THOMASVILLE, GA. — With its current platform being phased out by SAP SE, Flowers Foods, Inc. is preparing for a multi-year upgrade of its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

Plans for the project were described Nov. 5 by A. Ryals McMullian, chief executive officer of Flowers. During a conference call issued in connection with the release of third-quarter financial results, Mr. McMullian spoke of the ERP effort as an opportunity to improve profit margins.

“As many of you know, we operate in an SAP environment and will need to update to a more robust platform, S/4HANA, over the next few years as SAP winds down support of our current platform,” he said. “We installed SAP over 20 years ago, and many improvements have been made since then. The upgrade is expected to improve data management and efficiencies, while automating many of our processes.”

SAP describes S/4HANA as “characterized by simplifications, massively increased efficiency, and compelling features such as planning and simulation options in many conventional transactions.” The HANA platform was launched by SAP in 2010, and S/4HANA was introduced in 2015.

Mr. McMullian said Flowers is choosing to view the updates as more than an information technology project.

“Back in August we launched a digital strategy initiative that is designed to transform how we operate our business,” he said. “Our three primary goals with this new strategic initiative are 1) to enable more agility in our business model, empowering the organization by fundamentally redesigning core business processes and our ways of working; 2) embed digital capabilities where it matters and transform the way we engage with our consumers, customers, and employees; and 3) modernize and simplify our application and configuration landscape to remove existing roadblocks and support our new ways of working, with the new ERP system becoming a key enabler of our business strategies.”

Mr. McMullian said “initial planning and road mapping” is winding down, but considerable additional work remains to be done in 2021. He said an update will be offered after fourth-quarter financial results are announced.