Technology Versus Pandemic

Digital solutions are central to Nestlé’s Covid-19 comeback.

As Nestlé's Chief Information Officer, Filippo Catalano pulls the digital strings at the company. Good preparation has paid off during the coronavirus crisis. Photo: François Wavre/lund13

The first whispers of the coming crisis reached Filippo Catalano in early January 2020. As Nestlé staff on the ground in China scrambled to respond to reports of a contagious illness spreading in the city of Wuhan, Nestlé’s chief information officer took notice. But even Catalano was surprised by the disease’s rapid spread to Europe and beyond. “We had an early start, because we could see what our team in China was doing,” Catalano says. “But in the beginning, nobody knew it was going to be making a global footprint.” Two months later, Catalano was on a ski vacation in northern Italy when reports of rising Covid-19 case numbers in the region began appearing on the news. By the time he returned home to Switzerland, travelers returning from the region were being placed in quarantine. Catalano was no exception. “All the response to the coronavirus outbreak has been done on a remote basis,” Catalano says. By mid-summer, he had been working remotely for more than three months.

From his home near Nestlé’s headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, Catalano has steered the ninety-billion-Swiss franc company’s digital operations in the midst of a crisis. The challenges have been tremendous. They’ve retooled their approach to data to respond to shifting consumer preferences in real time, set up tools to predict supply chain shifts, and re-thought their factories to cope with travel restrictions. But before any of that could happen, Catalano and his team had to shift a global company with nearly 300,000 employees, 2,000 brands, over 400 factories, and operations in 170 countries to remote work almost overnight. “When it became clear the outbreak was going to be moving out of China,” he says, “our big priority was to continue to operate the company.”

Read the full article in Porsche Consulting Magazine