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SERMO – Service Modularity

The ASF SERMO “Service Modularity Enabling Innovations, Supply Chain Sustainability and New Service Structures” thematic group studies service modularity in the context of supply chain management. Topics of interest within their research domain include for example service architectures, modules, standards and interfaces, as well as modularity-enabled business models and strategies. A key research challenge is to understand the implications of service modularity on supply chain’s economical and environmental efficiency. This thematic group is a joint effort of Aalto School of Business, Aalto School of Science and Aalto School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Learn more about SERMO in form of posters: SERMO Overview and SERMO Cases.

Our long term target is that Aalto University will be a front line university in this emerging research field of service modularity.


Our long term objectives are to:

1) Strengthen the research area in our research groups and to increase cooperation between them in order to exchange ideas,
2) Support doctoral students in their thesis work,
3) Expand and join research efforts with the aim of publishing in high quality academic journals,
4) Develop both the international, domestic and Aalto-centric knowledge and networking in the area,
5) Strengthen company co-operation.
6) Implement activities aiming to dissemination and cooperation with researchers and businesses.
7) Use the research results and publications of the group in teaching in Aalto Schools.

Research group

The thematic ASF SERMO research group within Aalto University consists of researchers from Aalto University School of Business (Aalto BIZ), Aalto University School of Science (Aalto SCI), and Aalto University School of Art and Design (Aalto ARTS).

  • Assistant professor Anu Bask, Aalto BIZ, Logistics, Leader (anu.bask[at]
  • Doctoral student, Mikael Öhman, Aalto SCI, Coordinator SCI
  • Research Fellow, Dr. Sari Kujala, Aalto ARTS, Coordinator ARTS
  • Dr. Saara Brax, Aalto Aalto BIZ, CKIR
  • Professor Merja Halme, Aalto BIZ. Management science
  • Professor Jan Holmström, Aalto SCI, Department of Industrial Engineering and Management
  • Professor (emeritus) Markku Kallio, Aalto BIZ. Management science
  • Professor Markku Kuula, Aalto BIZ, Logistics
  • Dr. Hilkka Merisalo-Rantanen, Aalto BIZ, Information systems science
  • Dr. Mervi Rajahonka, Aalto BIZ, Logistics
  • Postdoctoral researcher Virpi Roto, Aalto ARTS, Department of Design
  • Senior University Lecturer, Dr. Markku Tinnilä, Aalto BIZ, Logistics
  • Dr. Taija Turunen, Aalto SCI, BIT Research Centre
  • Doctoral Student Max Finne, Aalto SCI, BIT Research Centre
  • Doctoral student Katriina Järvi, Aalto SCI, BIT Research Centre
  • Doctoral Student Mervi Lipponen, Aalto BIZ, Logistics
  • Doctoral student Yiying Wu, Aalto ARTS
  • Doctoral student Haian Xue, Aalto ARTS

Research Professor Marja Toivonen from VTT and Adjunct Professor at Aalto University is the founding member of the ASF SERMO group and she is mentoring professor of the group.

Academic Collaborators

  • Chalmers University of Technology
  • Copenhagen Business School, Denmark.
  • Exeter University, Business School, UK
  • Folkwang University of Arts, Germany
  • Karlstad University, Sweden
  • London Business School, UK
  • Ono Academic College, Israel
  • Oulu University, Finland
  • Tampere University of Technology, Finland
  • Turku School of Economics, University of Turku, Finland
  • Umeå University, Sweden
  • University of Florence, Italy
  • University of Helsinki, Finland
  • University of Jyväskylä, Finland
  • University of Missouri, USA
  • University of Vaasa, Finland
  • University of West of England
  • VTT, Technical Research Centre of Finland

In addition, the members of the SERMO group collaborate with a number of companies.

Founding meeting


ISMO – Integrating Service Management and Operations Perspectives in B2B Services

Duration: June 1st 2009 – May 31st 2012 funded by TEKES (the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation)

Company partners: Fujitsu Services Oy, Luottokunta, Nab Labs Oy.

Objectives: The ISMO research project has two main interest areas: 1) Increase understanding of and develop tools for managing the co-productive resource system in service organizations and operations, and 2) develop a multilevel perspective to managing service operations and processes through studying the linkages between processes, organizational structures, product portfolios and competences. Besides working with the project’s industrial partners to gain in-depth understanding of the selected themes, the project aims to conduct a broad survey in the services management field to map the status of the development of service business operations and management in Finnish firms.

ISO – Innovation Integrated in Service Operations

Duration: 01.10.2007 – 30.09.2010 funded by TEKES (the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation)

Company partners: Pöyry, Pöyry Architects, Ruukki, Rocla, SOK, Tapiola, Outotec, Onninen, Fonecta

Objectives: The project examines and compares innovation activities in three types of services: customer services (retail and insurance sectors), industrial services and knowledge-intensive business services (KIBS). The project examines the topic of service innovation at two levels: at the level of service offerings and at the company level. At the offering level, the project aims to produce new knowledge regarding both innovative outcomes and innovation processes. Case examples from participating companies illustrate what can be the targets of innovations in services and how the innovation processes may proceed. Innovations are studied in a versatile way: the focus is not only on innovations in service products (offerings), but also broader organizational innovations and the opening of new markets are included. As regards innovation processes, the special interest is in situations where an idea is launched rapidly into the markets and developed further hand in hand with the service delivery. In an earlier project of IMI (the KIBSINET project), this kind of innovation process – the process of rapid application – was perceived to be common besides the traditional R&D -type development process. At the company level, the project focuses on the role of strategy in the management of innovativeness – from the viewpoint of both stimulation and control.

ModSeC – Modularity Enabling the Development of New Service Offerings

Duration: October, 2008 – October 2010. Project funded by TEKES

Company partners: Herman Andersson Ltd, Itella Corporation, Nokia Plc, Pöyry Civil Ltd

Objectives: The project is conducted by researchers from the University of Oulu and the Aalto University School of Economics, with collaboration from a number of international researchers at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark, Georgia State University, U.S.A., and the University of Hull, U.K., as well as Lancaster University Management School. The project explores how modular design principles can facilitate the development of innovative solutions in business-to-business services. In ModSeC project the focus of research is on understanding and clarifying the customer´s needs and role in b2b logistics and professional services co-creation, clarifying the service provider´s role in outsourcing relationships, clarifying modular service design and architectures, examining the nature and efficiency of the market structures and organizational solutions for modular service implementation, and describing applicable future business models in modular service business.

KIBSIS - Kibsification of industrial services

Duration: 01.03.2010 – 31.03.2012 funded by TEKES (the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation)

Company partners: Rocla, Halton, Mint of Finland

Objectives: The project KIBSIS examines the on-going new development stage in industrial services: in addition to traditional maintenance of products and processes, manufacturing companies increasingly provide consultancy-type services. As these services resemble knowledge-intensive business services (KIBS), we speak about “kibsification” of industrial services. Typical of this development is that manufacturing companies also keep more traditional services in their total offering. This brings to the fore the issue how to strategically manage the more versatile service portfolio in an efficient and customer-oriented way. In addition, the new development stage brings out questions about organizational structure, customer relationship management and organizational culture transition towards service orientation.


Selected publications

Bask A. H. (2006) ”Preconditions of Successful Supply Chain Relationships – Integrated Processes and Differentiated Services”, Doctoral Dissertation, Acta Universitas Oeconomicae Helsingiensis, Helsinki School of Economics.

Bask, A.H., Juga, J. Laine J. (2006) “Evolution of Services, Relationships and Technologies in Container Transport” in “Third Party Logistics – Finnish and Swedish Experiences” eds. Lauri Ojala and Pia Jämsä, Turku School of Economics and Business Administration,  Series Discussion and Working Papers 3:2006.

Bask, A. (2001) “Relationships among TPL Providers and Members of Supply Chains – A Strategic Perspective.” Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol 16, No. 6, pp. 470-486.

Bask, A. and Juga, J. (2001) “Semi-integrated Supply Chains: Towards the New Era of Supply Chain Management.”  International Journal of Logistics: Research and Applications, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 137-152.

Bask A, Juga J, Lipponen M, Rajahonka M and Tinnilä M (2009) ”Organizational Modularity in Services – Case Logistics Service Networks”, EurOMA 2009 Conference Proceedings, Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg, Sweden.

Bask A., Lipponen M., Rajahonka M. and Tinnilä M. (2010) ”Concept of modularity: Diffusion from manufacturing to service production”, special issue of the Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 355-375.

Bask A, Lipponen M, Rajahonka M and Tinnilä M (2009) ”Modularity in Service Business Models and Processes” Proceedings of the 14th Annual Logistics Research Network Conference (LRN). Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, UK, pp. 786-795.

Bask A, Lipponen M, Rajahonka M and Tinnilä M (2009) ”Modularity in Service Operations: Definitions and Practical Implications”, EurOMA 2009 Conference Proceedings, Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg, Sweden.

Bask A. H., Lipponen, M. and Tinnilä M. (2009) “Revisiting e-Business Logistics.  Lessons Learned Since the Millenium – a Literature Review ”, Proceedings of Annual Conference for the Nordic Logistics Research Network, NOFOMA 2009, Jönköping, Sweden, pp. 32-47.

Bask A. H., Rajahonka, M. and Tinnilä M. (2009) “Searching for Service Modularity – Literature Review of Different Aspects to Modularity”, Proceedings of Annual Conference for the Nordic Logistics Research Network, NOFOMA 2009, Jönköping, Sweden, pp. 48-63. 

Bask A., Tinnilä M. and Rajahonka M. (2010) ”Matching Service Strategies, Business Models and Modular Business Processes“, Business Process Management Journal, Vol. 16, Issue 1, pp. 153-180.

Bask A. H., Tinnilä, M. & Rajahonka, M. (2008) ”Matching Service Strategies and Business Models – Case Logistics Services”, Proceedings of Annual Conference for the Nordic Logistics Research Network, NOFOMA ’08. Publication by the Finnish Logistics Association LOGY, pp 53-70.

Bask A. H., Tinnilä M., and Vepsäläinen A. P.J. (2008) “Factors affecting the logistic roles in distribution of tangible products”, EurOMA 2008 Conference Proceedings, University of Groningen, The Netherlands.

Blomqvist, Marja and Lipponen, Mervi (2009) “Managing supply mode decisions: case offshore sourcing of branded consumer goods”, Proceedings of 21st Annual Conference for the Nordic Logistics Research Network, NOFOMA 2009, Jönköping, Sweden, pp. 95-110.

Brax, S. (2005). A Manufacturer Becoming Service Provider – Challenges and a Paradox. Managing Service Quality 15 (2), pp. 142-155.

Brax, S. (2005). Viewing Knowledge-Intensive Business Service Offerings as Systems. Paper presented at e-Business Research Frontiers conference (eBRF2005), Tampere, Finland, September 26-28, 2005. (Printed proceedings forthcoming, available online at

Brax, S. (2006). The „Kibsification” of Architectural Services – a Case Study. Paper presented in 6th International Conference on Professional Services & Knowledge Management in Poznan 4-5.12.2006.

Brax, S. (2007). Palvelut ja tuottavuus [In Finnish: Services and productivity]. Technology Report 204/2007. Helsinki: Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation.

Brax, S. (2007), ‘Productivity and Service Organizations’, In Ford, R. C., Dickson, D. R., Edvardsson, B., Brown, S. W. & Johnston, R. (Eds.): Proceedings of QUIS10, The 10th International Research Symposium on Service Excellence in Management, Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida, pp. 41-50.

Brax, S. & Jonsson, K. (2009). Developing integrated solution offerings for remote diagnostics: A comparative case study of two manufacturers. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 29 No. 5, pp. 539-560.

Brax, S.A. & Lillrank, P., (2009). Increasing awareness of the co-productive nature of professional services through blueprinting. In R. Alt, K. Fähnrich, & F. Bogdan, eds. Proceedings First International Symposium on Services Science (ISSS’09).  Leipzig, Germany: Logos Verlag, pp. 115-124.

Brax S. and Toivonen M. (2007). Modularization in business service innovations. The 2007 ISPIM Conference ‘Innovation for Growth: The Challenges for East & West’ 17-20 June 2007, Warsaw, Poland.

Forssén, M-K., Heikkonen, M., Hietala, J., Hänninen, O., Kontio, J., Rajala, R., Westerlund, M., Rajala, A., Leminen, S., Möller, K. and Rajahonka, M. (2005). Knowledge-Intensive Service Activities Facilitating Innovation in the Software Industry. Final report of the KISA-SWC Finland Project (Step3). OECD Research Project,

Gylling C., Toivonen M. and Elliott R. (2007): Co-creating strategy: the role of storytelling across a multistage service chain, Conference of British Academy of Management, 11-13 September 2007, Warwick, UK.

Van der Have R. and Toivonen M. (2007): ´The applicability of Schumpeter’s innovation ‘cases’ in the classification of service innovations’, The XVIIth International Conference of RESER, 12 – 15 September 2007, Tampere, Finland.

Van der Have R., Toivonen M. and Tuominen T. (2007): ‘Dimensions of Service Innovation’, the ISMOT 2007 Conference ‘Managing Total Innovation and Open Innovation in the 21st Century’, 1-3 June 2007, Hangzhou, P.R. China.

Järvelä, P., Loikkanen, J., Tinnilä, M. & Tuunainen, V.K. (1999), “Business models for electronic commerce in the travel services”, Information Technology and Tourism, Vol. 2, pp.185-199.

Kivijärvi, H. ja Kuula, M. ja Wallenius, J. (1995) “Operations Research and its Practice in Finland – An update” European Journal of Operational Research, Vol. 87, pp. 435-439.

Kuula Markku (1993) “Multiple Criteria Decision Aid for the Strategic Management of Flexible Manufacturing, HSEBA Publications, Helsinki, 1993.

Kuula Markku (1998) “Solving Intra-Company Conflicts using the RAMONA-Interactive Negotiation Support System”, Group Decision and Negotiation, 7, 1998.

Kuula Markku (1993) “A risk management model for FMS selection decisions”, Computers in Industry, 23, 1993.

Kuula, M. ja Salminen P. (1996) ‘Prospect Theory and Mood’, in The Art and Science of Decision-Making, Honour of Christer Carlsson, 1996.

Kuula, M. and Stam, A. (2008) “A win-win method for multi-party negotiation support in International transactions in operational research: a journal of the International Federation of Operational Research Societies, Pergamon, UK, 2008.

Kuula, M., Stam, A., Leino, S., Ranta J. and Wallenius J. “Workload balancing in the manufacturing environment International Journal of Production Research, 37 Taylor and Francis Ltd, 1999.

Kuula, M. ja Stam, A. ja Ranta, J. (1993) “A Non-linear Multi-criteria Model for Strategic FMS Selection Decisions”, Journal of Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis, 1, 1993.

Lahdelma R., Salminen P. and Kuula M. (2003)  “Testing the efficiency of two pairwise comarison methods in discrete multiple criteria problems” European Journal of Operational Research, 145 Elsevier Science, Amsterdam, 2003.

Lehtinen J., Bask A. H. & Leviäkangas P. (2008) ”Analysis of Business Models for Three-Mode-Intermodal Transport”  Proceedings of Annual Conference for the Nordic Logistics Research Network, NOFOMA ’08. Publication by the Finnish Logistics Association LOGY, pp 375-392.

Lipponen, Mervi and Blomqvist, Marja (2009) ”Offshore sourcing of end products: challenges and management practices”, Proceedings of 16th International Annual EurOMA 2009 Conference, Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg, Sweden.

Malinen, P., Simula, H. (2005) “A conceptual platform for developing local and regional innovation environment”, 6th International CINet Conference: Continuous Innovation – (Ways of) Making Things Happen, Brighton, United Kingdom, 4-6 September 2005. pp. 422-431.

Palmer, J.,  Kallio, J., Saarinen, T., Tinnilä, M., Tuunainen, V., van Heck, E. (2000),   “Online Grocery Shopping Around the World: Examples of Key Business Models”, Communications of AIS (Association for Information Systems) August, Vol. 4,  Article  3 pp. 1-43.

Porkka, P., Vepsäläinen, A.P.J. and Kuula, M. (2003) “Multiperiod Production Planning Carrying over Set-up Time” International Journal of Production Research, 41, Taylor & Francis Ltd, London, 2003.

Ryynänen, T., Malinen, P. (2008) “Using decision point framework to analyse evolutionary steps in industrial service business”, IFKAD 2008, International Forum on Knowledge Asset Dynamics, Matera, Italy, June 26-27, 2008.

Spens, K.M & Bask, A.H. (2002) “ Developing a Framework for Supply Chain Management.” The International Journal of Logistics Management, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 75-88.

Stam, A. ja Kuula, M. ja Cesar, H. (1992) “Transboundary Air Pollution in Europe”, European Journal of Operations Research, 56, 1992.

Teich, J. ja Wallenius, H. ja Kuula, M. ja Zionts, S. (1995) “A Decision Support Approach for Negotiations with an Application to Agricultural Income Policy Negotiations”, European Journal of Operations Research, 81, 1995.

Tinnilä, M. (2010) “A Review of service frameworks analyzing strategic repositioning: the case of bank services”, Accepted to International Journal of Information Systems in the Service Sector, Forthcoming.

Tinnilä, M. (2001) “Service Processes in Electronic Travel Services –A Summary”, Information Technology & Tourism, Vol. 4, pp. 203-214.

Tinnilä, M., and Vepsäläinen, A.  (1995), “A Model for Strategic Repositioning of Service processes”,  International Journal of Service Industry Management , Vol. 6 No. 4, pp. 57-80.

Toivonen M. (2010, in print): ‘Different types of innovation processes in services and their organisational implications’, in Gallouj F. and Djellal F. (eds.): The Handbook of Innovation and Services, Cheltenham and Northampton: Edward Elgar.

Toivonen M. (2008): ‘Industrial innovations in relation to service sectors’, in Jacobson D. and Hirsch-Kreinsen H. (eds.): Low-Technology: Innovation and Development in the Knowledge Economy, Cheltenham and Northampton: Edward Elgar, pp. 160-174.

Toivonen M. (2004): ‘Foresight in services – possibilities and special challenges’, The Service Industries Journal, Vol.24, No. 1, pp.79-98.

Toivonen M. and Smedlund A. (2007): ‘Innovation processes in professional business service firms: their drivers, nature and management challenges’, Haas-Tekes Service Innovation Conference, 26-28 April 2007, University of California, Berkeley.

Toivonen M. and Tuominen T. (2009): ‘Emergence of innovations in services’, The Service Industries Journal, Vol. 29, No. 7, 887-902.

Toivonen M., Tuominen T. and Brax S. (2007): ‘Innovation process interlinked with the process of service delivery – a management challenge in KIBS’, Economies et Sociétés, No. 3/2007, pp. 355-384.

Toivonen M., Tuominen T. and Holopainen M. (2009): ‘Searching Practices for Client Involvement in Service Innovation’, The First International Symposium on Services Science (ISSS’09), 23 – 25 March 2008, Leipzig, Germany.

Valminen K. and Toivonen M. (2009): ‘Productisation of Services: What, Why and How?’ The XVIX International Conference of RESER, 24 – 26 September 2009, Budapest, Hungary.

Valminen K., Toivonen M. 2007.Improving competitiveness and performace through service production? A case study of small KIBS companies participating in a productization project’. The 27th International Conference of RESER, 12-15 September 2007, Tampere, Finland.

Valminen K. 2007. ‘Small KIBS companies on the path of learning productization’.
The 19th Nordic Academy of Management Conference, 9-11 August 2007, Bergen, Norway.

Bask A, Lipponen M, and Tinnilä M (201x). ”E-Commerce Logistics: A Literature Research Review and Topics for Future Research”, International Journal of E-Services and Mobile Applications (IJESMA). Forthcoming.

Bask, A., Merisalo-Rantanen, H., Tinnilä, M. and Lauraeus, T. (2011). ‘Towards e-banking: the evolution of business models in financial services’, International Journal of Electronic Finance, Vol. 5, No. 4, pp. 333–356.

Bask A, Lipponen M, Rajahonka M and Tinnilä M (2011). “Modularity in Logistics Services: A Business Model and Process View”. International Journal of Services and Operations Management (IJSOM), Vol. 10, No. 4, pp. 379–399.

Bask A, Lipponen M, Rajahonka M and Tinnilä M (2011). ”Framework for modularity and customization. A service perspective”, Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Volume 26 Issue 5, pp. 306-319.

Bask A., Lipponen M., Rajahonka M. and Tinnilä M. (2010). ”The Concept of Modularity: Diffusion from Manufacturing to Service Production”, Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 355-375.

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