An Evolution of Understanding

Apr 01, 2020 • FeaturesManagementEventsServitization ConferenceLeadership and Strategy

Professor Tim Baines of Aston University, looks back across his personal 30 year journey with servitization whilst looking forward to an industry defining event in the servitization space taking place in Birmingham later this year…

My first article on servitization was published in the late 1990s. Of course, we didn’t call it servitization then, rather the article talked about something called Total Service Manufacture. I didn’t think of it as anything special, I was simply trying to understand different competitive strategies that manufacturers might adopt - at that time Western manufacturers were being bombarded with outsourcing and offshoring ‘no brainer’ advice. ‘Do services’ was my reaction!

Focus on Services

Reflecting on the past 20 years, it is interesting to see how this focus on services has grown. Take the term servitization; first it was a case of ‘what is this word’, then ‘how do you spell it’, moving to ‘we do it already’, and now ‘this could help, tell me more’. Each stage in our evolution of understanding servitization brought with it its own challenges, and bizarrely we are now perhaps in the most dangerous phase. 

Manufacturing businesses are recognising that servitization is a valuable phenomenon, and those that sell technologies and services to this industry are asking how they can get on the bandwagon. We now see re-branding and re-styling everywhere. Companies that used to sell technology and systems that enable efficient spare part delivery to field service engineers, are now promoting themselves as ‘partners on your servitization journey’. Yet in practice, nothing has changed in what they offer. It happened with Lean and it’s happening now with servitization. Pollution is all around us! 

So where do you look now for real thought leadership? Well, I am biased, but I’ve dedicated my working life to what I believe in, and that is the university system. You see, a fundamental role of a Business School is to educate business.

This education is based on research, evidence and logic, and a translation of the broad body of science into digestible and reliable chunks of knowledge. This is what we do at Aston for servitization and advanced services, and we have a duty to be custodians of these concepts. What we need to do right now, is to overcome the pollution and ensure that industry is set on a reliable and informed understanding of servitization.


"The World Servitization Convention has been designed to raise awareness and the adoption of servitization and advanced services..."


This is why we have created the World Servitization Convention. This convention will be different to every field service conference or trade show you might consider attending this year. Firstly, it is coupled with the Spring Servitization Conference – the established research conference for the international academic community. Secondly, it has a series of industry keynotes and panel sessions from true industry leaders in this space – Thales, Rolls-Royce, Baxi, Goodyear, Alstom, Legrand, Domino, Mazak, etc. And we have an equally impressive range of small businesses – KoolMill, AE Aerospace, UV Light, CHH ConeX. 

Thirdly, the is the exhibition where over 20 manufacturers are sharing (not selling!) what they do in this space: Heat-as-a-service, Health-as-a-service, Mobility-as-a-service. Not just talking about servitization, but demonstrating what this looks like in practice. Finally, the convention is covering a comprehensive range of topics: from service strategy to finance, and digital technologies to business model innovation. A true one-stop-shop.

The World Servitization Convention has been designed to raise awareness and the adoption of servitization and advanced services. It is targeted at the owners, executives and senior management of manufacturing, engineering and technology businesses. This is a not-for-profit event hosted by the Advanced Services Group (ASG) at the Aston Business School.

This event is funded in part by a carefully selected group of four partners; IFS, DLL, Blueprint AMS and Servitly. Just like our manufacturing exhibitors, these sponsors are genuine thought leaders in this space and have worked closely with the Aston team to ensure the event fulfils its objective.

So, all you need to know about servitization will be in one place in September.

The World Servitization Convention brings together the global community of leading servitization researchers and business executives to advance their servitization strategies, experience demonstrations of the technologies enabling advanced services and transform the future of manufacturing. This three day convention in Birmingham, UK really is intended to move you forwards on your servitization journey; delivering a true outcome rather than just selling you things!


To find out more about the event  and to register, please visit