"There’s very little—because of the platform we’ve developed and the product lines that we’ve created—that we can’t do today. As long as we can support our customers, we can build whatever they need—because of the team and the company we have in place—and that’s a fun position to be in,” says Famous Software President Heather Hammack.
I’m speaking about the company with Heather, Sales Manager Natalie Kaita, and Director of Technology Brandon Roberts—a company that’s been servicing produce providers since just before the Apple I was conceived. Heather is telling me the story behind one of Famous’ many products and services—the company’s Famous WMS, a fully integrated warehouse management system.
"As long as we can support our customers, we can build whatever they need—because of the team and the company we have in place—and that’s a fun position to be in."
- Heather Hammack, President, Famous Software
“It's funny. If you look back, it’s really a series of small decisions and small conversations that end up becoming a big decision. When we first started, it wasn’t a process where we said: ‘We are going to build a warehouse management solution.’ It was really about trying to solve a particular customer’s requirements, and it evolved through that,” Heather tells me. “A few years ago, Pacific International Marketing essentially came to us and said: ‘We need to have case tags on all of our boxes, and we need to do it in the field. We need a solution, and we want you to do it for us.’ We agreed, and that was really the genesis of that whole product line.”
Heather, in all her humbleness, is making what I imagine to be a transformational moment less of an epiphany or apotheosis and more a process. Then she drops the end of her story.
“Today we have thousands of handheld devices in hundreds of warehouses that are operating our warehouse management solution,” Heather adds. In just under thirty seconds, our conversation pivots from a pilot program to a fully integrated system using state-of-the-art software and hardware designed and built in-house.
“We're trying to solve complex problems that our customers see every day. Through visibility to data, for example, our customer can make better decisions and take action..."
- Brandon Roberts, Director of Technology, Famous Software
It gives me an almost vertiginous sensation; I realize we’ve taken a leap, almost seamlessly, from a conversation about tiny increments to a 30,000-foot view of one of the industry’s preeminent tech companies.
“We're trying to solve complex problems that our customers see every day. Through visibility to data, for example, our customer can make better decisions and take action when they need to, because they're seeing data in a different way. In the last five years or six, we've really evolved into more of a technology company. We're doing a lot more with regards to production and data visibility. We're building apps now. We process thousands of EDI transactions a year,” Brandon notes. “These are all Famous products; they're all intertwined; they all work together, and we're responsible for all of them. We’ve gone from being an accounting software company to a full blown technology company that is completely integrated. We run on an Oracle Enterprise platform and invest millions of dollars in technology on behalf of our customers.”
In the same sense that Apple creates its own ecosystem, tying all the complexities and connections of its programs together with an easy-to-use way, Famous’ products are intended to make the disparate elements of one’s business come together effortlessly. From its Business Intelligence software and Warehouse Management System to Mobile platforms and Integration Services that allow customers to trade with their customers and suppliers directly, or via third-party networks, Famous offers a variety of business solutions tailored to the particular needs of its clients—many of produce’s biggest players.
When Walmart announced changes to its standards for produce suppliers last year, for example, requiring Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) Labels and Advanced Ship Notification (ASN) information, the Famous team was well-positioned to make that transition seamless for its customers.
"We solved that problem for them. And we see that aspect of our business—Famous Integration Services—continuing to expand because that's what retailers and foodservice providers require of our customers."
- Natalie Kaita, Sales Manager, Famous Software
“Over 100 of our customers had to become compliant very quickly, and they didn't know how to go about it. We solved that problem for them. And we see that aspect of our business—Famous Integration Services—continuing to expand because that's what retailers and foodservice providers require of our customers,” explains Natalie. “Famous Software has offered an integrated EDI solution since 2001, and PTI data has been generated with the use of our ERP system for over seven years. When Walmart required the ASN, we were already positioned to continue to provide value to our customers.”
It's thanks to prescience like this that the company has grown precipitously over the last decade—and has accelerated the process this past year. Heather tells me that the company has increased its staff by 20 percent in the last nine months—bringing Famous’s team to a total of nearly 90 employees.
Famous Software traces its roots to 1975—the same year the MITS Altair 8800 ushered in the first rumblings of the personal computer era—and throughout the company’s history, its growth has been directed by a single common thread. Famous Software is, above all else, dedicated to meeting the changing demands of the company’s customers.
In her almost 20 years at Famous, Heather has seen the company transform from an accounting software provider to a top tier tech company. Since 1999, the company has seen the scope of its operation more than double—in terms of employees and revenue.
“We aren't a technology company that builds products and hopes that people need them—it's the other way around. Our customers drive our development."
- Heather Hammack
The erstwhile accounting software provider now boasts an impressive slate of Oracle-based business solutions employed by more than 1,500 customers in the fresh produce industry.
“We aren't a technology company that builds products and hopes that people need them—it's the other way around. Our customers drive our development. So throughout the last five years, we've been asked to do more and more, whether that's wireless handheld device production, data visualizations, or apps that run iPhones or Android, it just really expanded the breadth of functionality that we are able to develop and distribute to customers,” Heather notes. “Famous is actually 43 years old, which for a software company is ancient. Through most of that time period, we were an accounting software package and, really, that was because that's what the industry needed at the time.”
Since then, Famous has transformed itself to meet the needs of an increasingly complicated industry. And with over 1,500 installation sites and more than 20,000 users, Famous’ variety of innovative solutions have become a standard that so many growers, packers, shippers, distributors, and wholesalers throughout the industry have come to depend on.
“It's no longer just about the accounting—though that is the platform; debits still have to equal credits,” Heather concedes.
With a new website set to debut this year and new clientele bringing bigger problems that require bolder solutions, Famous is proving it has yet to hit an apogee as it climbs higher and higher along the horizons of ag tech.