Solutions not products: A look back at the Advanced Services Global Forum

Yesterday the Group hosted the Advanced Services Forum for manufacturers at Aston Business School. The forum was an opportunity for senior executives and business leaders interested in advanced services strategies to take a day away from their operational duties and focus on how they might re-design their business around a services business model.

An emergent theme of the day was the importance of providing solutions rather than just selling products, and the executives who took part left with their eyes having been opened to the new possibilities of this way of doing business- as well as some first steps in their plans to start building new business models.

The day started with fascinating talks from two industry practitioners about their experiences of transforming and operating services-led manufacturing companies.

The first speaker was Aston Business School’s Honorary Professor, Des Evans, former CEO of MAN Truck & Bus UK. Des opened his presentation with a reminder of the imperative for manufacturing companies to adapt their business models to the changing world they operate in, capturing this with a definition of insanity, widely attributed to Albert Einstein: ‘Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’.

He gave a frank and enlightening recounting of how MAN Truck & Bus UK grew its revenues from £50m to over £500m- by telling its staff to ‘stop selling trucks and start selling solutions’. Des gave some useful practical tips for managing this level of organisational change, and demonstrated how an advanced services business model helped the company to differentiate itself in a highly competitive market, and build a strong brand reputation.

We heard next from Sunny Vashisht, Order Manager at GE Power, about how the company has organised its teams, repair centres and supply chain to help customers ‘achieve their own business goals’.

Sunny demonstrated how GE creates solutions by understanding customer pain points and challenges around lost revenue and health and safety compliance; a single day of lost power generation costs the customer £1m in lost revenue, and GE prides itself that injuries on sites it operates for customers are a remarkable 873% lower than the industry average.

Advanced Services Forum

This illustration of the importance of understanding the things that really matter to your customer’s operations led into the afternoon session, where Professor Tim Baines and Dr Ali Bigdeli took the participants through a series of hands-on exercises to begin to examine the ‘pains’ and opportunities for ‘gains’ around which to build services business models.

Some very promising examples for a variety of industries were developed, including services offerings around products as diverse as chiropractic massage tables, barcode labels and rice milling equipment. The executives left with an invitation to keep working with the Advanced Services Group to develop and implement their new business models, and start their transformation.

There are a number of ways to work with the Group, including the Advanced Services Partnership, the Made to Serve Executive Education Programme, and organisational development workshops. Email us at if you’d like to know more about any of these.

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