Key developments: Named CEO; Wegmans is ranked the No.1 place to work by Fortune.
What's next: Pursuit of data sync at company and industrywide.
It's been a good year for Danny Wegman.
After 28 years as the No. 2 executive at Wegmans Food Markets behind his father, Robert, Wegman was promoted to chief executive officer from president in January. Danny Wegman's 33-year-old daughter, Colleen, succeeded him as president.
And after seven consecutive years on Fortune magazine's list of the "100 Best Companies to Work For," Wegmans, based in Rochester, N.Y., was named No. 1 on this year's list, released in January. "We have tried to create an environment where our people's ideas are listened to and where they feel empowered to make decisions that impact their work," Wegman said in a statement.
Tim Hammonds, president and CEO, Food Marketing Institute, where Wegman was chairman from 1999 to 2001, pointed out that Wegmans' recognition stems in part from its scholarship program, which has awarded $54 million in scholarships to 17,000 student employees since 1984. "There are many people who received scholarships yet never went to work as full-time Wegmans employees after college," Hammonds noted.
He also commended Wegmans, a $3.4 billion privately held retailer with 67 stores, for its "Eat Well, Live Well Challenge," which has motivated employees to lose weight and become more fit.
Hammonds observed that the Harvard-educated Wegman does many things "behind the scenes" that are vitally important to the food industry but often don't get "national media attention." Chief among these is his chairmanship of the board of GS1 US (formerly the Uniform Code Council), Lawrenceville, N.J., responsible for such major industry initiatives as data synchronization and the electronic product code (EPC) as well as oversight of bar code and EDI standards. Wegman became chairman in 2003 and will serve until 2006.
Wegman's contributions at GS1 US have not gone unnoticed at the organization. "At the risk of overstatement, I really see Danny Wegman as a Renaissance man -- someone who has that unique combination of science and art -- able to meld a powerful grasp of technology and its benefits with the rarest level of creativity I have ever seen," said Miguel Lopera, CEO of GS1 US and GS1. "These qualities serve us well at GS1 US, where we undertook major initiatives, rebranded our organization and increased membership under his leadership."
Wegman has been especially vigorous in promoting data synchronization -- both at his company and in the industry at large. His company, along with Wal-Mart Stores and Supervalu, boast the most-advanced data sync programs in the industry. As of June, Wegmans was in full production with 298 manufacturers, active with 820 and signed up with 1,847. Wegmans ultimately intends to expand its program until virtually all suppliers are on board, said Marianne Timmons, business-to-business director.
"Hats off to Danny Wegman and [Wal-Mart Chief Information Officer] Linda Dillman, who have been out front on data synchronization all along," said Mike Di Yeso, president and chief operating officer, GS1 US.
Wegman has urged the industry to pursue data synchronization at many industry events.
On the Web site of UCCnet, GS1 US' data pool for synchronization, he encouraged retailers and manufacturers to "step up with your heart and make a decision today. I promise that you won't be disappointed."
He credited data sync with saving Wegmans $1 million and for creating a "meatless" meat warehouse "because e-collaboration allows for product to be received and shipped on the same day."
Wegmans, which planned to open only two stores in 2005, is known for bountiful produce sections and large prepared-foods departments. But its food quality reputation received rare criticism recently when an animal-rights group produced a documentary showing what the group called cruel conditions at Wegmans Egg Farm in Wayne County, N.Y. Wegmans, however, said authorities determined there was no evidence of abuse at the farm.