Shaun West looks back on some of the key academic conferences and summits that have taken place over the last year.
Field Service News asked me to reflect on the year based on the insights I’ve gained from attending a number of conferences and summits, with the aim to provide some thoughts on the key themes from my perspective. For me this is a useful opportunity to look back at the past year and learn from what I’ve seen and heard and then to think what the trends could be in 2020.
In January Swissmem hold a half-day of short university presentations, this is always an interesting meeting as the theme is “industry 4.0” and covers the full breath of research in Switzerland. The language is mainly German with some in English and some in French – this mix can limit the content to the Swiss, however if you can cope with the diversity the range of approaches to digitalization in industry is excellent. It is generally focused on manufacturers, which is a natural focus given the number of leading manufacturerss in Switzerland.
The Spring Servitization Conference in May provided a balance to the application of digital technologies and provided the servitization framework and, to a lesser extent, a product service-system focus for the research being presented. What I think is really exciting with this Conference is the opportunity to present early stage research for review by peers. The delivery of business models with digital foundations for services on complex assets was a core topic of the conference.
It is clear that where the manufacturer sells a single product to a customer it is much easier to develop and describe the service value, but it’s not quite so easy where there are other firms ‘standing in the way’. However, this is the real world in which many of us work, so we need to find how to operate successfully within the complex ecosystem in which we exist. Change management for servitization always has been tough but with the added complexity of digital it is really difficult to get it right.
June was a busy month with EUROMA in Helsinki and with the Naples Service Forum. At the conference I presented some of our work on journey mapping in industrial environments; this is a great way to understand service interactions that take place between different actors during a ‘transaction’ (this work has now been published in the International Journal of Business Environment). This is a process that can help you really understand what is happening, rather than you assuming what happened.
Cosimo Barbieri from Florence University presented a paper (co-authored with Zürich University of Applied Sciences and Lucerne University of Applied Sciences) on what business managers think digital twins are. There is a gap between the academic world here and practice, and this needs to be closed. At the Naples Service Forum Jürg Meierhofer presented a conceptual paper on digital twins as an enabler for data-enabled services. From this paper and discussions, it became clear that the digital twin (or Smart Twin) is really a service agent, and that agency must be in the system as the twin supports us to take the best decisions. We need to remember that the human is part of the system rather than subservient to the system.
At the International Conference on Energy Efficiency in Motor Driven Systems we presented some work that was supported by two papers on mid-life conversions, modifications and upgrades. This is an important area where we can get productivity improvements in plants, lower energy consumption and allow new value propositions to be delivered. This is an area that is often overlooked. A more detailed assessment of the opportunities was presented at FOREN21 in Rome where we presented the MOL-extension model as an extension to the ‘circular economy’ concept. The model supports the operationalization of the life extensions and provides insights to help capture value based on case studies and a systematic literature review.
In September, Jürg Meierhofer and I hosted the second Smart Services Summit, this time in Zurich. The setting is to allow early stage research to be presented and for industry to provide input into their problems and challenges. We had over 35 people attending, and this year produced a proceeding from the event as well has having artwork by Elio Amato. The goal was to foster collaboration between industry and academia and this was achieved.
ServiceMax arranged in October in Chicago was an insightful use-group meeting. The winner of their innovation award was based on the tracking of forklift trucks – on one level it is really trivial, whereas on another it presents some really complex challenges. The service integration to the new innovation was inspiring and could have many applications in other businesses. I was fortunate enough to also attend the Chief Service Officers day, to lead discussions on servitization change management. Transforming a traditional product business to a service business is hard enough; integrating digital elements into this transformation has benefits but also risks. The benefits are that you can rebuild the service business so that it can focus on the customer and the installed base; the risk is that you ‘code’ into the service processes OEM-like processes that are not dynamic enough to deal with the realities of service businesses.
In November there is an excellent “food for thought” conference (in both content and because of the food,) in Spain on the topic of servitization. We (Dominik Kujawski, Jonas Ledermann and I) presented a paper on “hidden services for a lighting company – from free-to-fee”, this presented as a journey all of the tasks the firm did for a customer. This visual approach provides a practical method that could be used in the firm to allow them to move from free service (they had no idea that they were doing it) to fees (where they might change or develop parallel channels).
In summary, the trends that I’ve seen are that digital is becoming the new normal - from service supply chains to product service-systems and extending to new digitally enabled servitization. It is not all about AI but using digital to support the business to be more efficient or more effective. The downside of all this is that we continue to add to the complexity. I’m seeing today that though using service design and service science approaches (particularly service dominant logic) we can start to understand the problems better and then build better solutions. The ongoing challenges are those associated with change management for both digital and servitization.
Below, Shaun kindly shares some of the presentations he gave over 2019 below in slide format.