Linda Bryan calls herself an introvert, but risk-taker is probably a more apt description. The founder of Tamlin Software is a serial entrepreneur who started her first company at age 23 after depleting her savings to buy a BMW and a condo.
She’s also climbed Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, but we’ll save those sorts of exploits for another time. We’re here to talk about food contamination. After all, her greatest feat may be founding Tamlin Software, her third company, 25 years ago and refocusing the business over the past decade to help manufacturers trace everything that comes in their doors as raw material and goes out as finished product.
The company narrowed its focus a few years ago to target small and mid-range manufacturers, initially concentrating on the oil and gas industry. It wasn’t long after establishing that niche that a tortilla manufacturer in Oregon called, interested in automated tracing. Tamlin soon realized food manufacturers could be a growth market. In fact, Bryan believes Tamlin is poised for explosive growth as foodborne illness concerns align with new safety regulations that are forcing food manufacturers to automate tracking processes.
“My big saying through the years is, ‘Don’t do automation for automation’s sake. Have a business reason for doing it or don’t do it,’” she says. And, as it turns out, food manufacturers have more reasons to automate as regulations tighten.
The march toward more regulation began after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Congress was worried about terrorists attacking the U.S. by poisoning its food. In response, it passed the Bioterrorism Act of 2002, which included provisions to protect the safety of the nation’s food supply by requiring manufacturers to create and maintain records to identify previous sources and the immediate recipients of food. It does not require automation.
In 2011, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA, the most sweeping reform of the nation’s food safety regulations in 70 years. The act seeks to focus on prevention of contamination rather than response to contamination. It gives the government the authority to mandate a food recall. It also increases the frequency of food inspections and requires a recall plan, which means manufacturers must be able to trace their food.
In addition, the private sector is setting its own controls. In 2008, Walmart became the first U.S. retailer to adopt international industry-driven food safety standards. Called the Global Food Safety Initiative, or GFSI, it requires vendors to be GFSI-certified. Since then, others have followed suit. Tamlin has grown its revenue and profit every year for the past dozen with an average top line growth of 10.5 percent annually. Its average annual profit growth sits at 4 percent a year. Bryan believes it’s situated for aggressive growth as high as 50 percent in 2017.
Tamlin has prepped for the growth by hiring employees out of the food industry who have quality control experience on the manufacturing floor. It currently employs 15. “This is giving Tamlin a lot of opportunities,” Bryan says. “It’s an exciting time for us.”