The metaverse is heralding a new era of manufacturing and is poised to reshape the world of factory workers.
In the modern marketplace, manufacturing is deemed to be the most complex industry. As the pace of change accelerates, it demands the adoption of highly sophisticated, novel digital technologies.
Right now, the word metaverse is being tossed around like the word internet back in the 1990s. Although it may sound like a hypothetical concept, the metaverse is a souped-up version of augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality.
While metaverse is not a new concept, it is still in a nascent stage of dominating the airwaves. However, as you peel back the layers around the hype of metaverse, you will find that there are some substantial applications of this avant-garde technology that bleeds into the manufacturing industry.
Moreover, the opportunities for metaverse in the industrial sector are still in the balance, but they are coming to the fore. Further, as we move into the third quarter of 2022, we see the metaverse taking on a horde of forms, and it seems that the industrial metaverse is taking a great leap forward.
Brands like Amazon have already begun investing in the industrial metaverse.
Virtual Factory: A Reality or a Digital Imagery Concept?
In this era of digital identities, conventional manufacturing processes are being replaced by new-age techniques. Just like Industry 4.0 (Industrial IoT) represents the future of manufacturing, the metaverse is on the path of unleashing a new era of personalized avatars for the industrial sector.
Now, starting with the nitty-gritty of things – a virtual factory is a real concept, not just a sci-fi fad. It is a factory set up in a virtual environment where users can inspect, interact and immerse themselves in the factorial design on a realistic scale. Simply putting it, virtual factories exhibit a 3D representation of the factory floor, including industrial equipment or machinery.
Entering the industry of manufacturing, the digital factory metaverse opens great potential for production ventures. It enables factory owners to design, develop and test products in a simulated environment. The shape that metaverse factories will take is still unknown, but a panoply of production plants or factories have started making inroads into the industrial metaverse space to drive innovation.
For instance, by opening a virtual plastic screw factory in the metaverse, the South Korean research institute – Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) – has rendered a blueprint for others to follow. They have created a test model as an experiment to monitor manufacturing processes and operate machines in a virtual setup using VR headsets. The beauty of this solution is that it enables operators to apply new settings to the plant without the need to shut the factory off entirely.
Industrial Metaverse: A Virtual World of Infinite Possibilities
Given the right mix of vision and execution, manufacturing companies can scratch the surface of the metaverse and have endless possibilities in the future. Here are some of the applications of industrial metaverse:
1. On-site Remote Training
The whole point of the industrial metaverse is to utilize technology to provide a safe working environment for workers, as safety is a prime concern when dealing with people in a physical factory environment.
Thereby, by working in a real-life replica of a factory plant, a trainee or an inexperienced worker can learn how to use or maintain equipment while staying in a risk-free environment. Hence, considering this, many industrial enterprises have chosen to go with a metaverse and VR-first approach rather than a real-world first approach. This modus operandi allows them to carry out:
- Virtual tours and classroom training for multi-users;
- On-the-job guidance for heavy equipment;
- Self-guided onboarding of the workers;
- Hands-on training in a remote, risk-free environment.
2. Product Assembly
With rapid advancements in digital twin technology, the industrial metaverse has a lot to offer to production teams. A digital twin is nothing but a virtual representation of physical objects, locations, and processes.
The industrial metaverse enables the creation of digital twins of the industrial environment to monitor complex systems in real time and interact with them using AI, IoT, and VR. This allows the assembly team to design, develop, and assemble digital twins of physical products and processes in the virtual assembly lines, including:
- Gathering information on the state and behavior of monitored machines;
- Transporting heavy equipment or systems like conveyor belts;
- Capturing data from the processes in real-time using sensors and actuators;
- Connecting different processes, information streams, and stakeholders.
3. Virtual Sales and Marketing
With imagination being the only limit in the industrial metaverse, marketers are enticed toward the advanced virtual marketing experiences outpacing digital billboards. Right now, brands are focused on two significant aspects – user engagement and visual appeal; and metaverse is a ticket to market their product in a virtual setup.
The right time to adopt the test-and-learn mindset is now. Marketing teams need to think about implementing metaverse marketing strategies and driving value from them. Industrial metaverse offers a wide range of sales and marketing opportunities to field marketing executives, enabling them to:
- Market virtual products alongside physical inventory;
- Open a virtual store to exhibit their products;
- Recreate the fidelity of real-life communication;
- Exchange goods and earn money in a digital environment.
The Big Benefits Going Forward
The industrial metaverse holds the potential to offer a real added value to manufacturers in both the digital and physical realm. From enhancing the safety of workers and robots to improving predictive maintenance, metaverse brings a great deal to the factory floor. Here are some of the advantages of the industrial metaverse:
- More collaborative product development;
- Supply chain transparency;
- Rapid production process;
- Shorten product lifecycle;
- Reduced production margin of error;
- Lower return and churn rates.
Industrial Metaverse: The Road to the Future
The current wave of digital transformation and the emergence of Gen Z have prompted metaverse technology to infiltrate across sectors. Nonetheless, since the rebranding of Facebook to Meta, industrial undertakings are jumping on the bandwagon to own their spot in the modern marketplace. And it seems like the day is not far when manufacturing enterprises will immerse themselves in the world of metaverse with immense possibilities.