The issue of Digital Transformation - the phenomenon through which interconnected technologies become factors enabling the development of a company's core processes - is increasingly at the center of companies’ debates. Its implementation generates new opportunities for companies, by forcing them to review their business models.
We also increasingly hear talk about Servitization, namely the principle leading many manufacturing companies to extend their offer to customers, by including services and complete solutions rather than focusing just on the product itself.
But how is a Digital Servitization process initiated and which is the best way to approach it?
To answer these questions, we’ll present a case study featuring Nimax Spa, a company based in Bologna and a leader in coding and marking systems, as well as in inspection, control and labelling systems. This company constantly ensures maximum product safety and quality, by actively seeking customer satisfaction in every phase and activity of its production processes.
Nimax decided to tackle its Digital Servitization process by developing the Beta project based on 7 macro-areas; for each area it identified a project leader responsible for constantly sharing objectives and progress:
- Maximizing customers’ trust value, by clearly establishing objectives and contact methods with customers, in order to improve their experience.
- Analysis of non-conformities in order to structure a process to take charge of problems: understanding, analysing and generating hypotheses to reach a shared solution.
- Analysis of industrial trends: transformation of the entire business model, moving from selling the product itself to selling complete solutions, including both products and fast and reliable services.
- Analysis of products and competition strategies, in order to fully understand the technological potential of future products in terms of IoT and remote assistance and thus define and structure services in a competitive way.
- Use of technology and innovation, through technical assistance services responding to customer needs, in order ensure timely interventions and avoid failures.
- Focus on the resources making up the technical assistance team, through developing individual and group training, and workload management.
- Development of Tools and Corporate Image, providing the team carrying out interventions for customers with the appropriate tools, both in terms of tools for supporting the activity itself, and in terms of intelligent devices for information management
To understand how to initiate and manage these Digital Servitization projects, it is essential to understand that the goals for this type of project should be defined only by the company itself and should not be externalized: it would be like delegating the definition of your business-strategy to a third party. Within the project, however, it is important to work on several fronts and on different issues: in this context it becomes important to acquire, within well-defined areas, those specific skills that will help the company get the best results.
During the Digital Servitization process, Nimax decided to make the most of the potential in post-sales, since this area will play an increasingly strategic role in the future and has excellent prospects for development. Such a decision is consistent with the business trend towards offering performance rather than just machines: companies are increasingly shifting their offerings towards distinctive and differentiating solutions combining both products and services.
It is no coincidence that there is increasingly talk of smart services in production, i.e. services provided in order to anticipate customer problems and needs, thanks to ICT technologies that allow for the rapid acquisition and processing of data.
Companies try to reduce costs (by reducing human intervention in supply processes), increase volumes (through greater accessibility of services for customers) and increase innovation, through the provision of smart services based on a modular architecture which facilitates subsequent additional services and solutions.
The starting point for obtaining these benefits is to design the relationship you want to obtain through the service: it is this relationship which influences customer experience and gives competitive advantage.
From an industrial perspective, after-sales services become the product to be delivered to customers on time, well assembled and packaged, and with an overall “look” which furthers the promotion of the company’s brand, so much so that they become an integral part of operations, because of their strategic importance and because of the features they must have and for which they must be designed.
To achieve these goals, OPTA worked with Nimax in the technology and innovation area (within the Digital Servitization process): we focused on the planning of technical assistance interventions, aiming for the best use of internal resources and for respect of promised delivery times.
Through the application of a specific methodology we intervened in three main areas:
- Definition of priorities: in dealing with multiple requests for interventions it is important to immediately identify which requests are urgent and which are not. In other words, it is necessary to define criteria for classifying requests from the most to the least urgent. We therefore defined drivers guiding the assignment of priorities. Where services are concerned, the potential drivers are many and it is crucial to keep in mind the correct balance between frequency, strategic importance, effectiveness and simplification. This activity must be paid the necessary attention: the calculation model, scheduling outcomes and timings will all depend significantly on the drivers which are chosen.
- Construction of the priority calculation model, by assigning the correct weight to selected drivers: in this phase it is necessary to distinguish between drivers guiding the assignment of priority levels and those guiding scheduling. The first drivers are necessary to establish which requests must be fulfilled first, whilst the second type of drivers will plan assistance interventions over time and consequently the allocation of available resources. The priority calculation model must be constructed by explaining the specific parameters of each driver, ordering them hierarchically and assigning to each parameter its specific weight. It is important, at this point, to set up the calculation and validate it by using appropriate tests in the field.
- Resource scheduling: once priorities have been clarified, interventions must be distributed over time based on available resources. Where services are involved, time and resources are limited, so they must be managed in the best way: workers’ skills, route optimization (geolocation), definition of standard intervention times, availability of resources must all be considered and of all this information must be managed in real time.
Digital tools make all this possible: they must be designed to make these activities automatic and integrated within company and its information systems. Above all, these tools aim to develop a continuous, stable and profitable relationship between customers and their suppliers.
The construction and development of this relationship should guide the Digital Servitization process within companies: the entire post-sales process should be reviewed in order to enhance the relationship between the company and its customers to ensure that it is as continuous, profitable and stable as possible.
The practical steps through which companies pursue these objectives are the following:
- identification of activities making up the process, associated with the definition of roles, teams’ responsibilities and supporting tools;
- mapping of all information to be managed within the activity flow;
- definition of information relationships which determine the activity flow;
- design of software specifications (information and workflow);
- configuration of software to enhance the customer's experience, in terms of information visibility and traceability within the process.
While today it is necessary to redesign the entire assistance process, by developing it as a service for ensuring customer satisfaction, in the future new product technologies may change the current balance between customer assistance interventions and remote interventions, and thus require further amendments to the assistance process.
Machines and equipment are now able to communicate information proactively and predictively: in the future this will only improve. It is essential for companies to monitor these aspects and plan for their inclusion in their own processes.
The fact that these processes can vary over time, as well as the constant search for customer satisfaction, are two important drivers behind the establishment of a monitoring system, which involves:
- Identifying key points within the designed process;
- Measuring times between one key point and the next;
- Monitoring all process and business KPIs, such as times needed to conclude interventions, and identifying any bottlenecks impeding continuous flow.
We conclude by quoting Christine De Paoli, after-sales manager of Nimax:
"The customer is our focus, we want to gain their trust and to make their experience with us unique and indispensable. This is the ambitious goal which inspires our work every day. The success of this project stems from the constant sharing, within the team and among managerial functions, of solutions which cut across all departments that can streamline and facilitate everybody's work. The final goal is to make the "Nimax journey" as pleasant as possible for our customers.
A special thank you both to our CEO Nicola Montanari, who has always transmitted this vision of "Customers at the center" by trusting this approach, and to all of the team leaders and colleagues who have believed and worked on this project; this approach will be a guide for our future".