Converting data into services

Converting data into services

Many companies are still looking for the best way to cope with data and to extract value from them. Having a strategic plan to use data as part of your business model is the first step and the best way to guarantee results. By defining and gathering appropriate actions, you can maximise the impact of data on your shareholders or your company’s value creation. Of course, (raw) data on their own do not create value. The goal is to implement an integrated approach of data acquisition (physical and virtual “sensor” data), data storage (metadata), data processing (refined data) and decision making (learning and reasoning), which leads to actionable insights and creates an impact on your products and/or production processes.

Depending on the business model, a company can choose different routes to success, as depicted in the figure below. The most promising and profitable business model is that of the “value-added partner”. Companies with this type of business model are:

  • Helping their customers to focus on their core business;
  • Helping their suppliers to optimise their product/production performance, efficiency and related costs;
  • Providing their suppliers with fleet data (data from products installed at different customers in different locations in different contextual situations), which generates valuable insights into product usage (e.g. speed & torque profiles), impact of contextual situations (e.g. humid, high-temperature or dusty environments) and changes in product behaviour over its lifespan.


We expect that service offers will lead much faster to measurable success. What is needed to capture the corresponding value?

  • By using processed/refined data, you improve your forecasting and decision making, which makes you a value-added partner for customers;
  • By using automation based on domain knowledge, sensors and artificial intelligence, you create context-aware, adaptive, self-organising machines that not only optimise your plant’s performance, but also improve its efficiency and even lower the fault rates of your machinery;
  • By ensuring connectivity both within (internal) and beyond (external) your plant, you ensure that your services are always “on” and continue to be self-learning in an explainable, predictable and robust way;
  • By agreeing on customer access through a cyber-secure connection for bi-directional interaction and co-creation within mutually trusted parties.


Although the latter presents a huge potential for many companies, you must avoid getting lost within the multitude of possibilities offered by many different partners. It is crucial to select the right partner from the start. A partner that offers services that are in line/compatible with your own maturity (data occupation) level and that guarantees gradual improvements focusing on your customers’ needs and the required services. It should also be clear that you need to invest in appropriate personnel for this task. He/she should be able to establish a good dialogue with the selected partner and understand its offer while linking it to your own offer to the market.

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Dirk Torfs, CEO

Dirk Torfs is CEO of Flanders Make since 2014. Dirk is a Civil, Mechanical and Electrical Engineer as well as a Doctor in Applied Sciences (KU Leuven). He has over 20 years of experience in management positions in the Flemish industry and is Professor of Quantitative Decision-Making for the Executive MBA programme of the Flanders Business School.