MBA Graduate Is Part of BVL Award Winning Team
Michael Bülow, alumnus of ETH’s MBA in Supply Chain Management, and his team win this year’s German Supply Chain Management Award.
AGCO and 4Flow have a lot to celebrate these days. The Global manufacturer of agricultural equipment has won the 2016 German Award for Supply Chain Management for a logistics innovation, demonstrating once again that a well-designed supply chain can improve efficiency and transparency while lowering costs. Leading both the breakthrough and its successful global implementation is a team of visionaries, including the ETH MBA SCM alumnus, Michael Bülow.
ETH takes pride in applying world-class research to industrial practice, a principle made reality at the MTEC, or Management, Technology and Economics Department, which manages the executive MBA program with a focus on Supply Chain Management. Michael Bülow was a member of the program’s 11th cohort and decided to use his Master’s thesis project to work on his company’s business case – its logistics processes in particular.
Looking back, he recalls how the company began to assess its current situation in 2013 and recognized the need for change. A multi-brand company like AGCO faces the challenge of reconciling and harmonizing its globally-dispersed portfolio, each with its own history, company culture, and way of doing things. Their group lacked common integrated processes. The compelling business case was to unite the different cultures and business processes, onto a common, integrated platform for the AGCO family. In Michael’s own words: “We have 20 plants, approx. 1500 suppliers and several carriers in Europe which need to be connected with each other. Before integration in AGCO Smart Logistics, they were connected locally through 3PL companies like Dachser, Schenker and so on. Logistics was a black box, in which the order-to-pay process was disconnected from performance measurement. So we needed to harmonize the many fragmented processes by implementing common planning and control measures.” Two key objectives were defined for this broad change initiative: achieve process efficiency while optimizing transportation cost.
In the end, the AGCO Smart Logistics solution achieved much more because of the decision to focus on core competencies. For transportation this meant partnering with 4Flow, a neutral 4PL who brought in both expertise and an objective point of view. The synergy between AGCO and 4Flow created a dream-team who could implement their bold vision on time.
The award-winning AGCO Smart Logistics solution revolutionized AGCO’s operations. Suppliers and carriers are now connected to the company by a cloud-based platform that supports seamless information flow between all parties. But the more compelling reason for the jury’s decision is the dynamic optimization in real-time, which goes beyond connecting suppliers to plants. These are built on 3 pillars, the first of which is its integrated SCM solution, the second is the inclusion of innovative risk management functionality into a system that makes the movement of goods between their original destination and the plants transparent in real time. Michael illustrates the importance of risk management with current news: “There was this big earthquake in Italy yesterday. Already by 11pm I had received an email from the system notifying me of the earthquake and its consequences. There are 5-6 suppliers that are affected. This critical information was immediately submitted to teams that are centrally coordinating activities with these impacted suppliers, so that we don’t all end up hunting for parts.”
The third and final pillar of AGCO Smart Logistics is the Apex platform for performance excellence, which consolidates data across brands in the system to support the assessment of supplier performance. Michael explains the value added by this new level of transparency: “We are collecting data on supplier quality, logistics, price, risks and much more, which is transparent to the supplier and to our organization internally. Everyone involved sees the same detailed information on performance. A sales person of a supplier, which may have multiple isolated relationships and transactions with AGCO, can now see how any one of their different plants have performed in the AGCO world as a whole, closing the loop for all of us.”
In a feat of change management, Michael Bülow and team eventually rolled out the new system to twenty previously autonomous plants and over a thousand suppliers, training countless staff and partners along the way. Having begun his ETH classes while working full-time, he admits that “joining the Executive MBA Program became a real asset in leading change in AGCO's Smart Logistics initiative. I acquired valuable managerial tools and broadened my perspective. The program charged me with entrepreneurial thinking - a key to success for change initiatives. The classroom was always a source of inspiration for me.”
Michael Bülow is not the only connection between AGCO and the ETH. Hans Bernd Veltmaat, SVP and Chief Supply Chain Officer of the AGCO Corporation, is a member of the MBA ETH SCM’s Industry advisory board which guides the program to keep it relevant to the needs of industry. Among other things, this distinguished panel insists that students from different academic, cultural and industrial backgrounds are put to work on real-world problems, a fact which inspired Michael Bülow: “being a change agent within a multi-brand and multi-cultural matrix-organization you are confronted with all kinds of personalities and characters which have their own perspectives of the change ahead. The classroom’s spirit and energy was a great support in constructing an achievable plan for AGCO's Smart Logistics initiative back in 2013”.
This year’s German Award for Supply Chain Management for AGCO’s Smart Logistics solution crowned the efforts of both Michael and his team. It is yet another demonstration of ETH’s impact on industry through its MBA program, developing managerial talent to keep companies competitive in today’s complex global markets.
Director, Transportation & Logistics, EAME
AGCO International GmbH
"Inspiration and innovation go together. When leaders develop innovation to be truly leading change, the result is awesome. The ETH EMBA programme is a great source of inspiration and is supporting AGCO in its endeavors to create outperforming leaders with educational excellence in global supply chain management. Winning the German Award for Supply Chain Management is an outstanding result for success."