The road to Onboard Delights: What it takes to achieve operational excellence in a pandemic environment

Lufthansa’s new catering concept, developed in collaboration with Retail inMotion, is now available to Economy Class passengers on short- and medium-haul flights. Starting May 26th, passengers will be able to purchase fresh, regional, and high-quality food and beverage products within the context of Onboard Delights.

We talked to Manuel Hübschmann, Retail Director at Retail inMotion, and Ole Jansen, Manager Business Implementation, about the challenges and opportunities of implementing such a complex project virtually, how they managed to avoid operational bottlenecks, and how technology helped operations run smoothly and efficiently.

 

A complex project like a new catering concept requires a lot of preparation from an operational perspective. How did you support and implement all the operational processes to ensure that all goes according to plan?

The first step is to ensure that all the parties involved have both the skills and the expertise, and that they are willing to collaborate. Looking back, the reason why our blended team worked so well is that everyone had the same understanding of the processes and procedures, extensive experience and knowledge and, more importantly, they worked toward the same goal, namely to support Lufthansa on their path to a completely new catering concept.

Another important aspect is to consult with all the stakeholders, whenever decisions had to be made, no matter how big or small — we have always believed that including crew members would lead to better results and, ultimately, project success.

Whenever we take up a new project, we make sure the airline’s identity is front and centre, and that’s what we did now, too.

Did the pandemic make things more challenging?

The fact that most of the tasks were performed virtually and that we couldn’t have face-to-face meetings was a hurdle, but we realized that we don’t need to travel any more in order to solve various issues.

Being on-site and connecting with the warehouse is something that should always be done in person so even though our time at the physical location was short, thanks to a lot of virtual preparation, we could focus on the relevant areas right away.

Building trust through video conferences and taking time to connect with each other is essential to business success, especially when different teams, departments, and companies work together. The pandemic made all this harder but when everyone is working toward the same goal, the project will be successful.

The fact that we do not need to be on the ground all the time means that going forward, we can travel less and still be efficient.

How was the experience of working virtually?

Implementation has always been done on the ground, so the fact that we managed to successfully implement such a complex project virtually has been a huge revelation. For this project, Ole only had to fly to the location four times, while before, he would have had to fly there almost every week, and often even on very short notice.

The fact that we do not need to be on the ground all the time means that going forward, we can travel less and still be efficient. Apart from the operational go-live, which, of course, must be done on the ground, everything else can be done virtually.

Now that it has become clear that we do have options, people with expertise and experience in the domain who could not travel as much before have the chance to get more involved in this area.

This was the experience of a lifetime, as Lufthansa is a massive, established airline, so everything that we implemented had to be meticulously thought through, especially since the scale is huge.

What were the strategic goals within the operational workstream, and how did you turn them into a successful project?

Since Lufthansa has hubs in Frankfurt and Munich, it was essential to have a standardized loading concept, which consists of a similar packing plan structure on all aircraft and hubs, similar drawers in sales and backup cart for easy replacement, plus two-leg catering for all flights. We also had standardized supporting processes regarding all aircraft changes and bulk packing — thanks to Retail inMotion’s various past implementations, we already had the required toolkit that allowed us to tailor the processes to Lufthansa’s needs.

This was the experience of a lifetime, as Lufthansa is a massive, established airline, so everything that we implemented had to be meticulously thought through, especially since the scale is huge. If something didn’t work, everything had to be redone in order to avoid operations bottlenecks later on. Everything had to be perfect from the get-go.

We reaped the benefits when we did the ground tests, which showed that no major changes had to be made. Crew processes had to be adjusted to become more efficient but, other than that, there were just small adjustments that inevitably happen when implementing such a complex project.

The fact that we managed to do this during a pandemic is very much thanks to technology. For example, instead of having to estimate initial loadings manually, we have our Vector Loading Planner System (vLPS), which processes thousands of consumption and missed consumption data from different airlines to predict future consumption and fight onboard waste.

The successful implementation of this project just goes to show that technology can help us do a better job by taking over different roles in order to allow us to focus on the aspects that are more sensitive and that cannot or should not be automated. Technology has changed the way we live so why not change the way we work?

Gabriela

Gabriela

Share

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Recent Articles

Culture

In Focus: International Day of Families

amilies come in many shapes and sizes. Family dynamics and challenges can be relatively simple or complex. There is literally not one-size-fits-all and I would love to dispel the thinking that, as a business, we only consider families with a traditional mum, dad and kids.

Read More »

Meet Elizabeth

CFO

There is never a dull day working at Retail inMotion, our industry is in a rapid transformation which means the pace is fast and often complex but what I love most about facing these challenges is the people I get to work with every day. Our people are diverse and multicultural and this inevitably creates teams where new ideas and solutions are created – leading these teams is the most rewarding experience.

Laura Rösges

.

Of course, working in a growing company with international colleagues & customers is great - However, what truly delights me, are the teams and personalities working at RiM turning customer ideas into flying concepts! At RiM, there's always room to bring in new ideas on how to reimagine onboard experiences or try out new approaches to drive our business, which I simply love.

Meet Iarfhlaith

CTO

As the CTO at RiM, I am responsible for the global technology strategy. While overseeing Product, Engineering, Delivery, IT Ops and Security, I also enjoy the challenge of scaling RiM's technology capabilities for the next phase of growth for the company, and building a high performance organisation to deliver it.

Meet Colin

I am working at RiM since 2015. Watching how the customer base and solution grow into the industry leader during this time still gives me immense pride. It is still, all those years later, truly a special place to work. Without sounding cliché - every day brings something new, usually a new problem we need to resolve. Part of the RiM DNA is problem solving ability and doing this with our teams gives me a lot of satisfaction.

Meet Mir

Head of Retail NAM Region

Best thing about working for RiM is the team of creative, spontaneous and hardworking people that create a memorable Inflight experience for our clients and their guests onboard. We have a very unique culture that encourages each team member to bring their best out for our clients. We all enjoy our jobs and believe in our purpose which makes every work day fun and exciting. As they say there is “never a dull moment” at Retail inMotion.

Meet Michelle

Retail Director

I love working at RiM because the culture of our company means that everyone has a voice and we are all part of the difference we make together. We are free to make changes as part of a team and also as part of the Retail inMotion family. Travel retail involves so much more than I ever could have imagined and every day is different, exciting, challenging, and sometimes even a bit crazy.

Meet Sara

Head of OBR EMMA Region

I love working here especially because of the opportunities I was able to experience in different parts of the world and with different colleagues. These past years here have been a lot of work, growth and fun, and this is why we keep working together. Much more yet to come!

Meet Robert

Head of Retail APAC Region

RiM provides me with an environment and culture that empowers myself and my teams. Innovation and creativity are key to this culture and lead to a challenging but highly rewarding career. My role allows me not only to lead business development in my region but also to implement and then ensure performance standards for new business opportunities, so no day is every really the same, the diversity of challenges is a key driver of my personal and professional fulfilment with RiM.

Meet Stephanie

Global Head of HR

I love working here because I have been given the freedom to drive my purpose in life, which is to show people that they can belong and be supported, whilst having a satisfying and successful career. I am incredibly proud of my People Success Team, we have created an environment where each of us thrives and we work hard together to continue spreading that experience throughout the company.

Meet José

Head of Onboard Retail Europe and Managing Director Retail inMotion GmbH

RiM for me is not only the company I work for but part of my family. I had the chance to build up a team from 6 people to more than 100. More than 50% of the team I interviewed and hired myself. Apart from this, it is the inflight and travel retail industry which offers me the opportunity to work with a totally diverse universe of people and challenges me operationally and strategically every day. This is why I love working at Retail inMotion.

Meet Roy

In House Counsel

I love being a part of a global, committed, innovative, and diverse community bringing our customers and their passengers a better inflight experience.