My role in Continental is Head of Big Data & Digital Transformation at our Chassis & Safety Division (C&S). I have a joint degree of business administration and computer science and a Ph.D. in economics which I accomplished in parallel to my first job at SAP. In 2011, I joined Continental in a lean management responsibility for a large business unit. The People@Continental colleagues recently interviewed me about my current role and my perception of Continental in the age of digitalization.
Arne, what is the purpose of your position? Where do you set your focus in the wide field of digitalization?
Of course we all understand that digitalization offers great potential for new products and services. But when I started in this position two years ago, it was clear to me and the C&S management board that digitalization offers great potential for internal optimization as well. For our division’s business model it seemed more appropriate to focus on these first. Data is at the heart of any digitalization endeavor. It’s vastly available but often yet unused, something we wanted to change. I started a training initiative that enables working level colleagues without a programming background to learn data analytics methods themselves. Hundreds of trained colleagues and dozens of successful implementation projects show that this really works. For example, a logistics colleague now detects tight spots in the supply chain earlier. The solution was implemented in the open source KNIME Analytics Platform. It compares supply, demand, and stock level of raw materials for thousands of materials. Our logistics colleague’s data horizon has been expanded way beyond Excel. And this was not only a onetime pilot project but a permanent knowledge increase. While my team and I might still help in implementing the first use case, the next tasks are often performed by our trainees on their own. The best thing for me is to observe the fun colleagues have while puzzling their data workflows. It’s somewhat like solving a Sudoku at home.
How do you observe collaboration in Continental and what is your experience in starting an initiative like yours?
On the one hand, Continental is a well managed business with a clear structure and responsibilities without too much overhead. But on the other hand, the company not only promotes but also lives a network culture. Our initiative of self-service analytics is a proof that this is really the case and not only a marketing slogan. Residing in the Chassis & Safety division, we opened our employee empowerment program to the entire company. From day one, we had colleagues from other divisions and corporate functions in our network. While part of the effort is spent on other units, we get back much more than we invest: not only in terms of ideas but also since the corporate functions work for the business units in the end and we mutually benefit from better data analytics in all these areas. “For one another” is one of Continental’s core values – it’s what we live every day in running our program.
For this approach, you even won the Digital Leader Award 2017 in the category “Empower People”. Congratulations!
Thanks a lot! Receiving the Digital Leader Award in 2017 was a great moment in my life. Together with two members of the implementation team, we took part in a fancy award ceremony in Berlin. From the content of our project, it was also great to see that digitalization is not only about products and services. On our transformational journey towards becoming a digital company, we need to take our employees on board. We focus on all business users, especially those that do not have a software programming or data science background. Digitalization for me means addressing everyone in all locations and from all functions, such as sales, production, engineering, controlling, and human relations. Our project does that, implemented internally, “by colleagues for colleagues”. To see them personally grow, produce results, and have fun at the same time motivates me in my job.