Representatives from Toyota Material Handling talking at Spring Servitization Conference 2019.
Clear trend among companies
Services are revolutionising the manufacturing industry. Together with digitisation, we are seeing an ever-increasing move towards service production, which has become one of the strongest trends in pretty much every industry sector. And – indeed – digitisation and servitisation often go hand-in-hand.
The theme of the “Spring Servitization Conference 2019” held at Linköping koncert och kongress is service-driven growth in the digital era. It is being organised by Linköping University and the Aston Business School in Birmingham. The latter is coordinator of the conference series, which is organised every year at various universities around Europe.
“Linköping is not as conveniently located as Copenhagen, where the conference was held last year. So it’s particularly gratifying that so many have travelled here to take part”, says Christian Kowalkowski, professor of industrial marketing, and co-chair of the conference in Linköping.
Different branches, same tasks
Christian Kowalkowski believes that many industrial companies are facing roughly the same challenges. The development towards an increasing degree of service provision is here to stay, but it is not clear how services should be designed to give the greatest possible benefit to customers. This is not by any means obvious.
“What is technically possible is not always the same thing as true customer benefit. It’s now possible to have a complete vehicle fleet online, but how should all the information gathered be handled? Some customers want large amounts of data to analyse themselves, while others are more interested in a completed analysis”, he says.
“Another fundamental question is who owns the information? Is it the company or the customer?”
In addition to scientific presentations, representatives for several major industrial companies are participating at the conference. Toyota Material Handling Europe (TMHE) has a large facility in Mjölby, and is one of the companies that has come furthest in providing services.
Services becoming more important
Patrik Carlsson and Joakim Plate, Toyota Material Handling.
Traditional sales of fork-lift trucks is still its most important business area, but service provision is growing rapidly. And it is here that the company is making most money.
“In the future, it will not be enough to simply sell a truck: our customers will also want to know how the products are used. Online connection will be a comprehensive change, and we will have to revise our business models”, says Patrik Carlsson, senior manager, and Joakim Plate, director service market.
TMHE took a strategic decision in the autumn to equip all new trucks with internet connection. This has allowed considerable information to be collected about how the trucks are used, and about their current condition. Two machines that have been in use for the same period may be in very different conditions, depending on how they have been operated. The information allows the company to learn how the machines are used, which can also contribute to future product development.
Some customers may object to the internet connection, in which case it can be disabled. But most are happy with the possibilities it offers.
Turns the communication
“Now we can phone the customer and tell them it’ll soon be time for service. Previously, it was always the customers who called us. We can be proactive, and work towards eliminating faults completely. This is how much we want to know about our products.”
Together with other major changes – increased e-trade, more projects in collaboration with customers, and increased automation – servitisation means that Toyota Material Handling is facing huge changes in its business model. And not even a big company can be completely sure of getting it right.
“No one can be completely sure. But as long as the probability that we get it right is 75% and we carry out what we have planned, there are good chances that the result will be positive”, says Joakim Plate.
Other industrial companies at the conference are Saab, Electrolux and Scania.
Link to the programme.