The smart factory as a service ecosystem

Insights from our Design Lead Johannes Landstorfer on the crucial role of service design in an industrial setting.
As machines and processes evolve, the role of factories is rapidly changing. Industry 4.0 is forcing companies to re-think current strategies, partnerships and business models for new players and scenarios. But, as we’ve seen in countries like Germany with a strong engineering background, smart manufacturing is not so simple.

To enable the digitization of production processes, the factory needs to be seen as a service ecosystem – looking through service design glasses, we gain a new perspective on production and, instead of cutting people out of industry 4.0., we see shifting roles and new forms of collaboration evolve (including with our robot colleagues).

At the Global Service Design Network Conference in October 2016, our Design Lead Johannes Landstorfer gave a keynote presentation on the role of service design in an industrial setting, giving concrete examples from the German industry of how this method has enabled companies to take the necessary steps towards digital transformation.

Johannes focused on the following 4 key points as reasons for service design in the factory. You can hear the full argument for them in the presentation video below.

1. From machines to platforms.

2. From stealthy algorithms to transparent systems. 

3. From rigid interfaces to a confluence of human and machine.

4. From scheduling to self-organization. 

SDGC16 Johannes Landstorfer, IXDS - The smart Factory as a Service Ecosystem
3 questions with Johannes

Prior to the event, the SDN team spoke with Johannes, asking 3 key questions around service design and their areas of focus. Take a look at what he had to say in the short interview, which was originally published here

1) SDN: Can you explain what service design is? And how your company implements it / uses that field?

Johannes: In the realm of smart manufacturing, service design means taking a user-centered approach to industrial processes, as well as creating a holistic view of processes, machines and the people in-between.

We’ve used service design methods such as blueprints and user research techniques to understand the needs of all stakeholders in industrial manufacturing to improve process and services.

2) SDN:  What do you believe is the greatest opportunity for your company using service design? 

Johannes: Industrial processes are typically multi-stakeholder. There are people from production and logistics – the users. And then on the producer side you have mechanical and software engineers, and all sorts of process experts. They all need to talk to each other and in most cases these disciplines don’t have user-centric expertise. Here lies a great opportunity for our company to use service design; we can bring these diverse disciplines together and add a user-centric view to their skillset.

More and more industrial processes are becoming more digital but also more complex and fast paced. The challenges are not only technical, they are about how to integrate human skills and technical capabilities – in the digital as well as the analogue.

3) SDN: Can you share three tips for implementing service design in their own practice? 


  • Don’t be afraid to go to the factory floor to really understand how people and processes are working.
  • Consider who you are working with. Be bold but also be careful because well-established engineers are usually not familiar with working in an innovative workshop setting
  • Don’t be afraid of complexity, as there will be a lot of it on all levels. Looking at it from a service design perspective already makes a difference. One of the biggest challenges will be reaching a level of understanding that allows you to make design suggestions that make sense in highly elaborated industrial processes.