Insights

The Big Switch: Taking Remote Work Anywhere

When – seemingly overnight – a pandemic changed the way the world worked, Porsche’s consultants had to come up with clever ways to complete projects without letting clients down.

09/2020

In the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, telework has proved its worth even in remote places like the Chuquicamata copper mine near the city of Calama, in northern Chile. Nearly overnight, Codelco replaced many in-person meetings with digital ways of working together.
In the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, telework has proved its worth even in remote places like the Chuquicamata copper mine near the city of Calama, in northern Chile. Nearly overnight, Codelco replaced many in-person meetings with digital ways of working together.Bloomberg via Getty Images

Although the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic shut down trav­el around the world, it didn’t shut down busi­ness – or clients in the midst of imple­ment­ing projects with the help of Porsche Con­sult­ing. That meant the man­age­ment consultancy’s pre­ferred col­lab­o­ra­tion style – hands-on and in per­son, with inten­sive work­shop ses­sions – had to be adjust­ed in the face of social dis­tanc­ing and trav­el bans.

From Cana­da to Chile, three projects show how con­sul­tants and their clients coped with the change and suc­ceed­ed in deliv­er­ing results despite a sud­den shift to remote work. Their expe­ri­ences show that dig­i­tal col­lab­o­ra­tion tools and cre­ativ­i­ty will reduce the need for on-site work in the future, but the per­son­al touch will never go out of style.

Changing Mindsets: Codelco

Codel­co, the world’s largest cop­per pro­duc­er, runs seven mines and eight pro­cess­ing plants in Chile. Until 2019, each one had its own logis­tics and pur­chas­ing oper­a­tions.

In order to cre­ate syn­er­gies for the com­pa­ny as a whole, Codel­co decid­ed to move pur­chas­ing oper­a­tions to an off-site model and intro­duce remote work to the state-owned Chilean com­pa­ny. Codelco’s sup­ply chain cor­po­rate man­ag­er Ricar­do Reyes says it was hard to con­vince man­agers and staff that mov­ing part of their oper­a­tion off-site would work. “Min­ing is a very tra­di­tion­al indus­try where face-to-face rela­tions are a high pri­or­i­ty,” Reyes says. “There was a lot of pres­sure from plant man­agers to main­tain per­son­nel close by.”

Mining is a very traditional industry where face-to-face relations are a high priority.

Ricardo ReyesRicardo Reyes
Supply Chain Corporate Manager, Codelco

Porsche Con­sult­ing was brought on to help cre­ate and imple­ment new process­es of remote col­lab­o­ra­tion. “When the Covid cri­sis hit, it helped change the mind­set of the peo­ple there,” says Porsche Con­sult­ing man­ag­er Fran­cis­co Fuenteal­ba. Remote work was sud­den­ly the safest option and proved to work out on a large scale – for the con­sul­tants as well. Instead of trav­el­ing back and forth to dis­tant mine loca­tions in Chile for face-to-face meet­ings, they imple­ment­ed reg­u­lar video meet­ings with scat­tered employ­ees.

Almost overnight, dig­i­tal col­lab­o­ra­tion tools and Microsoft Teams meet­ings replaced small­er in-per­son meet­ings and con­fer­ences of up to eighty par­tic­i­pants. Sud­den­ly, Codelco’s efforts – over a peri­od of more than three years – to effi­cient­ly imple­ment remote work along the sup­ply chain sec­tor were espe­cial­ly val­ued. In a first pilot area, the shift to a cen­tral­ized sys­tem reduced the approval time for pur­chase orders by 50 per­cent and opti­mized the team’s work­load.

Porsche Con­sult­ing com­plet­ed its part of the project in June, but its influ­ence is still being felt beyond the key per­for­mance indi­ca­tors like improved turn­around time, reduced costs, and reduced staff needs. Every Thurs­day at 3 pm, Reyes and his team still meet online. “It’s a rit­u­al now,” he says with a laugh. “That’s one con­se­quence of the dis­ci­pline Porsche Con­sult­ing brought – peo­ple are con­tin­u­ing to make improve­ments even after the project is over.”

Codelco …

… is the world’s largest copper producer. The Chilean state-owned company mines and processes almost two million tons of copper each year. It operates seven mines and eight ore-processing facilities in Chile, generating more than $16 billion in annual revenue.

Watching from Afar: Sto Panel

The Sto com­pa­ny, a major man­u­fac­tur­er of build­ing pre­fab pan­els, is all about mak­ing build­ing con­struc­tion more effi­cient. Sto Panel is a pro­gram to enable a net­work of con­trac­tors and fab­ri­ca­tors to cre­ate brand­ed pre­fab­ri­cat­ed high-qual­i­ty wall pan­els. In 2019, Porsche Con­sult­ing was com­mis­sioned to help Skyrise, a Sto Panel affil­i­ate in Pick­er­ing, Ontario, drive their own effi­cien­cy in their pro­duc­tion process. Skyrise’s thir­ty-per­son fac­to­ry had reached its lim­its and was look­ing for ways to turn out more pan­els with­in its exist­ing infra­struc­ture.

After start­ing the project with an analy­sis of the fac­to­ry in late 2019, the Porsche Con­sult­ing team returned to Cana­da in early March 2020 to help imple­ment the iden­ti­fied solu­tions on the shop floor. But after just two weeks, trav­el restric­tions made it impos­si­ble to fin­ish the project in per­son. The team had to rapid­ly inte­grate new skills to keep the project on track. Online col­lab­o­ra­tion tools replaced Post-its and flip charts, and Porsche con­sul­tants brought remote work to the shop floor by facil­i­tat­ing team meet­ings at the Skyrise fac­to­ry with employ­ees via con­fer­enc­ing and mes­sag­ing apps. “Car­ry­ing out the imple­men­ta­tion togeth­er with our client is a cru­cial part of our work. So we tried to be there, with­out actu­al­ly being there,” says Porsche Con­sult­ing man­ag­er Jean Col­lard.

Evaluating the videos that way was a major plus. That really saved us a lot of time.

Patrick KehrerPatrick Kehrer
Manufacturing and On-site Solutions Manager, Sto

Patrick Kehrer, Sto’s man­u­fac­tur­ing and on-site solu­tions man­ag­er, was par­tic­u­lar­ly impressed by the team’s prob­lem-solv­ing cre­ativ­i­ty in the midst of a cri­sis. One unusu­al “hack” stood out: unable to eval­u­ate the newly imple­ment­ed process­es and ways of work­ing in per­son, Porsche con­sul­tants lever­aged video cam­eras on the fac­to­ry floor – and fast-for­ward­ed the footage to bet­ter under­stand pro­duc­tion flow and where it could still be opti­mized. “Eval­u­at­ing the videos that way was a major plus,” Kehrer says. “That real­ly saved us a lot of time.” The cre­ativ­i­ty paid off: pro­duc­tion more than dou­bled.

That doesn’t mean on-site vis­its are over, par­tic­u­lar­ly when part of the project is to win over employ­ees. “Phys­i­cal pres­ence leaves some­thing with work­ers that tele-pres­ence doesn’t,” Kehrer says. “But when you get to know peo­ple in per­son first, you can eas­i­ly tran­si­tion to dig­i­tal col­lab­o­ra­tion.”

Sto …

… is a construction materials company based in Stühlingen, Germany, with €1.4 billion in revenue and more than 5,000 employees around the world. Its dozens of affiliates located in North America, as well as several affiliates in South America, produce prefab exterior wall systems under the brand of Sto Panel for the construction industry. The panels, manufactured offsite, are used to quickly assemble energy-efficient, long-lasting exterior walls. Porsche Consulting worked with one of its Canadian affiliates, Skyrise, to maximize production line efficiency.

Step by Step: Edenred

The Brazil­ian cor­po­rate vouch­er com­pa­ny Tick­et Log works hard to keep its cus­tomers mov­ing. Over 30,000 clients rely on the com­pa­ny to man­age fuel­ing and main­te­nance for their cor­po­rate fleets – a total of around one mil­lion vehi­cles. That means track­ing 2.5 bil­lion liters of fuel and seven mil­lion spare parts each year.

Keep­ing track of all those vehi­cles is a huge job, one Tick­et Log – a sub­sidiary of the French multi­na­tion­al Edenred – want­ed to stream­line. Using AI and soft­ware robots to make deci­sions, Tick­et Log hoped to get bet­ter prices for its clients and bet­ter results from the 18,000 auto repair shops in its net­work. The ulti­mate goal was to reduce the num­ber of peo­ple involved in deci­sion-mak­ing, and enable clients to pin­point prob­lems in their car fleets.

Edenred brought in Porsche Con­sult­ing to help them review the automa­tion process from start to fin­ish. Meet­ings and work­shops fol­lowed a tra­di­tion­al for­mat, with con­sul­tants fly­ing in to Tick­et Log’s head­quar­ters in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, each week for all-day, in-per­son work­shops. In March, Covid shut­downs across Brazil made that impos­si­ble. The col­lab­o­ra­tion had to shift online – with suc­cess, says Eduar­do Fleck, head of fleet main­te­nance & mobil­i­ty solu­tions at Edenred Brazil. “We under­stood that it was pos­si­ble to work togeth­er in a very dynam­ic way even remote­ly and the gains were sig­nif­i­cant for the project.”

It was impressive to see how we were able to incorporate these improvements into the project in a remote context.

Eduardo FleckEduardo Fleck
Head of Fleet Maintenance & Mobility Solutions, Edenred Brazil

For that, the con­sul­tants had to rethink their approach. It was clear that the all-day ses­sions Edenred had come to expect from Porsche Consulting’s team didn’t trans­late well to an online for­mat: spend­ing three or four hours at a stretch in online meet­ings wasn’t viable. “When an online work­shop goes on more than two hours, peo­ple start dis­pers­ing,” says William Kang, Senior Expert at Porsche Con­sult­ing. There­fore, instead of hold­ing day-long ses­sions, the con­sul­tants broke down the steps into small­er chunks and pre­pared dif­fer­ent­ly, aim­ing to make meet­ings short­er. The Porsche Consulting’s team met sep­a­rate­ly each day for “pre-work” ses­sions, refin­ing their pro­pos­als and going over pos­si­ble dis­cus­sion points in advance. By map­ping out solu­tions, they were able to speed up dis­cus­sions with their Edenred part­ners later on. They quick­ly saw results, includ­ing sim­pli­fy­ing the order­ing sys­tem to make auto­mat­ic approvals more effi­cient. “It was impres­sive to see how we were able to incor­po­rate these improve­ments into the project in a remote con­text,” says Eduar­do Fleck. “We would not have con­sid­ered that pos­si­ble before the pan­dem­ic.”

The approach was bol­stered by a vir­tu­al project envi­ron­ment set up to show all the steps nec­es­sary to achieve Tick­et Log’s goals. By zoom­ing in to the step that was up for dis­cus­sion, par­tic­i­pants could eas­i­ly ori­ent them­selves and track what they had achieved so far and what lay ahead. “This helped us to focus,” Kang says, “because every­one knew that other ques­tions had not been for­got­ten but would be dis­cussed in an upcom­ing ses­sion.”

Edenred …

… is a French company specializing in pre-paid card services and vouchers. Their business covers everything from meal vouchers to vehicle fleet management. Based in Malakoff, France, they have operations in forty-six countries and managed 2.5 billion transactions last year for over 850,000 corporate clients. Ticket Log is one of their Brazilian subsidiaries.
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