Student and Graduate Publishing

Service Science at WMG, University of Warwick

Thursday, 28 May 2015 10:34

We spoke to Mairi Macintyre, course leader for (and teaching staff on) the MSc in Service Management and Design at Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), about the MSc and the need and emergence of service science within industry.

Q: Tell us about Warwick Manufacturing Group?

A: It was founded in 1980 and is one of a kind. The overall ethos is to bring education, business and research together. Since being established, the department has gone from strength to strength and is now an academic department employing over 500 people at Warwick with collaborative teaching centres around the world. 

The department is an international role model for how universities and business can successfully work together, and works with hundreds of industry partners such as Rolls Royce, IBM and BAE Systems. Essentially, it is a university department with huge reach and significance. It is concerned with three overlapping areas; research, education and knowledge transfer. We have a flexible approach to all three and work with large companies to produce outcomes, within the field of engineering, business and service.

Q: The institution made a commitment to reinvigorate UK manufacturing. Do you think this has been achieved over the last 30+ years?

A: We have maintained this commitment throughout and yes, we are proud of our achievements and successes in support of UK manufacturing. WMG provides extensive support to SME enterprises in the West Midlands and local industry, as well as global corporations such as Jaguar Land Rover, Airbus, Bosch Ltd, TVS Motor Company, and Siemens to name but a few. 

WMG works with companies to transform and transfer skills and knowledge. When the motor industry declined in this region we helped transfer the capabilities and expertise and supply chain base to enable small companies to survive, diversify and ultimately prosper. The UK automotive industry is now experiencing tremendous growth - WMG enables UK businesses to move with the times thanks to our problem solving and expertise. 

I’ll give you one quick example, our small business team have recently worked with Shropshire brewery Hobsons Brewery & Company Ltd. WMG helped them on an innovative project to track casks and their contents using an NFC (Near Field Communication) solution, a smartphone app and cloud database system. The prototype is now in use and is being tested with 3,000 barrels and the company won an Innovation Award for the concept.

Q: What is Service Science (SS)?

A: Service science is how we analyse success and apply methodology and science to optimise it. We look at repeatable transformations within the business context and codify this to learn models for success and reduction of risk. A major part of this is understanding what customers want, rather than looking at businesses purely from a product and profit perspective. We look at collaborations and how these can better serve customers. 

The result invariably drives the development of new business opportunities, increases the competitiveness of companies and improves the customer relationship. Part of SS is opening up opportunities within the digital space and how this can be scaled up very quickly, which is quite different to traditional ideas of engineering and industry. 

With large and smaller companies these practices adapt and transform with great outcomes. One major example is that of Rolls Royce who now work on an hourly rate business model called ‘power by the hour’. This is about what the customer - namely airlines - wants and results in optimum performance. It’s a very different approach to just selling jet engines and servicing them.

Q: What sort of student is the SMD programme aimed at?

A: The SMD programme is aimed at students from backgrounds as diverse as engineering, science, business, law, marketing, HR, finance and tourism. The common factor is an interest in service and a willingness to challenge existing concepts and models – to go beyond and think from the perspective of customer needs. 

Our steering group, made up of companies such as IBM, British Airways, Rolls Royce and leading Management Consultants for public sector improvements – SA Partners and Alexander, helped design the framework for this MSc programme. With the onus on delivering on customer expectations, the course has been developed to help shape business direction of the future for organisations from many sectors. It’s about engineering outwards and becoming customer orientated. Systemising business design that serves the needs of the customer is an emerging concept which many companies, large and small, want to be a part of.

Q: What benefits will the SMD programme have for students?

A: Students will gain vital experience and the understanding to become leaders or managers of service functions, working closely with industry partners to solve problems. They will be involved in helping to shape the future of industry and the transformation of organisations within the emerging area of service. Students interested in small to medium size companies will gain great insight into how to develop new business opportunities. Some examples of recent jobs that SMD graduates have gone onto include Marketing Manager for Telefonica and Global Procurement Manager at Nestle.

Q: What sort of relationship does WMG hold with the likes of IBM, Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems, and how has this relationship helped to shape the SMD programme?

A: We worked closely with these companies and several other multinationals as well as hundreds of SME’s on a collaborative basis. We help create and develop new processes, products and services that can often lead to major breakthroughs and are of huge benefit to our partners. Many of our partner companies were on the initial steering group for the SMD programme and several industry experts contribute to the content of teaching material and delivery of case studies. 

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