Nestle CEO: pandemic management is more hands on

The COVID-19 pandemic led to some swift changes in management style for Nestle. And that included smart glasses and augmented reality to connect with more than 290,000 staff worldwide, as Nestle CEO Mark Schneider explains.

“What we showcased was how in times of COVID in a remote fashion through, you know, some of the augmented reality products, we were really able to provide advice and technical help on the shop floor in foreign locations without traveling there. That same technology we’re also using it in other product development centres which may have responsibility for other Nestle locations around the world. And it helps us overall to keep up the level of technology guidance and support even in times when you can’t travel.”

Schneider says his role and that of other senior managers at the global food giant quickly became much more operational to ensure safety and business continuity.

“Some of that may be here to stay because if you can do something remotely with the same quality, there’s no need to travel. Some things of course, as soon as it will be safe to travel again, people will continue travel there and try to help on the ground floor. Do keep in mind that spending time together is also an important team building aspect and we can all sort of push that out for a while during the crisis but you wouldn’t want to go entirely without that in the long run.”

“My last trip took place just around the time when the travels restrictions came into place, February 25. I’ve done two cross border trips and both of those I deem to be very important, so, I gave myself permission to do that trip. But that shows you a little bit by and largewe are really trying to comply with the restrictions, because health comes first, and we were really only for absolutely business essential trips to utilize that exemption. And going forward, I think those restrictions are now in place through the end of the year. We will assess the situation at the end of the year, start looking into 2021 to see whether we have to extend it again.”

Nestle did encounter some disruption in supply chains, which Schneider says made it necessary to stockpile more raw materials and finished goods. And he predicts that will change future operations.

“Over time, I do expect that everyone’s supply chains will become a bit more local, but that is, of course, a mid to longer term trend which probably started earlier this year, and which will take a little bit of time to take hold. But, yes, there were disruptions (in the supply chain), not all of them were foreseeable. Very early on we took the decision to increase inventory levels of everything, because we figured out that this crisis was going to be having some pretty unforeseeable twists and turns.”

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