Lean Services

Professionalization of the Service Business

Manufacturing companies are now recognizing the great potential of product-accompanying services. Some are already succeeding in making their service business significantly more profitable than their traditional product business. The Lean Services unit works on models, methods and tools for the professionalization of service organizations in terms of Lean Management. At the same time, it creates the basis for the digitalization of the service.

In the past decades, lean principles have led to great successes in terms of increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of companies. Starting from application in production, a management system has developed for the entire company. Lean services represent the interpretation of lean principles on industrial services, understood as an integrated management approach for a professionally positioned service business.

The Aachen Lean Services Cycle

"Lean" does begin with the optimization of operational processes, but already starts with the service organization's strategy definition. The goal must be that the service and product businesses interlock at strategic levels. A company can only maintain its strategic positioning as a premium provider if services contribute to value creation. In the same way, it is necessary to define which competencies a company provides itself and which are procured externally. A service management that is oriented towards customer benefit in terms of the lean approach has clearly defined and focuses its activities on its core competencies.

The focus on customer benefit is also reflected in the product and service portfolio of a "lean" service organization. Variant management takes place not only for physical products, but also for services. Not every customer wish is blindly fulfilled. Rather, the aim is to design a modular range of services from standardized service modules. The approach of standardized service level agreements is also becoming increasingly important in this context. Only standards in the portfolio of offerings allow standards in the internal processes of a service provider to be established.

When designing processes, service organizations are faced with a particular challenge: unlike in production, processes often take place at the customer's site and involving the customer. This external factor requires an approach to process design that maintains a balance between standardization and individual degrees of freedom in the delivery of a service. This can be seen, for example, in the fact that processes are deliberately separated into internally and externally executed processes or even in the execution of standardized workflows, individual degrees of freedom are granted. In addition, the processes must be supported by the appropriate IT systems.

Another field of activity for service management is the planning and control of orders. The challenge here is the short-term nature and poor predictability of service requirements. In combination with the fact that services cannot be produced "in stock", it is important to engage in more proactive planning and control, for example by assuming operational responsibility. Another approach is the strict separation of reliably plannable and poorly plannable orders. In this way, the negative effect of delays of individual orders on overall planning is contained.
Finally, organizational mechanisms for and a culture of continuous improvement must also be established in service. To achieve this it is necessary to make the service systematically measurable with the help of meaningful but easily collectable key figures. Furthermore, a development path is needed that outlines the further development of the organization and provides guidelines for orientation.

The Aachen Lean Services cycle provides a framework for the aforementioned fields of action and thus represents a management instrument for the service. With DIN SPEC 77007, the contents of the individual phases and the underlying methods have now found their way into standardization.
Current activities of the Lean Services unit consist of the industrial application and continuous further development of the Lean Services cycle and the associated methods and tools in research and consulting projects. In addition, a "Lean Services 2.0" approach, which places the content presented in the context of Industrie 4.0, is being intensively investigated.

Setting up the service organization professionally with Lean Services and laying the foundation for digitalization

  • Determine the current state of your service organization and identify individually important fields of action
  • Auditing / Defining the service strategy
  • Streamlining and structuring of the service portfolio
  • Design of a standardized process landscape / Selection of suitable IT systems
  • Analysis / Design of planning and control systems for the service
  • Design of key performance indicator systems for the service