MePSS Webtool - Tool (Level 4)

Worksheet W06 - System analysis 1 - Variables'checklist
Table of Contents
1. Objective
2. Putting into Practice
3. Implementation
4. Software, templates and other support
5. Call on Resources
6. Literature, examples and background information

Objective Table of Contents

The objective of this tool is to provide guidance to identify the key variables that influence the current system of the company.

The tool is part of a set of tools called “System Analysis”. System thinking is an innovation-oriented approach generally separate from operating and thinking in every day business issues of companies. It allows a better understanding and common visualization of the current system the company is acting within.

This tool is the first tool of the MEPSS System Analysis toolset. It allows to gain an understanding of the system, using as a starting point the list of variables and indicators. This enables to save time during the workshop in which this system description is prepared. The tool also aims at the internalisation of system thinking among the workshop participants in the fist phase of PSS development.

The objective of this tool is to generate a set of relevant variables that describe the system of the company or a part of it (e.g. a product line). This description will be based upon the different views and experiences of all stakeholders involved in applying the tool.

The application of this tool is essential whenever the system or its boundaries are changing or when new issues or goals or new stakeholders are included.

Putting into Practice Table of Contents

2.1 When and why should this tool be used?

Use of this tool is strongly recommended for the first workshop, involving the main actors willing to carry on the PSS idea development phase.

Within MePSS, this tool is part of the integrating backbone for using the whole methodology. It is useful in the “Strategic analysis” phase in order to increase the number of potential ideas, by enlarging the perspective of the participants.

At the same time applying this tool is also useful whenever you start a changing process in order to generate a common starting point (as the vision the company is related with), that will allow the participants understanding their proposal and basing them upon a common background hypothesis

2.2 Who should use this tool?

This tool should be used during a workshop. The workshop leader should be familiar with this tool and will propose this tool as a moderation instrument in the first stakeholder workshop.

Implementation Table of Contents

3.1 How should this tool be used?

Step 1 – Preparing the workshop

Before the stakeholder workshop, it can be useful that the participants prepare separately their individual perspective by providing the following input:

1. a list which contains the main variables regarded useful for describing the company system

2. identification of the indicators, as factors the company have influence on;

3. identification of the external influences

What is a variable?

A variable can be seen as a little sub-system of the overall system. It will be described by a set of quite similar topics and data – the indicators which determine the way of acting for example in system simulations – and by a clear and relevant title. In all further steps the indicators will be “put in a box” and the users of the tool only deal with the titles of the variables and the relations between them.

Step 2 – Conducting the workshop

During the workshop, the moderator indicates the way in which to use the checklist, to consider variables on the technical, organizational and cultural level for the current system.

Invited participants to the workshop elaborate a common set of variables and indicators essential for describing the company system. This is achieved during a group discussion with a moderator, using the checklist and including the individual preparation done by the participants.

This process is carried out together with the stakeholders involved and it is based on the discussion of the variables. It is based on the analysis/identification of the indicators (factors the company have influence on) and external influences (factors whose behaviour the company will strive to anticipate, (as it cannot influence them)).

The provided checklist contains suggestions of indicators and external influences enabling a focused discussion and a constructive process. The variables suggested in the checklist will be handled in a flexible manner. The group may decide to skip some variables, combine or add others. The use of the checklist as a guideline guarantees that all relevant aspects from a wider system point of view (cultural technological organizational) have been discussed and adapted for the specific application under development.

The essential is that all participants agree on the result and that the resulting list contains approximately 10 – 20 variables.

Table 9: Variables checklist overview

3.2 Result

The tangible result is a set of 10 to 20 relevant variables and a set of indicators for each variable. This represents the (company’s) overall system, as seen by the participants of the workshop.

3.3 Input needed/ data required/ data acquisition process

The tool needs the participant’s view of the system. As it is mainly a process, the relevance of multi-perspective of the participants will allow a deeper understanding and more realistic overview of the system. The quality of the resulting set of variables, in terms of being realistic and accepted, is determined by the variety of different perspectives from the whole value chain that are considered in the description phase.

Software, templates and other support Table of Contents

4.1 Software

No software is needed for using the this tool.

4.2 Templates and other support

Distributing a copy of the checklist to all the participants in the meeting or workshop is relevant, especially if the participants have little expertise in System Analysis.

The variables in detail:

Variable name Output

This variable contains the quantitative economic data about the production, the products and services.

Indicators External influences

• total output, quantity

• market share

• extent of utilization/ capacity

• share of product / product groups

• competitor

• market situation / politics

Table 10: Output

Variable name Energy and resource efficiency

This variable describes the input/output relation of the processes and the product as well as the provided service.

Indicators External influences

• relation of production and service

• quantity and quality of raw materials used

• sources of energy, structure and consumption

• emissions: Waste heat, noise, dust

• waste and poisonous material, waste water

• new technologies, materials

• environmental issues and scandals

Table 11: Energy and resource efficiency

Variable name Production costs

All costs in the company directly related to the product have to be considered under this variable.

Indicators External influences

• raw material costs (inclusive supply)

• capital outlays, capital costs

• logistics -, transport costs

• keeping of stock

• operating cost (maintenance, energy, machines)

• development costs

• marketing -, sales promotion expenses

• service costs

• personnel expenditure

• costs of disposal, refuse dumps, recycling, emission protection

• relation to selling price

• trade barriers

• international wage differences

• currency €/$

• raw material costs

• road pricing


Table 12: Production costs

Variable name Soundness of company

This variable aim at a mapping of data describing the long term economic welfare of the company.

Indicators External influences

• strategic value creation

• efficiency of production, management

• yield capacity, investment strength

• regular situation concerning orders

• appropriate capacity, independence from growth

• state of the art (technology)

• economical collapses

• competition

• economic policy

Table 13: Soundness of company

Variable name Payment employees

This variable indicates the financial participation of employees in the economic success of the company.

Indicators External influences

• wages

• participation, bonus system

• incentives, discounts

• pensions

• holiday allowance, Christmas bonus


• inflation

• employment contracts

• strikes

• industry, branch

Table 14: Payment employees

Variable name Job quality

A second view on the employees and their participation is the quality of the jobs with all its aspects.

Indicators External influences

• direct responsibility

• atmosphere, concerned climate, hierarchies

• creative, diversified and independent work

• safe job

• no overcharge

• aesthetics, ergonomics of working environment

• industrial hygiene (dust, noise)

• little shift work, job rotation, job sharing, flexible working hours

• acceptance of automats

• social contacts during work

• coop. trade union, work council

• cafeteria



Table 14a: Job quality

Variable name Motivation of employees

A central aspect for PSS-development (similar to other innovation processes) is the motivation of the stakeholder within the company. This variable addresses the different aspects of this issue.

Indicators External influences

• identification with the image of the company

• relationship with the products and services provided

• meaning creation, satisfaction

• creativity, scope of action

• small fluctuation, rate of sickness

• personal style of leadership, error tolerance, participation

• bottom up innovations

• success experiences

• readiness for continued education


• management change

• economical collapses

• foreign advertisement

Table 15: Motivation of employees

Variable name Sustainable construction

All technical aspects of a “green product” are summarised under this variable.

Indicators External influences

• repair and recycling oriented engineering

• intelligent production procedures, tools and materials

• cycle economy

• durability, life span of the production facilities

• production logistics

• short routes of transportation for personnel and material

intelligent land use

• operational environmental protection

• minimal waste heat -, exhaust and waste water load due to production

• ecological orientation of technical know how

• new technologies, materials

• changing values

• trends

• legal situation like take back obligation

• new planning and decision procedures

• management changes

• guidelines from head office

Table 16: Sustainable construction

Variable name Trends in technology development

This variable asks for the potentials of using new, modern technologies for the products.

Indicators External influences

• variable drives

• flexible functions

• special machines

• individuality

• patents, innovations

• legislation

• pressure from head office


Table 17: Trends in technology development

Variable name Diversity of skills, products and processes

The variability and flexibility are central aspects for the economic potentials of a company. This variable tries to describe the basic topic diversity aiming at all internal resources.

Indicators External influences

• range of products and services

• versatility of procedures and technologies

• job diversity, rotation

• spectrum of suppliers

• characteristics of the sales markets

• customers requests (processing plants)

Table 18: Diversity of skills, products and processes

Variable name Structure of suppliers, trends

This variable tries to analyse the potentials and the changing processes in the prefabrication.

Indicators External influences

• company internal, externally

• material availability, prices

• “just in time"

• concentration on prefabrication

• world market

Table 19: Structure of suppliers, trends

Variable name Capability of innovation in company

The aspects of innovation processes in the company where listed under this variable.

Indicators External influences

• interest in future oriented products, services, functions

• no product adjustment

• pacesetter image

• creativity of the employees

• system-oriented methods of problem solving

• patent/license - balance

• co-operation with “transverse philosophers”


• competition

• existing patents

• scope of action

Table 20: Capability of innovation in company

Variable name Communication between manufacturer, dealer and supplier

This variable asks for the indicators of good communication and relations in the value chain across the companies borders.

Indicators External influences

• amount, typ and links of organizational levels

• decentralized decision structure vs. international entwinements

• mutual confidence and communication

• appropriate size production facilities

• reasonable transportation logistics

• compatibility problems (soft and hardware)

• transportation problems

• trade barriers

Table 21: Communication between manufacturer, dealer and supplier

Variable name Internal communication

This variable indicates communication, transparency and participation within the company.

Indicators External influences

• transparency of the management policy

• qualification of employees

• objective and expenditure for internal training

• mediating system connections

• information about environmental questions

• research co-operation and international exchange

• laws

• subsidies

Table 22: Internal Communication

Variable name Variability of products

The variability of the products is a relevant aspect of applicability in changing processes like PSS-development.


External influences

• versatility

• modular construction system

• upgradeability

• compatibility problems (product -, generations -)

Table 23: Variability of products

Variable name Function orientation

The orientation on functions rather than on products and their materials is among the core issues of PSS-Development.

Indicators External influences

• effective equipment

• appropriate infrastructure

• flexibility / areas of application

• adjustment to diverging tasks

• customer expectations

Table 24: Function orientation

Variable name Structure of costs

This variable focuses on the costs a product causes during its whole life span. (in relation to the functions provided)

Indicators External influences

• function costs

• initial costs vs. operating costs

• achievement proceeds

• maintenance costs

• cost of insurance

• control / maintenance staff

Table 25: Structure of costs

Variable name Sustainable management

The variable describes whether management activities are oriented on expected future developments rather than on today’s problems.

Indicators External influences

• planning horizon

• long-term planning, crisis precaution, future safety issues

• conversion ability

• function orientation, dependence, realize possible symbioses and synergies

• personnel policy, participation, “demand side management"

• short term reaction (ad hoc adjustments)

• new planning specifications

• decision structures

• guidance changes

• laws (political developments)

Table 26: Sustainable management

Variable name Quality of products

This variable asks for the measurable quality of products from side of service and use.

Indicators External influences

• workmanship / durability

• function fulfillment

• environment-soundness

• reliability

• maintenance costs / intervals

• complaint frequency

• availability of raw materials

• documentation (information) of end consumer

Table 27: Quality of products

Variable name Corporate Design

Among corporate design issues is the appearance of the product. It has to be appropriate for the company, the customer and the new PSS.

Indicators External influences

• aesthetics of the product and the system interactions

• beauty, color, form

• man-machine interface, ergonomics

• solid processing

• image increase

• fulfillment of secondary functions

• packaging


• fashion, trends

• new techniques

• orientation change

Table 28: Corporate Design

ariable name Service / maintenance

This variable analyses the existing service and its infrastructure.

Indicators External influences

• customer comfort

• density of service net

• broad service offer

• accessories offer

• emergency call

• breakdown assistance

• after use service/ product take back

• sale/service partners

Table 29: Service / maintenance

Variable name Transparent information and promotion

Transparency and honesty are central aspects of sustainable solutions. The more transparent a company acts in the present the easier seems the way to a PSS.

Indicators External influences

• transparency

• "new honesty"

• dialogue with the public

• sponsorship for environmental/social issues

• publications and information

• transparent product declaration

• knowledge deficits

• obligatory reaction to competition

• incorrect information (on purpose?)

Table 30: Transparent information and promotion

Variable name Self-confident customers

PSS are not among the mainstream offers on the market so far. It needs many self-confidential customers to decide for a new but “best” solution....

Indicators External influences

• political culture, elections, confidence

• meaning of psychosocial functions

• aesthetics, favor, atmosphere

• economy of the product in use

• critical consumer behavior (price/value)

• demand for environmental friendly products

• possibility of feed back

• new technologies and new materials

• energy crisis/prices

• environmental damage

• political events

• confidence loss

• industrial trends

Table 31: Self-confident customers

Variable name Development of market

This variable analyses the position of the company and its products on the market

Indicators External influences

• market shares / market positions

• market changes

• industry changes

• prognoses

• coincidence

• legal developments (laws)

Table 32: Development of market

Variable name Environmental aspects during use

This variable asks for environmental relevant issues during the use phase.

Indicators External influences

• economical consumption

• maintenance intervals

• emissions

• use of renewable energy and raw materials

• typ of engines


• technical innovations

• control and test procedures

Table 33: Environmental aspects during use

Variable name Individual adaptation possibilities

Does the product offer individual adaptation by matters of design / arrangement / decoration on side of the customers.


External influences

• manufacturing (ready-to-use)

• variability

• additional equipment (selection)

• operating levers of all kinds

• high tech

• offers for individual arrangements

• fashion

• new features

Table 34: Individual adaptation possibilities

Variable name Scope of action for the user

This variable analyses the scope of action from the sight of the customer.

Indicators External influences

• time and motivation to act

• individual interaction possibilities

• individualism

• competition

• possibilities of self-manifestation / distinction

• qualification, culture

Table 35: Scope of action for the user

Variable name Operating costs

This issue summarizes all aspects of operating costs

Indicators External influences

• Consumables

• achievement proceeds customer

• maintenance costs

• transportation costs

• intervals of maintenance

• "partial maintenance"

• information (documentation)

• use intensity

Table 36: Operating costs

ariable name Well-being, security, health

This variable asks for aspects of well-being, security and health relevant during of the product.

Indicators External influences

• Psychological and physical health

• economic security

• independence

• image of the product

• Luxury / status fulfillment

• Stress factors release (density, noise, environmental impacts)

• incidents

• trends

• allergies

Table 37: Well-being, security, health

Variable name Contribution to sustainable solutions in the specific branch

Every company has a certain role in its individual branch. This role influences the success of a new PSS.

Indicators External influences

• Research of new materials and technologies

• offensive promotion of ecological energy and waste disposal facilities

• support from initiatives to industry politics and environmental protection

• social commitment

• example projects, references

• level of organization

• consciousness

• new technologies and materials

• management change

• strikes

• laws

Table 38: Contribution to sustainable solutions in the specific branch

Variable name Development infrastructure

This variable asks for existing infrastructure in the surrounding of the customer and his access to it. The focus lies on B2C solutions.

Indicators External influences

• qualified employees

• supply and disposal mechanism

• new tasks

• reduce useless functions

• supply of raw materials

• energy supply

• communication, internet

• logistics planning

Table 39: Development infrastructure

Variable name Branch development of (business)customer

In case of B2B service systems the branch development of business customers is important

Indicators External influences

• centralization of the branch

• specialization of new enterprises

• outsourcing of non core competences

• environmental awareness

• cost consciousness

• consciousness of efficiency

• demand

• trends

• laws

• press

Table 40: Branch development of (business)customer

Variable name Availability of the product

This variable describes the availability of products/services from a customers point of view.

Indicators External influences

• perception of offer by the customer

• networks

• distances / efforts

• costs

• how much manufacturer/dealers wants to offer the product by themselves

• offer / demand

• prejudices dealer/co-processor

Table 41: Availability of the product

Variable name Applicability of the product

The variable describes the effectiveness of the offer

Indicators External influences

• system perception

• necessary qualification

• dates

• time budget

• education, qualification

Table 42: Applicability of the product

Variable name Positive image of the product

This variable reflects aspects of prestige and status on side of the customers.

Indicators External influences

• self-manifestation with the help of the product

• status symbol

• power, rule, meaning

• promotion, brand image

• luxury -, status fulfillment

• changing values

• quality standards

Table 43: Positive image of the product

Variable name Healthy economic situation

This variable and its indicators reflect the general economic situation from a customers point of view.

Indicators External influences

• stable public household

• strategic value creation

• adaptability, scope of action

• limited corruption

• low inflation rate

• health insurance and social security

• material standard of living, purchasing power

• low tax burden

• changing values

• media

Table 44: Healthy economic situation

Call on Resources Table of Contents

5.1 Personnel and time needed

The tool’s application is relatively easy and requires only few hours to carry out a workshop.

Literature, examples and background information Table of Contents

6.1 Methodological References

Excerpt from different publications of F. Vester ( and R. Wimmer’s experience in case studies (GrAT).