Digital transformation has hardly been a smooth ride for most organizations. Legacy technologies can be difficult to sunset so typically remain in place too long. Modernization tends to have been piecemeal. Organizations try to prioritize areas for profitability and various stages of digitization.

Global research from Accenture and PTC has now identified the single biggest factor in digital transformation initiatives that actually exceed ROI expectations. It all comes down to a company’s level of cross-functional integration throughout its product and service lifecycles. Creating and maturing a digital thread across these realms is now seen as a critical component in any digital transformation initiative.

A digital thread can establish a closed loop between digital and physical worlds to generate significant benefits. This approach transforms how products are engineered, manufactured and serviced. It creates simple, universal access to data that weaves in and out of business processes and functions to enable both continuity and accessibility.

The Role of Asset Centricity

Connected assets and the ensuing service data can have a far greater impact on a business than just its ability to repair machines. Additional research found that 84% of organizations see a positive impact on all areas of the business from the utilization of asset data. On average, 33% of businesses see better cash flow decisions in finance departments and also innovation benefits for R&D. Another 34% gained optimized inventories and improvements in the supply chain, while 38% see improved customer insights for sales.

Manufacturers and service providers of high-value, complex equipment require much better visibility to asset data than they’ve had in the past. These insights can drive greater efficiency and improve decision support to maximize revenue. An asset-centric approach to service management means having visibility to the data behind asset performance. These insights provide the necessary intelligence to provide the support, insights, and knowledge to ensure highly complex equipment operates at full capacity.

There is, therefore, a strong argument that any organization that manufactures, manages and services critical assets, such as machines and devices, should reframe their digital transformations through the lens of those assets. An asset-centric approach can unify business functions and support ongoing innovation for stakeholders across operational, commercial and strategic parts of the business. As data is shared across these functions, it enables improved collaboration and innovation, ultimately delivering superior end-to-end customer experiences across the asset life cycle for greater customer value. A truly asset-centric approach can be leveraged to drive enterprise-wide digital transformation initiatives to the next level.

Starting with Service

But how do you get there? The challenge is how to best collect valuable data from multiple sources, through the asset lifecycle. A diverse range of assets, some of which will be legacy machines with variable data formats, can lead to inconsistencies or data trapped in isolation. This results in a lack of intelligence that increases the risk of poor, inaccurate data-driven decision making. On the flip side, if organizations can get this right, it can be a source of transformational intelligence.

Think service first. Asset centricity is achieved when organizations can gather rich layers of asset intelligence and put it into a customer context. This means using multiple data sets to build a picture of a customer, so that decisions can be made quickly, to support field service teams. Add AI-driven methods such as predictive maintenance to further amplify performance. What results is the ability to deliver new products and services that customers actually need and want.

As Eastman Kodak has seen through its drive to be asset-centric, this has meant increased self-service and remote support capabilities. It’s formed the bedrock on which the company is planning to use machine learning to find actionable data and to greater utilize IoT technology to enable predictive maintenance capabilities.

Supply chains can also benefit from access to asset data to better manage material flows, forecast and reduce inventory, improve recall management, and to enable more responsible disposal of end-of-life assets. Service and supply chain teams can coordinate more closely on customer needs to ensure the right supplies are available at the right time, to match real rather than predicted demand.

In short, field service is a great place to start or extend a digital transformation program. To deliver an asset-centric model, with all its data intelligence benefits, service teams have turned old models on their head. They are pioneering change through new Servitization strategies to generate more predictable revenue streams while being increasingly key to customer satisfaction measures.

Closing the Loop

This is an opportunity to turn asset complexity into a measurable benefit, not just for service teams but for the whole organization. As manufacturers, in particular, look to employ powerful new approaches, such as the use of digital twins, this need to understand assets fully and in context, is crucial.

Asset-centricity not only helps service organizations deliver greater value beyond service operations, as a key component of the digital thread, but it also helps to map the connection between the physical reality of field equipment and the digital world of product design. This creates new opportunities and feedback loops that can expand and accelerate digital transformation across engineering, manufacturing, and service operations.

As a BCG report recently suggested, companies that have successfully built organizational resilience have taken a holistic approach. This starts with gaining access to the data and then understanding it in context. Clearly, being asset-driven and using a digital thread to create a closed loop between digital and physical worlds has wide-reaching benefits. Service is just the tip of the iceberg.

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ABOUT Gordon Benzie

Avatar photoGordon is the director of industry analyst relations & market intelligence at ServiceMax. With a proven track record of translating vision into strategies that ignite growth in revenue and market share, Gordon is helping ServiceMax develop clear, concise, and consistent messaging that establishes competitive advantage, audience engagement, and thought leadership. As a trusted advisor, subject matter expert, and passionate storyteller, Gordon brings an innovative perspective to ServiceMax's product marketing team. Prior to ServiceMax, Gordon was the director of marketing & communications at iBASEt, and director of public and analyst relations at Schneider Electric.