IIMK Internship ‘K’ronicles – Sourav Dhal, Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd. (Operations)

The field of Operations Management may not have the obvious career appeal of Finance or Marketing, but those who choose it often end up having a great advantage in their future career as Operations forms the heart of any organization. ‘Ops’ roles are known to be quite challenging and require excellent quantitative and analytical skills.

The latest edition of ‘Internship Kronicles’ features  PGP student, Sourav Dhal, who interned at Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd. in the domain of Operations. Sourav has completed Mechanical Engineering from NIT Silchar and has worked in Oil India Limited as a Production Engineer for 21 months.

sourav

Here is an account of Sourav’s summer internship experience at HCCB:

1.       What was the domain and role offered to you at HCCB?

I was selected for the role of a summer intern in the ‘Planning’ function at corporate HQ Gurgaon.

2.       Describe briefly the project assigned to you and the major activities you were involved in at HCCB.

My project was majorly related to the current forecasting techniques being used in HCCB for sales forecasting. The primary objective was to improve the current accuracy level of forecasting. I worked in close association with the senior executives of planning function and the zonal demand planners. The scope of the project was the applicability of the models across all SKUs in all the functional units of HCCB Pvt. Ltd.

3.       Having been offered a role in the Planning Department, what was your observation on the supply chain network of HCCB?

The supply chain network, as you would expect for any top FMCG company, is very robust and intrinsically monitored at various levels. The Supply Chain team oversees the entire product journey; from raw material to the delivery of the finished product to the customer. A well-integrated supply chain is highly valued by HCCB because it’s this that drives gross margin expansion and improves cash management.

4.       In order to develop forecasting models, which stakeholders in the supply chain did you interact with and how was your experience with the same?

Generating sales forecast involves many functions of the organization, but the whole process mainly works with vital inputs from sales team, planning and production function. I interacted with all these stakeholders at different levels for my project. There is always a conflict of interest between sales, planning and production side in finalizing the forecast figures for a forthcoming week. This makes the need for a consistent accurate forecasting model significant.

5.       Did you get the opportunity to learn any new tools and techniques for developing forecasting models from senior professionals?

I closely studied the current tools the company uses and got a clear picture of the advantages and constraints it has. I also had the opportunity to interact with some of the implementation specialists from USA. The tools used currently are based on the fundamental principles of weighted moving average with modifications and causal inputs for different SKUs.

6.       Were you able to implement any of the models or solutions you suggested in any of the plants? How was the implementation experience?

My project scope was not restricted to any particular plant, it was a pan-India project across all 23 plants of HCCB throughout the country. The models I developed gave a substantially improved accuracy over the existing models. I recommended an integrated focused forecasting pecking order for sales forecast at various macro and micro levels. But, as the most important part in any forecasting model is monitoring the accuracy over a considerable period of time, the models will be under close monitoring before being implemented in the plants on a regular basis.

7.       What was the biggest challenge you faced during the internship and how did you overcome it?

There were quite a few challenges in getting a clear picture of the various steps involved in the forecasting from different stakeholders’ viewpoint, but the biggest challenge probably was lack of high performance reliable data tools to carry out detailed and accurate analysis consistently. Also, the beverages industry being a seasonal business, the importance of seasonality in forecasting becomes very critical, which I had to factor in specifically for different market scenarios.

8.       What was the most interesting or unique aspect about the HCCB Summer Internship programme?

Contrary to my apprehension that the whole process would be a very rigorous and monotonous way of meeting deadlines, it was rather a fun-filled experience, very well planned by the HR team of HCCB. I had complete autonomy in the whole learning process with complete support from the various individuals/teams. Ideas and recommendations were keenly entertained and implemented wherever required and possible.

9.       Were you able to apply the forecasting techniques and other concepts taught in Operations courses at Kampus during the course of your project?

The concepts gained in operations courses were definitely a platform and base on which I developed the techniques. This required factoring in some dynamic inputs from different functions and taking into account real-time constraints faced by specific SKUs in different markets. I was also in touch with professors who helped me at multiple occasions with their expertise.

10.   You have worked as a Production Engineer in Oil India earlier. How has your past work experience helped you during your internship?

My role in OIL was more of a general management sort, wherein primarily I had to look after the challenging field operations in crude oil producing fields along with annual budgeting, equipment maintenance, employee side admin and HR activities. The internship role at HCCB Pvt. Ltd. was quite different from it as it was purely planning oriented, but yes my prior experience of inventory management of critical service equipment helped me in getting a good idea of the whole progression.

11.   Would you say that your Mechanical Engineering background helps you in Operations based roles?

I had quite a few subjects (electives) during my engineering which were vital in building up my concepts in operations management.

12.   In your opinion, is it necessary to have an engineering background or prior work experience in the manufacturing sector to excel in the field of Operations?

It’s not a pre-requisite but it definitely helps if someone has previously worked in a manufacturing/production sector. But, the most important factor is personal interest towards the domain.

13.   Having worked in the domain of Operations in the Planning department, what role would you like to pursue post MBA?

Though Operations interests me and is my first choice, I would like to pursue a general management role post MBA.

14.   What advice would you like to share with the junior batch regarding internships in the Operations domain?

Operations as a function over the years has become a very critical node, more so in FMCG companies. It operates in close association with almost all other functions of the organization, it also shares ideas across the company about how to improve processes or achieve cost savings. So, it’s advisable to get concepts right before actually taking up core subjects in operations. MBA students interested in taking up a career in operations may opt for operations electives offered during the second year. This will give them a good and primary indication whether the field interests them. Apart from this, there are some very good operations magazines and websites one can go through to gain insights about latest developments & future prospects in this domain.

 

Interview conducted by:

Ipsita Acharya- Media Cell, IIM Kozhikode

This article has been complied by the Media Cell of IIM Kozhikode as part of the ‘Internship Kronicles’ series. For further information please contact us at media@iimk.ac.in

 

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