THOMASVILLE, GA. — Robert L. Benton Jr., a longtime executive at Flowers Foods, Inc., has been named to the newly created role of executive vice-president of network optimization. In his new position, Mr. Benton will be responsible for designing and executing projects to support portfolio optimization, including investments in bakery automation and logistics networks, the company said.

Mr. Benton previously was chief supply chain officer. An external search will be conducted for Mr. Benton’s successor, and he will remain in the position until it is filled, Flowers said.

Mr. Benton joined Flowers Foods in 1980 and has held a variety of roles in manufacturing, distribution, regulatory and quality assurance, capital projects, and safety and environmental affairs. He oversaw the design and construction of 10 new baking plants as well as the redesign and installation of more than 50 major production lines.

Before he was named chief supply chain officer in 2017, Mr. Benton was senior vice-president and chief manufacturing officer, senior vice-president of manufacturing and operations support and vice-president of manufacturing. Earlier in his career he held numerous local and regional manufacturing positions within Flowers.

He also has held leadership roles at several industry groups, including the American Institute of Baking (now AIB International), the American Society of Baking and the Baking Equipment Manufacturers and Allied (BEMA).

“As we embark on our portfolio optimization journey, we intend to invest in bakery automation and in our logistics network to create a more powerful and efficient enterprise,” said A. Ryals McMullian, president and chief executive officer. “We plan to reduce complexity and establish an optimized bakery footprint that can deliver consistently high-quality bakery foods at the lowest possible cost. I can think of no better person to oversee these efforts than Robert. Throughout his almost 40-year career with Flowers, Robert has demonstrated that he is one of the most knowledgeable and capable engineers in the industry.”