“Servitization”; A B2B Business Model That Will Be Embraced by the Machine Community in the Coming Decades

This blog post was written by Ron Giuntini, president of Giunitini & Company, a consulting firm focused primarily on the Configuration and Pricing of Quotes [CPQ] engaged in B2B Aftermarket agreements. Ron is also the founder of G35 Software, a prototype proprietary CPQ software tool.

Before venturing further, let us first define ”servitization”; it is a business model in which a machine (i.e. forklift, truck, order picking robot) is not sold, but is accessed by an end-user through a multi-year fixed-fee outcome-based service-contract. A servitization focused contract is primarily landed at the time of the delivery of a new or used machine. The service typically encompasses the following 15 elements:

  1. The equivalent of an operating lease is supplied; machine ownership is never transferred to the service recipient. Many of these machines in the future will be autonomous.
  2. The Intellectual Property [IP] of a machine’s embedded software configuration is not controlled by the service recipient, but by the owner of the machine.
  3. Solutions are supplied to maintain (i.e. break/fix) and improve (i.e. upgrade) a machine’s capability (i.e. lift 5,000 pounds), employability (i.e. 95% uptime in a 24 hour period) and deliverability (i.e. 8 hours of operation per day).
  4. An outcome-based fixed-fee is typically aligned with the customer’s revenue streams; in fact the fee becomes a variable cost. For example a public warehouse forklift user could be charged a fee of $3.75/ton for movements from storage to staging and loading of a vehicle; the fee would be directly aligned with their handling charge of $4.50/ton for the same movements to its customers.
  5. Solutions are delivered for a continuous period of time during the post-production life cycle of a machine; when over 1 year, revenue recognition financial reporting is required.
  6. The performance levels of solutions delivered are assured. For example technicians will arrive on-site for a break/fix event within 2 hours of being notified within any 24/7 period.
  7. Amendments are incorporated to the contract, such as up-selling or cross-selling; will often occur as a result of changes in the business environment of the customer during the multi-year contract duration.
  8. Contract renewal is aggressively pursued; it is a major end-game of the business model.
  9. A supplemental fee schedule is established; for solutions delivered that are not supported in the contract.
  10. Guidance for the price and configuration for quotes of the pre-landed contract is overseen by one entity.
  11. Higher profitability for seller; typically 25-150% higher than that of a product.
  12. “Stickiness” of buyer-seller relationships; continuous contact for years.
  13. Higher sales commissions for account managers; multi-year worth of booked sales.
  14. Optimized budgeting for buyer; converts CapEx to OpEx and reduces # of transactions.
  15. One “button to push” by buyer to address any performance issue with seller.

Currently, the decade-plus employment of the term of “servitization” has primarily been the focus of European Union [EU] based academia and EU OEM Board Of Directors [BOD] suites. In the last 2-3 years, EU-based OEMs have been touting the term in their US-based operations. Also a limited group of US-based academics and management consultants have been discussing the model as well. As of today, few US-based BOD, or investors are familiar with the term, but it is my belief that will be changing in the near term. Note that the terminology employed for the US-based business model may be different than that of the EU-based “servitization”; currently US-based firms employ terms such as “subscription” and “Product-as-a-Service [PaaS]” that encompass many of the elements of “servitization”.

In one perspective, the revenues generated from servitization simply shifts transactional-based revenues to that of the contract. For example, a Preventive Maintenance [PM] task is scheduled every 600 hours employing $1,000 of parts; this will be done either by the maintainer/owner purchasing $1,000 of parts in a transaction or having the parts bundled in the contract’s pricing of the fixed-fee per hour of operation. At this point there is little incentive for the seller to embrace servitization; it appears to be a zero-sum game.

The “magic sauce” of the seller of a servitization offering encompasses 4 major areas.

  1. Higher Profitability
    There is a powerful incentive to reduce costs incurred to deliver an outcome-based fixed-fee solution during the life of the contract
  2. Contracted Recurring Revenues
    The investor community is “excited” about such a recurring revenue business model; they reward the enterprise with highly favorable valuations that can exceed the Price/Earnings [P/E] ratios of their peers by 25%-50%.
  3. “Stickiness” of Relationships
    Engaged in a long-term relationship with buyer, providing opportunities for future renewal and up-selling/cross-selling revenue opportunities.
  4. Optimized Performance of Machine Models; Customer Success
    In order to meet outcome performance assurances, the seller will provide the buyer with continuous improvements in the capabilities, employability and deliverability of the machine.

Below are some of the factors that may hinder the embracement of servitization by the Commercial Machine community.

  1. The difficulty in changing organizational cultures of actors.
  2. The potential risks of large multi-year losses for seller.
  3. Challenges of sellers in educating the investor community of the new business model on the income statement and balance sheet.

In conclusion, it is not if the “servitization” business model will be embraced by the Commercial Machine community, but when. It will be difficult journey, of 10-25 years, but when early adapters demonstrate the financial and relationship benefits, the rest of the community will follow suit.

Would you like to learn how to effectively implement a “Servitization” business model in your company?  Schedule a FREE Consultation TODAY!

References on Service and Support

Suggestions have been made for me to recommend books on the topic of service and support. Of course there are many written on the subject; however, most of these books tend to be focused on consumer related industries such as hospitality, restaurants, and personal care services which focuses primarily on either services marketing or customer service, not both.  Furthermore, some do not provide a holistic perspective on how to build, operate, or grow a profitable services business.  

Unfortunately, there are only a handful that deal with service in product related or high-tech manufacturing business.  The two books that come to my mind are Managing Service as  A Strategic Profit Center and Managing High Tech Service Using a CRM Strategy.   Both of these books were written by my late father, Donald F. Blumberg.  Although these were published in 1991 by McGraw Hill and 2003 by CRC Press respectively, the  content is still quite valuable and relevant to today’s high-tech service and support organizations. To those reading this blog, you are probably interested in learning more about recent publications.

Given my interest and experience in all things service related, I began to research and identify books published in the last 3-5 years on the topic of service and support.  What interested me most were those that provided a holistic or strategic perspective on service management as opposed to those that focused solely on one aspect, like customer service.  On top of this interest was to also find publications distributed by the commercial book trade which helped me to learn those publishers who are willing to invest in authors writing on the topic of service and support.   While my research was not exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination, I was surprised to learn there are not many books published on this subject by the commercial trade. My view is that they are clearly missing a large and growing market opportunity.

A description of a few books that match my search criteria are found below:

Made to Serve: How Manufacturers can Compete Through Servitization and Product Service Systems

By Timothy Baines and Howard Lightfoot

Publisher – John Wiley Sons, Apr 9, 2013 – Business & Economics – 272 pages

Made to Serve provides readers with a framework for determining the feasibility of adopting a services-led competitive strategy, along with strategies for designing and implementing the kinds of service offerings customers expect when they purchase technology.

Designing & Managing Industrial Product Service Systems

By Petri Helo, Angappa Gunasekaran and Anna Rymaszewska

Publisher – Springer International Publications, Aug 27, 2016 – Business & Economics – 101 pages

This book analyzes how companies can manage the transition from products to services. Examines the role of marketing and operations strategy, and how actual service delivery takes place. It also considers the pricing decisions that need to be made when moving from a product focused model to a service oriented model.

Profiting from Services and Solutions: What Product-Centric Firms Need to Know

By Valarie A. Zeithaml and Stephen W. Brown Business

Publisher – Expert Press, Aug 15, 2014 – Business & Economics – 132 pages

This book is written for executives in companies that manufacture or sell products.  The authors provide a framework for how a manufacturing company can transition from selling products to services and solutions. 

I do hope you can find the time to read these books and perhaps provide us with your feedback.  If you are interested, we’d be happy to publish a 500 -850 word book review from this blog site.  Also, please feel free to recommend any other books you think your peers in service and support might be interested in reading. 

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