The industrial metaverse is a term that refers to a virtual world where manufacturing companies can interact, collaborate and even create real products in a virtual environment. This concept represents a major shift in the way manufacturing companies approach their operations, offering new opportunities to improve efficiency, productivity, and competitiveness.
The industrial metaverse is a digital twin of the physical world, where every aspect of a manufacturing plant can be modeled and simulated. The simulation provides a virtual environment where companies can test, optimize, and validate their production processes, reducing the need for expensive physical prototypes and enabling them to identify and resolve problems before they arise.
One of the key benefits of the industrial metaverse is that it allows companies to collaborate in real-time with partners, suppliers, and customers, regardless of their location. This means that teams can work together on product design, production processes, and even maintenance, without the need for physical travel.
Another advantage of the industrial metaverse is that it provides a flexible and scalable platform for innovation. Companies can quickly test new ideas and concepts in a virtual environment, and then roll out successful ideas into the real world with confidence. This is particularly important for companies that are looking to create new products or services, or to explore new markets.
The industrial metaverse also offers a wealth of data and insights that can be used to optimize production processes and improve product quality. With access to real-time data on production processes, companies can identify areas of inefficiency, optimize resource utilization, and reduce waste. This information can also be used to improve product quality, reduce defects and minimize production downtime.
Despite the many benefits of the industrial metaverse, there are still some challenges that need to be addressed. One of the biggest challenges is ensuring that the virtual world accurately reflects the real world, and that the data used is up-to-date and reliable. There is also a need to ensure that the technology is accessible and user-friendly, so that companies of all sizes can take advantage of its benefits.
The industrial metaverse represents a major step forward in the field of manufacturing, offering new opportunities to improve efficiency, productivity, and competitiveness. As the technology continues to evolve, it is likely that we will see an increasing number of companies adopt this innovative approach to manufacturing, unlocking a new era of growth and innovation.
We have reported in recent month on several initiatives within the automotive industry to harness the industrial metaverse in manufacturing operations including:
The World Economic Forum recently published at Davos ’23 “the idea of an industrial metaverse has attracted a great deal of interest over the last 12 months and that the industrial metaverse describes, in short, a highly immersive and connected virtual and physical reality enabling never-before-seen levels of connectivity and data analytics. While the exact vision and its implementation are still widely discussed and uncertain, it is clear that the technologies underpinning different visions of an industrial metaverse mostly exist already. Key technologies in use include digital twins, internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, cloud and edge-computing, blockchain and extended reality. As well, supportive technology infrastructure are active, such as 5G networks for low-latency data communication and robotic systems.”
The World Economic Forum went on to say “What is less clear is how decision-makers should react to the emergence of an industrial metaverse. However, every company will have to make decisions about the industrial metaverse. To help make these decisions and start a global conversation of decision-makers, we describe a future that may await companies in an industrial metaverse and highlight some of the pitfalls that must be circumnavigated”
An Industrial Metaverse Vision
Work: In the industrial metaverse, digital work opportunities abound. Because physical and digital worlds are tightly interwoven, this allows new opportunities for distributed work, and makes workers more geographically independent from locations. New human-machine interactions proliferate. Tools, robots and machines are operated either autonomously or remotely by skilled operators. Human work and the context in which it takes place are captured by sensors and are fully digitalised, allowing detailed analysis and optimisation of human input requirements. This will reduce work in dangerous and unhealthy contexts while creating new jobs, innovative divisions of labour and higher inclusion of people with different skills. A pitfall to avoid is the inappropriate use of data to meet simplistic metrics or micromanage people and their contributions.
Data and security: Data can be seamlessly shared within organizations and selectively shared with suppliers and customers. Security, privacy, data biases and data-based discrimination may be solved. This allows meta-analyses of data and extensive know-how aggregation and automated AI solutions. Moreover, it enables different data spheres to converge. Key risks that need to be addressed include lack of interoperability and the protection of intellectual property of supplier, customer and employee data.
Competition: The industrial metaverse enables a wide range of complementary services. This enables a rich ecosystem of specialised providers and many new innovative services to be connected to – and used in – the industrial metaverse. Risks to avoid are a highly concentrated landscape in which few players dominate the market, and a new technological divide between companies with access to an industrial metaverse and those without.
Technology and operations: A high degree of digitalisation will allow for easier implementation of solutions, accelerating the adoption of full-scale digital twin factories, supply chains, and related infrastructure operations and management such as transportation, city planning, and energy management. Communication between companies is based on seamless data sharing and increased collaboration within and outside companies. This in turn enables connected factories between different organizations, allowing more sustainable and resilient ways to use manufacturing resources and meet demand changes. A pitfall to avoid is the over-reliance on technology that might not be able to adapt like humans, if disruptions in the supply chain or other low-probability events happen.
Customers: Customer-facing use cases for transparency and customisation increase customer satisfaction and feedback. Widely available, highly realistic product visualisations will enhance the purchasing process and reduce waste and returns. A pitfall to avoid is improper customer data handling and the forced lock-in effect.
“The vision we sketch is decidedly optimistic because it is worth striving for a better future. To realize a positive future in the industrial metaverse, companies will have to make their own decisions that fit with their culture and strategy. This will require new thinking from decision-makers in industry, government, and society to actively shape how an industrial metaverse will evolve and be governed to ensure it progresses for the benefit of industry and society at large.”