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Rick Gustafson is CFO of field service management company, ServiceMax, a GE Digital company

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2017 is the Year of The Rooster – a male hen renowned for crowing early in the morning, but scientifically proven to crow at just about anything. Rooster people apparently are practical, focussed and resourceful, as well as accurate and precise in their observations. CFOs generally fit the description, and are becoming even more strategic and central to business growth and development, according to EY.

Crowing or not, CFOs are among the first in the C-Suite to recognise the importance of the next phase in industrial efficiency – a move to bring together the technological benefits of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), asset management and field service. In simple terms, it’s applying automation, front line visibility and predictive analytics to IoT in order to monitor, pre-empt and predict how your most important infrastructure or assets are behaving. The result is a proficient, lean and intelligent business, capable of maximising revenue through uptime and availability.

Whilst reactive and preventive maintenance continue to be a key part of any company with a comprehensive maintenance program, more proactive condition-based and predictive strategies are required for your most critical assets. And this is the real sweet spot of IIoT as it lets you target asset uptime and reliability of any machines or equipment that make you money.  For CFOs, the ability to gain an asset-centric view means they can maximise the reliability and availability of their industrial assets, while minimising operational cost and risk.It also transforms isolated, ‘dumb data’ by giving it context – making it valuable and actionable for informed decisions.

At the centre of course is the cloud. This ability to build products and services to solve specific problems within a business knowing that they won’t have to work in isolation is empowering. The data flowing across an organisation’s sometimes disparate units can now have huge value if that data can be analysed and organisations act upon it. An example of this is in GE’s Industrial Internet report which reveals how data sharing with people and machines can positively impact a business.

Turning physical assets into a competitive advantage is at the heart of this. If companies can create an information and data loop that accurately links manufacturing, logistics, sales, marketing and field support then they are on their way to taking crucial costs out of inventory. An intelligent data layer that provides R&D with common problems to solve, that improves frontline efficiency through accurate product and part delivery, that enables a business to know at any point in time where its products and parts are, where problems are being solved, where people are being used best, where bottlenecks are eliminated across the entire organisation will not only save money, it will become an industry leader.

Industry has always preached the importance of efficiency and theorised its way through problems. But only now can it truly realise the vision. With field service engineers, armed with mobile devices feeding back data on key issues from the frontline, the circle is completed. Data flowing across all aspects of a business can now propel industry forward.

It’s a brave new world where costs from asset management through to manufacturing and even people can be measured and forecast. With an intelligent finger on the connected pulse of business, it’s certainly giving CFOs something to crow about.

“Original publication in Finance Digest Issue 1
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