This is the story of how Continental Business Consulting (CBC)—the internal business consulting company of the Continental Group—has made it super easy and intuitive for Continental’s top managers to make faster, more transparent, and better decisions. How? CBC developed an in-house solution they named ConSense. ConSense simplifies and partly automates strategic manufacturing footprint planning.
The result: Continental’s supply chain resilience has been substantially strengthened.
Sidenote: ConSense placed third in the “Supply Chain Resilience” category of the prestigious “Best of Consulting” competition by Wirtschaftswoche in 2021.
We identified one major issue during the last two years, since the start of the pandemic:
“Our supply chain is at risk in hyper-complex manufacturing systems.”
The hyper-complexity in automotive manufacturing strategy derives from three major factors:
1. Race to market: product life cycles are becoming shorter due to the convergence of consumer electronics and automotive applications
2. Collaborating with a large number of stakeholders: distribution and personalized access of critical information on a need-to-know basis
3. Cars are becoming fully fledged computers: rising electronics content per car is increasing supply risk exposure as well as the need for flexible production and warehousing strategies
The pandemic exposed three major risk factors for Continental’s supply chain resilience:
Risk factor #1: One-directional flow of information
Before the pandemic, Continental’s top managers had problems retrieving reliable data and information efficiently. Due to the inherent complex nature of the automotive supply chain, hundreds of different stakeholders are involved in the manufacturing process. The result: the speed and flow of information exchange between all stakeholders was slow and highly manual. Long story short: the key finding of CBC’s analysis was that the flow of information was one-directional, instead of bi-directional. This particular instance posed a major risk for Continental’s supply chain resilience.
Risk factor #2: Potential violations in data compliance and intellectual property due to an increasing network of stakeholders, both internal and external
You can compare the process of strategic automotive manufacturing to conducting the Berlin Philharmonic. In order for the orchestra to produce the sweet sound of a symphony, the conductor needs to coordinate all players. Likewise, the decision makers at Continental need to manage an expanding web of stakeholders. The resulting risks from this growing network of stakeholders are potential violations in data compliance and intellectual property.
Risk factor #3: Overwhelming fragmentation of information
Automotive manufacturing planning requires big data in real time: the collection and interpretation of millions of data points. These data points are structured and systemized into business reports by Continental’s business intelligence unit. The problem: the existing corporate business intelligence services represent themselves as rigid, isolated, and
single-directional solutions. In other words: the overwhelming fragmentation of information made it difficult for top managers to make fast AND good decisions, a major risk for Continental’s supply chain resilience.
After gaining clarity about the risks, it was time to develop a comprehensive solution that was powerful enough to mitigate all three major risks. We knew what we needed, and we knew what we wanted:
- A significant reduction in planning and decision-making time in order to face the new reality of industry dynamics
- A need for efficient and high-quality collaboration across functional and company borders as well as between hierarchy levels
- A need to handle an increasing level of fragmentation of information in a web of central and local legacy infrastructure, and integrate into one common platform
In short: we had to develop a digital and intelligent solution that radically simplifies the manufacturing strategy for all stakeholders—and consequently lays a solid and resilient foundation for our automotive supply chain.
The core of ConSense is the extension of existing corporate tools combined with advanced functionalities (Node.js, React). Using the existing infrastructure as a basis, we kept the important and advantageous aspects. Continental is faced with an increasing need for fast, effective, and high-quality collaboration at all levels. ConSense supports this through several dimensions:
- ensuring faster alignment of information through interaction by integrating all stakeholders and information sources on one platform
- automating performance management and alerts to optimize performance by gaining immediate critical insights and enabling real-time direction changes
- integrating business intelligence reports from different systems all in one platform to provide harmonized data sets
- ensuring data compliance through access rights management on a need-to-know basis, allowing full network collaboration without sacrificing data security standards and data democracy
- translating, interpreting, and visualizing a large number of complex business reports into an easy-to-understand master business report that the Continental decision makers can instantly grasp—with one glance. In other words: ConSense works like a visual dashboard that enables top managers to make faster, better, and more transparent strategic decisions
ConSense therefore plays a vital role in the execution of Continental’s automotive manufacturing strategy to establish the “best leveraged manufacturing network in the industry.”
ConSense placed third in the “Supply Chain Resilience” category of the prestigious “Best of Consulting” competition by Wirtschaftswoche in 2021. We at Continental Business Consulting (CBC) were ecstatic to be awarded this prize. However, what is most important to us is not winning awards but pursuing our core mission: to develop paradigm-changing solutions.
CBC won an award in the “Best of Consulting” competition for the second time in a row. Last year, CBC placed third in the “Strategy” category for its proprietary CBC Value Chain Framework, which bridges the gap between “wish” and “action” in the development of future business models.