In many places, controlling is equated with mere number crunching. Kurt Koskivuori, who looks after controlling in the Industrial Filters business unit at MANN+HUMMEL in Speyer, certainly knows his job is far more lively than that. In my role as ‘roving reporter’ I (Arne Bauer) accompanied the controller in his everyday work.
What does a business unit controller in Speyer actually do?
On the telephone system, you can clearly hear the voice of Pablo Magallon summarising the performance of the MANN+HUMMEL subsidiary in Spain. Kurt Koskivuori looks at a table of figures on the screen in front of him and listens patiently. The Monthly Review Meeting first covers corporate figures and general developments in the region in question, followed by specific facts from the Industrial Filters business unit where Kurt Koskivuori, based in Speyer, is in charge of Controlling. The Controlling manager asks specific questions, explores reasons for concerns and the forecast for the period ahead.
Such Monthly Review Meetings are held once a month with every foreign MANN+HUMMEL company, meetings shared by Koskivuori and his colleagues. ‘The various companies focus on different topics, which is a real challenge’, says Koskivuori. If something is not right with the figures, the controllers sound the alarm. ‘We probe difficult areas, if necessary’. This in no way means that they just reproach their colleagues at the site in question. They get involved in discussions to find solutions, enabling decisions to be made. ‘It is therefore creative work’, work which promotes daily contact with colleagues around the world.
Together with controllers world-wide, Koskivuori looks at financial performance in the industrial filter sector. He also controls and monitors development of the German company on controlling-related topics. Describing his task, he says: ‘It includes all types of sales analysis and coordination with other German plants’. After lunch, he and colleague Andreas Zimpelmann go to see Eveline Ticoalu (VP Finance & Controlling, Industrial Filters business unit). The reason: every week, the three of them discuss profitability of various projects. Today, they are calculating different options for a new product, discussing the impact on various financial Parameters.
Work continues in Koskivuori’s office, where Gabriel Cil, Head of plant controlling and logistics manager Jean-Marc Erieau have set up a telephone conference with India. They are discussing forecast and already placed Intercompany orders for foreign subsidiaries in future months. The underlying reason: in order to plan capacity at the Speyer plant, it is necessary for production planners to have a realistic idea of order quantities. Forecasts and extrapolations are an important part of the controlling function. ‘It is important to provide as a basis analytical, plausible calculations’. Problem areas can thus be identified at an early stage and addressed before a problem actually arises. To a certain extent, controllers are analytical clairvoyants, trying to make the future as predictable as possible. Quite apart from that, something else is very important, as Koskivuori explains: ‘We want our planning to be realistic, not come to a conclusion which is quite frankly only our wishful thinking’.
Koskivuori spent two semesters studying in Hohenheim because the Controlling university course was not available in Tübingen at that time. He has been part of the MANN+HUMMEL family for over ten years now and still likes his job ‘very much’. Controlling might not only be dry number crunching but it is nevertheless essential to have a certain affinity with mathematics. ‘I have always enjoyed working with numbers’. He views himself and his team as ‘company co-pilots, deeply involved with company processes and decisions’. The controllers’ route therefore travels from global financial indicators such as sales and earnings to details, for example analysing the costs of a development department at a site or inventory trends, with associated capital commitment and delivery performance.