System Design and Management

The MIT Master's Program in Engineering and Management

The Transformation of Service Industries


Richard C. Larson
Mitsui Professor of Engineering Systems and Civil and Environmental Engineering; Director, Center for Engineering Systems Fundamentals, MIT

"Number please." These words were one once heard when picking up the telephone to make a call. Yes, a human telephone operator was involved in making each connection. This snippet from post-WWII history is illustrative of what once was and no longer is in service industries.

Most services that were once labor intensive have replaced human servers with technology and/or with the customer herself performing the service, i.e., "self-service." In this presentation, we review these trends by example and then illustrate some of the decision and modeling technologies that have played key roles in the transformation. This focus has created a new field called "Service Science." We give examples in communication, retail, transportation/logistics, banking and education.

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  • Sloan School of Management
  • School of Engineering
  • Engineering Systems Division

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