Array (  => November  => 9,  => 2020 )09November
Expectations Exceeded Despite Corona: Master Student Collaborates with Voith During Project Work
Implement and apply what you have learned; for the Master’s in Management & Innovation students of the TUM School of Management, the practical phase is a fundamental component of their studies. This year, however, a new challenge thwarted the planned course of studies: COVID-19. Due to the contact restrictions resulting from the worldwide spread of the virus, students had to complete their practical phase remotely this past semester. Strategic concepts from a distance? Thanks to digital tools and virtual possibilities, this turned out to be less of a problem. Rather, these new ways of collaborating turned out to be a small blessing in disguise and a rather unexpected possibility to learn – both for the companies and the students.
This was also the case with Andres Rodriguez, who completed his project work for the Voith Group. At the Swabian mechanical engineering company from Heidenheim, the master’s student was confronted with the task of providing new insights on the global mining market. The goal was to be able to identify opportunities and challenges within the industry in order to use this information, among other things, as input for the development of market strategies.
Specifically, this meant identifying the key players at each point of the value chain, their business models and the relevant financial information. Based on this, the current market, its structure, and the most important changes and trends were to be analyzed.
“In the initial phase of the project, my approach was to understand Voith’s business model and strategy as a company and, based on this, to internalize how the company’s product and service portfolio would develop in order to achieve the goal,” explains Rodriguez. This challenge was at first even trickier than expected – after all, the project started at a time when COVID-19 and social distancing were just beginning to dominate the world’s agenda. Nevertheless, it was possible to collaborate digitally in an efficient and smooth way. “Good communication and the exchange of information are the key pillars of good project development”, says Rodriguez.
Sebastian Steck, Vice President Product Management Hydrodynamic Couplings and Franziska Piotrowski, Market Intelligence Analyst at Voith, also shared some positive feedback, despite the initially adverse circumstances. “While the process of integrating Andres into our team initially seemed to be a challenge under these circumstances, it turned out to be a positive experience due to regular online feedback sessions. Although we would have liked to connect with each other in face-to-face meetings as well, the switch to remote work provided a practical and forward-looking alternative.”
Rodriguez also emphasizes that: “From day one, Voith showed me that they were fully involved and that what I did was a real enrichment for them. They made me understand that my work would help the company to make real-life decisions in order to become more competitive,” says the master’s student.
Another decisive factor for the success of the practical phase was the close consultation with Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Müller. “I always make sure that every project work results in well thought-out management applications. Each student team adds value to the company by proposing steps that build on the analysis. Part of the business management implications also involves discussing the advantages and disadvantages of different solutions and comparing them,” explains Prof. Müller. “In the end, I always make sure that each project work leads to a well elaborated added value for the companies”, she adds. To achieve this, one of her tasks is to support the students with developing methodical questions. “These can be questions about the design of a survey or questions about which management tool is best to use. Finally, it is also my job to make sure that the students are not too ambitious in their goals and consequently may have difficulties meeting the deadline in the end”.
According to Sebastian Steck and Franziska Piotrowski, that ambition has resulted in great output: “The collaboration with TUM has been very valuable in assisting our product management team to gain fresh insights about our extended market landscape and the trends revolving around it. The impact that is generated by bringing in new perspectives and ideas is what has made this project very interesting for us”. Steck and Piotrowski also emphasized their contentment with Andres Rodriguez. The student’s ability to quickly absorb complex information and turn it into valuable input for the company in a relatively short time, always willing to go the extra mile, impressed them the most. They emphasized that his findings and recommendations will be integrated into a variety of current and future strategic initiatives.
Rodriguez himself draws a thoroughly positive conclusion from his time with Voith. Fortunately, he had already gained experience in finance and mining prior to his practical phase. Building on this, he especially valued the opportunity to learn more about Business Intelligence. According to Rodriguez, this was “the perfect combination” for him. His main conclusion, which he draws from the cooperation between TUM and the mechanical engineering group, is that “one factor for the success of a project is flexibility – not only in terms of scope, but also in terms of the way the experts think”.
Ultimately – thinking about his practical phase 2020 – only one task remains unfinished for Andres Rodriguez. And he plans on catching up on it as soon as possible: Once the situation around COVID-19 improves, he looks forward to visiting one of the Voith plants and get to know the employees personally. “Most importantly, I would really like to thank my two project managers at Voith, Franziska and Sebastian, for their time and commitment to me and the project; I am lucky to have had managers like them.”