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.