Global manufacturer with 350-year-legacy put Celonis to work across the 120 internal audit missions it conducts each year. Celonis and Data Analytics have helped to reduce the length of each by up to two weeks, saving more than 4.5 years of time, and have transformed the perception of audit from ‘policeman to business partner’.
Picture this: a business active in 75 markets, employing 170,000 people, netting more than €40B in sales – and you’re the one responsible for internal audits. Not to mention that you’re working for Saint-Gobain, the manufacturer founded in 1665 by King Louis XIV of France. It’s a daunting task and it’s the one Hubert Reichardt is responsible for.
As VP, Audit, Risks and Internal Control, Hubert and his team carry out some 120 internal audits per year. Each one used to take 1-2 months. With compliance and conformance issues ranging from the geopolitical to the commercial, customer and environmental, Hubert has to get to the source of risks, fast. He explains: “What is important is the awareness of all the [Saint-Gobain] entities and the managers of these entities about their risks. The first duty we have is to ask, "Have you identified your risks? Have you made a map of your risks? What are your main risks?"
Teams initially resisted internal audit workload and intrusion
Not only do typical process inefficiencies add to the complexity and workload of conversations like these, Hubert says it was common for teams in the pre-Celonis days to resist the disruption traditionally associated with internal audits. “People felt a little bit overwhelmed… They saw a team of seven, six people coming from central audit, staying five, six, seven weeks, and they were complaining that it was quite disturbing for their business. So my predecessors tried to find ways to reduce this workload and to be more focused, and this is how they came to data analytics and Celonis.”
When Saint-Gobain began to connect Celonis to the ERPs of the audited entities, they gained instant, real-time visibility into their processes. Their ‘spaghetti maps’ clearly revealed process inefficiencies and breakdowns. That meant the different entities could now see “the reality of the purchasing or selling processes, and not only what is on paper,” he says. It won the team over. Hubert describes: “For us auditors, it had two big advantages. The first one is exhaustivity and the second one is objectivity.” Adding, “After seeing the map and the data, they were obliged to recognize the reality… The teams were amazed.”
Saint-Gobain recovered 240 weeks a year with Celonis and Data Analytics
Backed by the ‘exhaustivity (completeness) and objectivity’ provided by Celonis, Hubert and his team impressed the audited entities, and massively lessened the workload for all involved.
By using Celonis and Data Analytics, Saint-Gobain reduced the time it took to complete an internal audit mission by one to two weeks each time. “This is a gain of approximately 240 weeks a year,” says Hubert, “it's equivalent to six people full-time equivalent, so it's a lot of money.”
The manufacturer is assessing the use of the Celonis Execution Management System to continuously improve its processes. It has also introduced Celonis-backed performance reports that identify opportunities to save costs. Hubert says: “Believe me, when you tell a plant manager or a general manager, ‘You have lost last year €50,000 because you have not paid your supplier on time,’ this speaks to him.”
From compliance police to partner – Celonis changed internal audit perception
Improving overall business performance at the same time as accelerating audit missions has changed the perception of internal audit company-wide. According to Hubert, “Before, audit was perceived as a policeman and today it is more like a business partner.”
Having increased the credibility of audit at Saint-Gobain, Hubert’s optimistic about the future:
“We have to make people adhere to the project, and to do that, we have to show real numbers, real figures, and real progress, and this is what will happen.”
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