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S4T - Support Service Solutions: Strategy and Transition


Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and BAE Systems

Project timeframe

January 2008 – December 2009



About the Project

This research studied the continuing transformation of the UK economy towards increasing value generation from product-related services. The EPSRC and BAE Systems-supported S4T programme brought together a multi-disciplined consortium of universities, led by Cambridge University, studied the characteristic needs of future "through life support solutions" for suppliers of complex engineering products and services, and outlined the companies’ transition from existing, product-based manufacturers to support service provider.

Traditional product-related service offerings are based on provision of spare parts and repair services. Increasing complexity and costs, particularly of major engineering systems, has led to customer demand for integrated product availability or performance based models of service provision and increased recognition of the importance of supplier-customer partnering.

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Work Package 1: Organisational Transformation
Researchers found that the previous literature failed to address the complexity of service operations such as the BAE Systems/Ministry of Defence ATTAC contract. For example, S4T identified 38 aspects of complexity that must be managed to provide the RAF with its Tornado aircraft, while previous studies argued as far fewer was sufficient.

Work Package 2: Service Information Strategy
Researchers developed a model for the 12 stages that information must pass through to fulfil a service contract. This simple model enables managers without specific IT experience to specify information requirements, ensure completeness and identify responsibility. Like many production or service activity, the maintenance of complex assets must be broken down into manageable chunks. Researchers developed an "information blueprinting" tool to reconcile product-based and service-based breakdowns.

Work Package 3: Risk and Cost Assessment
Researchers identified seven attributes of a service that the customer and supplier must align for a service to be successful. Alignment does not necessarily mean agreement; supplier and customer may have very different cultures and still achieve success if the cultures are understood and respected.
Risks (such as currency fluctuations) beyond the control of management can have a significant effect on many projects. The long contract lengths (greater than 20 years) and complexity mean that these risks can overwhelm a service. S4T researchers developed a tool to assess an organisation's cost engineering capability and proposed methods to identify uncertainties in cost models.

Work Package 4: Combined Maintenance and Capability Enhancement
Researchers proposed an integrated approach for management of assets such as ships and aircraft. The approach combines knowledge of fleets (e.g. all ships of a class), platforms (e.g. one ship) and systems (e.g. the engines) to recommend maintenance, upgrade or replacement activity. This will enable those responsible for the assets (either user or supplier) to provide the same capability with fewer assets and spares inventories. This draws together the work on prognostic maintenance models, optimising component replacement and multi-level (major and minor services) maintenance activity and a decision support framework for inserting new technology into existing assets.

Work Package 5: Integration and Co-ordination

The so-called Core Integrative Framework (CIF) was established, identifying three value transformations common to all complex engineering service systems. The CIF draws together the S4T research and has helped identify new research challenges in most research areas. It provides the framework for the S4T monograph Complex Engineering Service Systems.

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Research Outputs

KT-Box Tools including the Co-creation Capability Assessment Tool(CCAT) and the Service Transformation Toolkit(STT) being developed by WMG, University of Warwick.



Smith, Laura, Irene CL Ng and Roger Maull, (2012) “The Three Value Cycles of Equipment Based Service,” Production, Planning and Control, forthcoming

Smith, Laura, Roger Maull and Irene C.L. Ng, (2012) “ Servitization and Operations Management: A Service Dominant Logic Approach”, conditionally accepted for International Journal of Operations and Production Management working paper at

Ng, Irene C.L., Glenn Parry, Duncan MacFarlane, Peter Wild and Paul Tasker (Eds) (2011), Complex Engineering Service Systems: Concepts & Research, (ISBN: 978-0-85729-188-2), London: Springer

Guo, Lei and Irene C.L. Ng, (2011) “The co-production of equipment-based services: an interpersonal approach” European Management Journal, Vol. 29, pp43-50

Ng, Irene C.L. and Sai Nudurupati, (2010) “Outcome-Based Service Contracts In the Defence Industry – Mitigating the Challenges,” Journal of Service Management, Vol. 21, No. 5, pp. 656-674

Ng, Irene C.L., Sai Nudurupati and Paul Tasker, (2010) “Value Co-creation in Outcome-based Contracts for Equipment-based Service”, AIM working paper series, WP No 77 - May – 2010

Ng, Irene C.L. (2010) “Value and systems perspectives in combining human and automated services: Commentary on “Seven Challenges to Combining Human and Automated Service””, Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences, 27: 81–84

Ng, Irene C.L., Roger Maull and Nick Yip, (2009) “Outcome-based Contracts as a driver for Systems thinking and Service-Dominant Logic in Service Science: Evidence from the Defence industry”, European Management Journal, Vol. 27, No. 6, pp377-387

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Academic Partners

Cambridge University - Institute for Manufacturing (Lead)
Bath University
Cranfield University
Exeter University
Leeds University
Loughborough University
Nottingham University
Salford University
Queen's University Belfast


Industrial Partner

BAE Systems