Germany’s best corporate consultants

There are 16,000 consulting firms in Germany. But which ones are worth the money? For the ninth time, the business magazine WirtschaftsWoche has awarded prizes to the best corporate consulting firms.

The format is always the same. First, the company management team discovers a problem. Sometimes production operations are in bad shape, and other times distribution isn’t doing so well – but, in essence, two aspects are always at the heart of the matter: either the company isn’t earning enough profit, or it’s spending too much. But no matter how threatening the situation is, how dissatisfied the employees are, or how disorganised the management team are, consultants are supposed to resolve the issues if mangers are at their wit’s end.

Germany has plenty of options to choose from. In 2016, more than 115,000 corporate consultants in over 16,000 consultancy firms had services to offer. But which ones are really worth the money?

The Best of Consulting competition focuses on precisely this question. This year marks the ninth time that WirtschaftsWoche has awarded accolades to the best consultancy projects in different categories, including: Competitive Strategy, Financial and Risk Management, Marketing and Distribution, HR Management, Supply Chain Management, and IT Management.
The consultants of Kerkhoff Consulting were among the nominees who had good reason to celebrate, as they came first in the Supply Chain Management category.

The winners in the Supply Chain Management category
1st place: Kerkhoff Consulting
2nd place: DHL Consulting
3rd place: Höveler Holzmann

Moving away from the silo mentality
Food producer Agrana wanted to change its supply chain – and to do so, it even resorted to using Lego bricks.

Dirk Schäfer had known the company for a long time, but its complexity was new to him. The Austrian food producer Agrana, which manufactures sugar, starch and fruit preparations and employs 8,600 members of staff at 55 production sites all over the world, wanted to restructure one of its departments. “The company was keen to enhance efficiency across the board,” said Mr Schäfer, Chairman of the Management Board at Kerkhoff Consulting based in Düsseldorf.

However, the consultants and the management team soon realised that the focus had to be on the supply chain. The old structure had worked well for decades. In the pre-production phase, starch had been extracted from potatoes or corn for subsequent processing for various customers – mainly from the food industry. But Mr Schäfer noticed that capacity in manufacturing operations had reached its limit and growth was no longer possible. He also realised that his customer had to reorganise their entire value creation chain to increase production, respond quicker to customer requests and, at the same time, guarantee high quality at all times. The Kerkhoff team and the responsible people at Agrana quickly agreed on a savings target, but the challenge was concealed in the details. In the end, 676 individual improvements had to be made. These included optimisations in Production and the installation of a new IT system, and solutions to improve logistics were developed too. This involved literally getting some employees out of their silos and moving them away from the silo mentality, as many of them didn’t initially understand why structures that had been established for years were suddenly being overturned.
Learning with Lego
This is why a “learning factory” was created. It was first developed at Kerkhoff’s office in Düsseldorf, then brought to Agrana’s plants in Austria. On several tables, the most important Production stations were recreated in Lego Technic size, from the silo, to conveyor belts, to the point of delivery.

It sounds playful, but it certainly led to the desired result. Step by step, employees were able to experience the consequences of late delivery themselves. According to Mr Schäfer, the project was also “the starting signal for a new work approach” to him.

Previously, Kerkhoff consultants specialised in purchasing and improving the supply chain (supply chain management), often carried out on customers’ premises for clearly defined projects – it only took three to a maximum of six months to work through the checklist. Now projects last longer and often continue without a foreseeable end in sight. Agrana was, in turn, inspired by Kerkhoff’s ideas too. The company is now also introducing the new organisational structure with its own employees in other production lines. The Kerkhoff consultants will continue to act as facilitators and provide support. And the learning factory will remain an ongoing fixture too.

Excerpt from WirtschaftsWoche Online

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