Research brief

Traditionally, manufacturing industry has developed and sold hardware-dominated products, e.g. trucks, engines and cars. Today, industry companies have noticed a change. Customers who have until now expressed their needs in relation to the physical artefact, i.e. a technical specification, have begun to express what they expect the physical artefact should bring about in their use of the artefact. A service perspective on product development has grown out of these radical changes concerning market expectations and needs, where customers are increasingly demanding an individualised product and where their primary interest is in functions, rather than hardware.

This shifted view is captured in the concept of Product-Service Systems (or Functional Products, life-cycle offerings, IPSS etc. ), and the development of PSS captured in PSS Development. An integration of the hardware, software and service aspects is the starting point with intention to provide customers with a more encompassing offer, the total offer. Despite the intentions of achieving this integration, it is not yet fully understood how this shifted view will affect the development processes of the physical artefact and the technological progress.

PSS and relation to products and services (Tukker & Tischner, “New Business for Old Europe”, Suspronet, 2004)

The overall objective with the PSS research can then be seen as to examine how physical artefacts and services may be designed and developed to become an element in a total offer, as well as enhance integrated product development to extend towards functional product development.

Services today occur in an aftermarket and are seen as add-ons to the physical artefact. A major part of the profits is made on aftermarket activities, such as maintenance and spare parts. One trigger for PSS, found in an industrial context, is the interest to control the aftermarket activities of the physical artefact. The driving force to control the aftermarket also enables ecological sustainability through remanufacturing and design, with respect to technological advances, as well as to minimise the cost of maintenance and spare parts, since it is at the provider’s own cost. Fundamentally, this evolving view implies extending the life-cycle commitments of product developing companies (i.e. suppliers retain ownership throughout the total life- cycle) and an increased demand to collaborate in global alliances between value chain partners (i.e. the extended enterprise). Extending the life-cycle commitment creates new demands on the hardware development process, which now will have to deal with additional needs and requirements emanating from the aftermarket. Future customers will judge the physical artefact by the functions it provides in a larger perspective, i.e. an optimisation to the customers business as a whole. The PSS concept also entails a promising sustainability focus where a life-cycle view may result in a circular economy thinking.

The Product-Service System Development (PSS) area integrates the strands of hardware development and service development into a development process with a life-cycle perspective that in functional offering business agreements predicts risk, improves the maturity of the decision base and ensures visibility of cost and income.

Differences presently exist between a core product perspective and a service perspective, and highlighting changes in the product development processes that are motivated by the notion of PSS is interesting. Integrating the strands of service development and hardware development into the PSS process with a life- cycle perspective, supported by simulation of not only manufacturing processes and in-service use, but also business processes and services. In addition, a goal of the research within this knowledge area is to advance the knowledge towards a product development methodology where simulation tools are used to actually drive, and not only verify, the design of a product, manufacturing processes, business processes or a service commitment.

Within PSS there exists some strands that are of extra interest for me regarding the research:

  • PSS Development
    • How does the development processes look like?
  • PSS Innovation Engineering
    • What are the innovation drivers behind PSS?
    • What are the value models driving PSS innovation?
  • Digital Engineering
    • How to structure and reapply tacit and explicit knowledge through knowledge based applications?
    • How to simulate effects/designs of PSS before production and delivery?
    • Generative Design approaches to let data PSS design and development?
    • Simulation Driven Design approaches to drive PSS development

With efforts in simulation driven product development, aiming to support product development teams in PSS development, modelling and simulation together with knowledge engineering becomes important parts in the research. Modelling and simulation already in early concept stages becomes even more important when the development of hardware and services meet early on in the development of functions, with life-cycle responsibilities, rather than products to sell, and earn maintenance incomes on.

Knowledge based tools and methods for fast collection of previous engineering knowledge, and then reapply this knowledge to redesign concepts and products in early design phases through reuse of previous design rationale is a core topic for me.

The current, and planned, research projects where I take part in will bring even more attention to the area of PSS development and knowledge engineering. The goal of my research is to continue to build the research group in PSS to become an internationally leading research group known for values of high quality in research and collaboration. Follow the research work on Product Development Research Lab @ Blekinge Institute of Technology.