6 September 2016

Looking at the future of business models for global manufacturing companies as they make the switch to services in an age of digital disruption

September 2016

Professor Andy Neely answers some key questions about the Cambridge Service Alliance business partners and its recent research. [PODCAST interview available here]

  • Who are your partners in industry and how have you been working with them on that all important ‘shift to services’ for manufacturing industries?

We have a variety of partners in industry. Our two founding partners are BAE systems and IBM and we also work with Caterpillar, Rolls-Royce, Pearson and Zoetis. Zoetis is an animal health company which used to be part of Pfizer. It is interested in services because it wants to build links with its end customers. Caterpillar is a big construction and mining Equipment Company and it is interested in services because it wants to maintain links with its customers over the 30 year life of the product. It is important for its business model.

  • What kind of changes are manufacturing firms making to ensure they are in tune with their customers’ needs in what is an increasingly technologically driven global market place?

The changes manufacturing firms are making are really varied. Caterpillar has traditionally made most of its money on spare parts and servicing equipment but increasingly its customers are saying ‘we want to work with you to contract for outcome or capability’. It is no longer about just making sure the equipment works, its customers want help to minimize the cost per ton of earth extracted in a quarry.  These days the manufacturing firm is helping its customers to deliver the outcome the customer wants. In some cases, it is helping the customer deliver the outcome the customer’s customer wants. It is all about helping your customer do a better job.

  •  How is technology changing how manufacturing firms operate?

Technology is fundamentally changing how manufacturing firms operate. What you see is more and more devices getting connected to the internet. The data coming back from those devices and machines is then being used to work out what is going on.

For example if Caterpillar has the GPS position of a truck, and you know the weight of the material and the weight of the bed of the truck, then you can tell when the truck has been filled at the rock face. If the truck doesn’t start to move straight away you are losing production time, and if it sits at the rock face for a minute once it has been filled, that would be a minute of lost production and in a quarry and it is a big deal. If you can use the data to improve the efficiency of the operation, you can in turn minimize the cost per ton.

  • The Cambridge Service Alliance puts emphasis on knowing what your end customers’ needs are. Why is that and can you give us an example?

We talk a lot about getting inside the minds of your customer, or the customer’s customer. The reason we use that language is because most organizations have to think about how to provide for their customers. You can use the equipment to allow your customer to do a better job to service their customer. If you understand what the customer’s customer wants then you can think about changing the design of your equipment or service to help ensure your immediate customer does a better job. If they are more successful and their business grows then yours does too, it is in your interest.  Technology helps this relationship in all sorts of ways by monitoring the equipment so you can now see remotely what is happening and you can track where assets are in the world.

We have also been doing some work on customer analytics. We are looking at both quantitative and qualitative data, things like customers’ comments, to understand what those comments actually mean and say. You can then see what advice they are giving you about improving your organization. Lots of firms use a Net Promoters Score as a measure of customer loyalty, and that is really the difference between the number of customers who say they would promote your business and recommend it to friends versus the numbers who say they wouldn’t. But that is just a numerical number. If you look at the customer survey forms, often you get statements from customers where they might say there is something wrong, like the technician turned up late in scruffy overalls. We have been working on a methodology of taking those sentences, deconstructing them and understanding the statements in them to better inform firms about how they can deliver a better quality of service to their customers.

  • Your CSA members are some of the largest companies operating in the world today, how do they begin to make change happen?

We believe that detail matters when it comes to making change in a large global company. We have a research project which is looking at unmasking the important hidden detail in making services work. You have to understand the detail but you also have to understand the bigger picture about how to make that change and make that shift to services.

In another research project we have completed recently we have looked at the Seven Critical Success Factors or CSFs for making the shift to services. Number one in that list is the readiness of the organization. Is it ready and are its customers ready to make that change? Unless you get both sides in place there is no way you will make the shift to services.

  • How important is this interface of academics and managers working together in the CSA?

The Cambridge Service Alliance really does three things for our partners:
  1. We provide an environment where there is an interface between academics and industry managers. We have deliberately chosen non-competing firms as partners, and we have very open and honest conversations about the way you might design your organization, the business model you use, how you design contracts for services and so on. The reality is that firms learn an enormous amount from each other.
  2. We also hold events and forums where we can communicate ideas to the partners and the wider public. This year we are running a Service Week conference on how you successfully grow your service business in the digital economy.
  3.  As well as the broader knowledge exchange we also carry out individual research projects that are designed to unpack and explore topics that matter to the partners in the Service Alliance. Caterpillar has been very involved in a programme called: ‘Across the Table’. A major part of it was about looking at the future of its customer service needs and how Caterpillar might meet them. We had direct input into the change programme in that organization. We are keen for our partners to pick up and adopt these results.  With BAE Systems we have been talking a lot about eco-systems in order to understand the Defense eco-system and how that is changing. For each individual firm in the Service Alliance there are specific projects we are working on with topics that are of general interest and also producing results that are directly relevant to that firm.
  • Is the CSA helping to map the future out for others too in the manufacturing sector?

Yes. If I go back five years or so and I talked about servitization people would say they had never heard of that, it was relatively small scale. Now more and more organizations are talking about the importance of servitization and what it might mean for the future of their business and how they have to change their business model and what role technology might play. There is a general take up of the ideas to try and influence the way manufacturing firms think.   

  • Is the link between products, services, technology and the need to innovate creating better products and services? 

One of the changes you see is a shift from supply chains to network partners. Increasingly it is not a question of how to configure the supply chain but these days firms need to think about who they want to partner with and what skills and capabilities they bring together to deliver a particular outcome. Often you can find that people are collaborating on one contract but competing on another. BAE systems in Portsmouth works very closely with Babcock to run the naval base but just down the road they compete on other contracts. You end up with very complicated organizational relationships. Learning when and how to partner and also when and how you are going to compete is crucial if you want to get the balance right.    

  •  Are new collaborations and partnerships developing?

We see a lot of new collaborations and partnerships amongst all sorts of organizations, not just old rivals. One of the interesting things is the way that barriers between different sectors of the economy are changing. If you look at the IOT (Internet of Things) we can see that more and more devices are getting connected to the internet, and that the data that comes off those is giving real insight into how your products and services operate. New technology is playing a key part in this shift to services.

You then have to ask who else to involve? AT&T and GE have said they want to work together; Siemens is working with Atos; IBM is also working in this area. You have equipment manufacturers a software consultancy firm, a broader consultancy firm, and a telephone company all competing for the IOT space. Some of these organizations are coming together and building new capability, and some are finding they have new competitors too, like Google or Amazon. The small start-up Trackunit, which monitors the stress and strain put on assets, has been taken over by Goldman Sachs, an investment bank now working in asset management. There are some interesting dynamics at work.  

  • How helpful has it been to identify seven Critical Success Factors or CSFs in the switch to services. You have called it a road map?

We looked at Pearson, Zoetis, and Greer, and we mapped out the steps they had gone on as they changed their business models in the switch to services. We then built a framework with these Seven Critical Success Factors, CSFs. The full report is on our website http://cambridgeservicealliance.eng.cam.ac.uk/news/SevenCSFBriefing

We mentioned the readiness of an organization and how outcome focused it is. There are issues around how you get the right mindset in an organization, and it is also about people and how you get them ready, not just technology and data. There are issues about processes and design, but sometimes there is not enough focus on designing services. The CSFs really do outline a road map for thinking about the steps you need to go through if you are going to transform your business.

  • When others talk about manufacturing they wistfully harp back to the past and production lines but are the criteria by which we measure the success of firms and the sector changing? 

It is still important to optimize what goes on inside a factory.  People get quite excited about the digital economy and they say it is all going to be virtual but you still need your iPhone to access your laptop, so we are still going to make things. You still have to optimize the factory but that is a relatively small part of the overall ecosystem you are operating in. We are now looking beyond the boundary of the factory to optimize the end to end enterprise. Productivity still matters and organizations need to make sure the things they are doing are as efficient as possible to ensure they are not wasting resources, whether that is material or the time of people.

The data allows you to identify where you might improve productivity. It is still a valid measure for part of the agenda but you also have to think about the outcomes that you are delivering for the customer. Productivity can be more an efficiency type measure, to see if you are using your assets well, but you also have to think about effectiveness, and if you are doing the right things with those assets. Balancing both efficiency and effectiveness is central in manufacturing these days.

  • In today’s fast moving world what is your ultimate goal at the Cambridge Service Alliance? 

People always say the pace of change is fast, if you go back to when there were buggy whips it still probably felt quite fast in those days so I think that at any point in time there is lots of change going on in the World. One of the challenges for leaders of organizations is to understand what change is both happening today and what change is coming in the future. You then have to think of the best way to respond and configure your organization to respond to that change. The boundary of your organization is undoubtedly changing; it is much more about networks and collaborations. People get too excited about some of these changes; things like the IOT or Industry 4.0 are not going to change the World in the next six months. These things take a long time to do. Undoubtedly the direction of travel is more connected devices, more data coming off them, and making smarter decisions. You do need to think about how you optimize systems rather than individual machines or individual supply chains so undoubtedly that is the way the World is going but there is a lot of work to do to get there.

Firms are spending a lot of time trying to get data from different devices, and they then have to try to reconcile that data, so there is an enormous amount of effort that needs to go into some of these things. I think it is a fascinating time to be involved in this because in many ways the foundations of what some have termed a new fourth industrial revolution are being laid now and being involved in that is just a wonderful privilege.    

  • Is it best to be the first or the last in the sector to make a new innovation or change, presumably you can learn a lot from the success and failures of others? 

Organisations have to take different views and think about where they want to position themselves. It is rarely about being the first or the last to make a change or innovation because incremental change in all sorts of organization is going on at the same time. As one organisation pushes forward with one type of innovation another organization will be pushing forward with a slightly different kind of innovation. You can’t afford to fall too far behind because if you do you will end up losing your place in the market, However, organizations can’t afford to stay still, they have to constantly think about how to adapt to the changing World and the changing circumstances. You need that continuous process of innovation going on, it is not about first or last it is about what is the right innovation for us in the evolution of our organisation at this point in time.

If you look at Uber in the taxi business, or some of the low cost airlines, or if you think about what is happening in newspapers with all of the online content, or with Google and Amazon and Facebook, these are organisations that are babies really but they have grown up incredibly rapidly and changed the way organisations work. It would be very dangerous to sit there and say ‘it’s OK we will be safe and immune from these changes’, because you have to watch what is going on.

In October our Alliance conference is discussing: Growing your Service Business in an age of digital disruption. Uber is going to speak about the way they are growing and how they expand. Trackunit which is now part of Goldman Sachs is going to talk about developing technology and why they are getting involved in the asset monitoring business. Siemens is going to discuss the digital factory, and the whole industrial internet Industry 4.0 and how that is changing the Siemens business model. These are all themes around platforms, services, data and the way the World is changing.

In research you need to be a specialist but as you drill down into a specific area you find there is enormous breath to that area and a lot of the changes that are going on in the world influence the way we think about things.

On Tuesday 11 October the Alliance will be holding its Industry conference on ‘Growing your service business in an age ofdigital disruption’ at the Moller Centre, Cambridge, UK. 

21 July 2016

Harnessing the power of innovation through living labs

Engaging with customers in the creation of new products and services is now of paramount importance for firms. Such a revolutionary approach can shorten the time to market and ensure a better fit between a company’s offer and market needs, two of today’s strategic imperatives to survive in progressively more competitive environments. In order to derive insights from customers, firms are experimenting with innovative organisational solutions: amongst them the use of living labs is increasingly capturing the interest of managers.

Success stories of co-creation are emerging across various industries, and involve both small and large firms. Organisations that are embracing this approach outperform the market, develop better products and place them faster onto shelves, provide superior service, and build deeper, more loyal relationships with their customers. For example, LEGO employs co-creation to successfully engage many of their adult customers in the design process of new products. Peter Espersen, head of global community co-creation at Lego explains “We have learned some big lessons. First, that creativity has almost no boundaries; people can do amazing things. Second, we can’t always predict what consumers want. [..] When you combine the idea of Lego with another strong community, and a fun one, that is rocket fuel in the engine - it really works.”

In spite of the term co-creation being now widely used, all co-creation is not the same. The catch-all term has meant that everything from crowd-sourced marketing ideas to general collaboration has been labelled as co-creation. This led many organisations to believe that they have practiced co-creation, when they actually have experienced a tactical (and often far less value adding) interpretation of the practice. Co-creation is not a tactical marketing method, nor is it just a synonym for collaboration. It is a way of innovating that can truly revolutionise how organisations work and address customers’ unmet needs. So what is co-creation exactly? Co-creation refers to collective creativity that results in something that is not known in advance. In essence it is the idea that organisations can be more successful by innovating with customer rather than for customer. In its purest form, co-creation suggests that customers are no longer at the end of the value chain, but take up a key role in the process of value creation.

In order to engage with customers in the co-creation process, the use of living labs has emerged as a new way to sustain competitive advantage. Living labs are open innovation platforms that enable systematic customer co-creation whilst integrating research and innovation processes in real life settings. One example is JOSEPHS – a living lab located in the town centre of Nuremberg in Germany. JOSEPHS offers an open innovation space where five companies display their product and service innovations for three months under one theme. This space is open to the public. JOSEPHS as facilitator encourages customers to try out products and services and then give feedback.

However, the understanding of how the co-creation process can be best facilitated is limited. To support managers pursuing this strategy and engage in a vibrant and growing academic debate, we conducted a study to identify factors that are critical to successful co-creation in living labs. The case JOSEPHS has been chosen for this study due to its set-up as a continuous platform for interactive innovation. The outcomes of this research are available through our webinar or monthly Cambridge Service Alliance paper, and as a podcast.

14 April 2016

Supplying Innovation: unlocking innovation in the supply chain

Leading companies invest a lot on innovation and constantly ask themselves 'am I innovative enough to secure my leading position?' They have loads of internal innovation programs, covering a wide range of subjects from technology innovation to business model innovation. But these programs, in many cases, fail to generate expected value. Some of them start to think about the possibility of innovating together with other players in the supply chain. One obvious benefit of doing so would be the integration of capabilities and skills. But the contractual approaches make it almost impossible for large scales of integration. Just think, as a client, how can I share my knowledge, capabilities, data and information with my direct suppliers without any concerns?

Apart from limited innovation, the consequences of locking innovation internally in the companies are obvious. Knowledge and information are not integrated from companies in the supply chain, so that the services and solutions delivered to end customers may not be the best ones. Also, traditionally in the supply chain, it is output-focused instead of outcome-focused. Suppliers are only incentivised to deliver outputs based on service level agreements. They seldom focus on the value delivered to end customers. On the other hand, if innovation can’t be unlocked in the supply chain, the supply chain is not efficient. The stakeholders such as suppliers, contractors and clients, have to discuss back and forth several times before the final decisions.

In some industries in the UK, such as the utility industry, the regulator has triggered the change to unlock innovation in the supply chain. The regulator starts to direct the industry to be outcome focused and customer focused. Customer satisfaction and customer experience have been paid unprecedented emphasis. Companies are incentivised to explore new models to engage suppliers for innovation. One innovative trial is to form a strategic alliance, where suppliers / contractors, and the client companies can work together within one organization, and to jointly deliver services and solutions to end customers. Suppliers are contracted on outcomes instead of on outputs, so that they are incentivised to include end customers as key stakeholders.

The shift from output based model to outcome based model and the formation of a strategic alliance to engage suppliers and clients can bring benefits for key stakeholders. For customers, when suppliers are contracted on outcomes and get rewards when customer experience is improved, they will pay attention to end customers, so that customers are expected to get better services. For client companies, in outcome-based contracts, they can transfer some of the responsibilities and related risks to suppliers, and risks and rewards are shared with suppliers. And for suppliers, since they are contracted on outcomes, they will have certain flexibility to choose among possible solutions. In this situation, they are incentivised to innovate and to come up with more efficient and effective solutions.

However, the challenges and barriers are enormous. Partners in the alliance have different business models, and conflicts can arise when they are brought in under the same outcome-based model. Also, partner companies have very diversified backgrounds. Some of them may be competitors outside the strategic alliance, and some of them may not have smooth relationships previously. If trust and collaboration in the alliance are limited, failure can come very soon. When the whole industry is still output focused, extended suppliers may not have capabilities nor confidence to be contracted on outcomes. And if the atmosphere in the whole industry is not collaborative, it is challenging to form collaborative and trusting relationships.

I observed this new model closely and worked together with people from industry, aiming to unveil key points that can ensure the success of an outcome-based model with a strategic alliance approach where suppliers and clients partner with each other to deliver services and solutions to end customers.

What comes out of the research is that there are three areas that partners in the strategic alliance should work on. These three areas are commercial solutions, collaboration and operational design. A commercial solution that is accepted by all partners lays the foundations of working together. Collaboration ensures that partners start to integrate their skills and capabilities, and design and deliver solutions collaboratively. Process design aims to ensure the smooth operations of the strategic alliance.

Commercial Solutions
Since partners are measured against outcomes, an applicable commercial solution should address the risk and reward sharing mechanism and the benefit realization framework. The risk and reward sharing mechanism needs to solve these problems: how benefits and rewards are shared among partners based on contributions, how risks are shared among partners based on accountability, and to what extent the alliance should be measured against end customers’ outcomes. The benefit realization framework needs to solve the following problems: How to decide on the final solutions among many possible capital solutions and operational solutions; How to solve conflicts between return on investments and customer outcomes; and How to solve conflicts among partners regarding their preferences on solutions, etc.

Collaboration should be built from four aspects: strategic objectives, organizational culture, trust and communications. With shared strategic objectives, partners can work towards the same direction. A collaborative and innovative organization culture needs to be formed within the strategic alliance, collecting the best parts of partners’ organizational cultures. Trust can ensure that partners are willing to share data, knowledge and information, and trust other partners’ decisions. Consistent and efficient communication rules need to be followed, and educational communications will be helpful to deliver the concepts of outcomes and collaboration to every employee.

Operational Design
Operational design includes continuing education, information platforms, process design and metrics and measurements. Continuing education is important to ensure that employees understand the strategic objectives of the alliance and that everyone talks on the same tune. Information platforms help to integrate knowledge and capabilities from partners, and that data and information can flow efficiently. Also, data security needs to be addressed. Process design such as decision-making process, risk management process, culture change process, etc. can facilitate the smooth operations of the alliance. Metrics and measurements that measure the contributions of partners, behaviours of individuals, financial status and the achievements of outcomes also needs paying attention to in everyday operations.

The following figure summarises the key elements for successful alliance delivery of outcome-based projects. Firms that would like to engage suppliers for innovation can consider forming a strategic alliance, combining suppliers and client companies, while focusing on delivering outcomes to end customers. However, they should be fully aware of the challenges and barriers in this model, and carefully make decisions to ensure the success.

23 January 2016

Enabling the 4th industrial revolution - "industrie 4.0" or the "internet of things"?

I've been struck recently by the range of people talking about new digital and data developments in manufacturing. Of particular interest has been the apparent explosion of discussion about industrie 4.0 (which is extremely popular in Germany), internet plus (which is being pushed by China) and the industrial internet (being promoted by GE among others).

Managers, consultants, policy makers and academics are all getting very excited about the potential of connected devices. The basic idea is that increasingly things (of all types) will be stuffed with sensors and connected to the internet. They will stream data back to the original equipment manufacturers who in turn will use sophisticated analytics to analyse and interpret the data. There are loads of examples. Caterpillar streams data back from mining and construction equipment, using this both to monitor the health of individual machines and also to identify ways in which productivity and efficiency might be increased. Rolls Royce monitors aero engines in flight, using sensors to track vibrations in fan blades, which allows them to predict whether or not maintenance is required. In the consumer world - wearable devices (e.g. Nike's fitbit or Garmin's forerunner) track and record exercise levels with the data being uploaded to the internet for benchmarking and comparison purposes.

One thing that I find interesting is the rate at which some of these ideas are developing and the level of interest there is in them. A good way of looking at this is to explore Google Trends, which basically tracks the popularity of search terms and plots these over time. Figure 1 shows a comparison of "industrie 4.0" and the "industrial internet". It neatly shows how effective the German Government and large industrial firms (including Bosch and Siemens) have been at promoting their vision of the future - industrie 4.0 - with a rapid rise of interest in industrie 4.0 since 2012.

Figure 1: Google Trends - Popularity of Search Terms "Industrie 4.0" and "Industrial Internet".

One could argue that industrie 4.0 is not a new vision. As Figure 1 also shows there has been interest in the industrial internet for at least a decade and indeed my colleagues at Cambridge IfM, most notably in DIAL (the Distributed Information and Automation Laboratory led by Professor Duncan McFarlane) have been getting our students to build demonstrators and simulations of intelligent factories for years. However, the recent excitement is a testament to the growing maturity of the technology and underlying data infrastructures that will enable a wider adoption of industrie 4.0 and this excitement has driven significant Government and policy interest, as well as research and development investment.

So is industrie 4.0 the answer? Are smart factories where materials and machines seamlessly collaborate to drive productivity and efficiency the future? I think the answer is "yes" and "no".  Much of the discussion about industrie 4.0 is still very internally focused - its a factory view of the world. A recent YouTube video illustrates the point. The video talks about a vision of tomorrow - the factory of the future - where machines and materials will use wireless data infrastructures to communicate and coordinate their activities. Yet the examples I started with are ones where the product has left the factory - manufacturers are worrying about how they can track their products once they go out into the field and are used in mines and quarries, on the wings of plans, or in our houses and cars. Here I would argue there is scope for a bigger and more impactful industrial revolution. The fourth industrial revolution will not just be about what happens inside factories, but it will encompass the entire value chain. It will involve remotely monitoring products as they are used in the field. Data will be collected and streamed back to original equipment manufacturers who will use these data to assess the health of assets, to determine whether any maintenance is required, to predict potential product breakdowns and failures. They'll use the data to improve the next generation of design, learning from experience. They'll use the data to look at how the customer's operation might be optimised. By gathering data from multiple machines in a quarry its possible to build a system model of the quarry and identify where bottlenecks lie and hence how productivity can be improved.

This extended view of the fourth industrial revolution won't just be enabled by industrie 4.0, but by the "internet of things" and that's why when you add "internet of things" to the Google Trends data a rather different picture emerges. Its clear that industrie 4.0 and the industrial internet are important component parts, but the real key to driving future success in manufacturing lies beyond the factory walls and this will be enabled by the internet of things.

Figure 2: Google Trends - Popularity of Search Terms Including "Internet of Things".