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Decoupling thinking in service operations: a case in healthcare delivery system design

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Biao Yang, Professor Ying YangORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group The notion of decoupling thinking has been well established in the manufacturing operations and supply chain management literature. This paper explores how this decoupling thinking can be applied in service operations and in particular in health care. It first reviews the relevant literature on decoupling fundamentals, the front- and back-office distinction, and new emerging decoupling thinking in service operations. Subsequently, a flow-based framework including content and process is developed for decoupling thinking in service operations. The framework provides an integrated perspective on customer contact, flow driver and flow differentiation (level of customisation). The framework hence, through flow differentiation, introduces the concept of standardisation versus customisation in a service context. This is followed by a health care case example to illustrate how the framework can be applied. The managerial implications are primarily in terms of a modularised approach to system design and management. The framework offers potential for benchmarking with other service systems as well as with manufacturing systems based on the shared foundation in decoupling thinking. Finally, suggestions are provided for further research opportunities derived from this research.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wikner J, Yang B, Yang Y, Williams S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Production Planning and Control

Year: 2017

Volume: 28

Issue: 5

Pages: 387-397

Online publication date: 01/03/2017

Acceptance date: 16/02/2017

Date deposited: 25/02/2017

ISSN (print): 0953-7287

ISSN (electronic): 1366-5871

Publisher: Taylor & Francis


DOI: 10.1080/09537287.2017.1298869


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