for information for days / weeks at a time. The importance of data analytics moving forward will be in providing key data in real-time to make better business decisions and to better support our business”, says Petruccelli.
When discussing new technologies such as AI, ML, and RPA, Petruccelli adds that the company’s 50 to 60 different plants worldwide ‒ some of which have been around for 100 years ‒ would greatly benefit from these automation improvements:
“These types of emerging technologies would further enhance the efficiency of our production plants,” he said. For example, one of the projects Lallemand started roughly about a year ago is all about Industry 4.0 and leveraging these capabilities globally.
“The goal of our Industry 4.0 initiative is to develop a production data analytics platform that delivers actionable insights and empowers our colleagues; from operations to management to data scientists, with the tools they need to identify process flaws, improve production and resource management, or simply spend less time finding the data they need,” said Petruccelli.
Being cloud-based and relying on open standards, the platform will act as a single pane of glass for Lallemand’s global yeast and bacteria plants’ production processes, enabling advanced analytics and machine learning for proactive factual decisions.
“The platform was initially deployed at our Préfontaine plant in Montreal, and now it serves as a testbed for new features and sites,” he continued.
Another example of migrating to the Cloud and adopting new technologies is the implementation of the Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM platform, which went live within Lallemand in February 2022.
This initiative gave the Lallemand sales team access to key strategic information in an easy-to-consume, visual dashboards with key customer information and the entry to predictive technologies that assist in more efficient management of sales opportunities.
“We don't need to be in the office any longer to get our data. We can be on the road in any country, in the fields or vineyards or in our plants, and still have access to our interactive dashboards containing all our vital customer information. We can have meaningful and relevant conversations with our customers, improving overall closing of sales, and increasing our selling velocity,” says Petruccelli.
Partnerships and continuing down the digital transformation path
Our trusted ERP partner Synergex has been a crucial ally for Lallemand for over 35 years. Petruccelli adds: “In my point of view, they’re the essential definition of what a true strategic business partner really is. They’ve supported our ERP system for decades. When we started with them, we had one location and that has absolutely ballooned to over 100 different locations with high complexity, all being supported by Synergex on their Synergy ERP platform.
“Their team of developers are essentially part of our team. I don't see it as ‘them and us’, we're one team. Their developers are part of our daily stand ups, contributing to our day-to-day ERP advancements. They understand our business challenges and they bring their expertise and agility from their business to help us come up with solutions that minimise the impact on our business”.
Lallemand is two years into the transformation path. According to Petruccelli, one of the key enablers of this transformation has been solidifying the IT organisation from a people perspective: “We feel we've done a great job at bringing in additional key skill sets, while expanding our IT organisation into additional key global regions which has been vital to our success. We currently have our four IT global hubs in Canada, France, Brazil and South Africa, with additional strategic help in the UK and Australia. Our fantastic global team supports all areas of the world in a very efficient manner,” said Petruccelli.