Lean Digital Thread: The Manufacturing Metaverse

If you follow technology news, you’re aware of the buzz about the metaverse. Even if you do not follow technology news, you have likely heard that Facebook has rebranded itself as “Meta” to align with its focus on the metaverse, and you may be wondering what the metaverse is all about and how it applies to manufacturing.

Why is there a metaverse?

In recent years, many interactions have moved online. The limitations on physical interaction during the COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated the shift to the virtual world for shopping, entertainment, and business collaboration. We have now reached a point where many everyday experiences include a mix of physical and virtual interaction and the boundaries between the physical and virtual worlds are increasingly blurred. 

However, it is not always a seamless transition. If you have ever been on a Zoom call and heard someone say, “We can see you talking, but you’re on mute,” then you know what I mean. Today’s virtual worlds are not always connected and are not quite immersive.

What is the metaverse?

The metaverse is envisioned as the next-generation internet platform where a virtual, simulated environment is linked to the physical environment, enabling meaningful interactions that bridge and synchronize between the two worlds. In manufacturing speak, think of the metaverse as the digital twin of the entire physical world. Pretty straightforward, right?

Not exactly. Since the metaverse is still in a very early stage, there is a lot of hype around the topic that isn’t backed by actual capabilities. New technology, infrastructure, and ways of interacting online need to be developed, and companies are still exploring the markets emerging from this new technology and social paradigm. Imagine that you asked someone about the future of the mobile internet before the iPhone came out—you would likely get a very different answer than you would today. That’s about where we are currently with the metaverse.

Amid the hype, we don’t know exactly what the metaverse will become, but we do know some of the characteristics of an immersive, connected, ubiquitous virtual world:

  • Mixed reality experience: The virtual world can be accessed through various devices. Virtual reality and augmented reality are emerging technologies that can provide new ways of merging the physical and virtual environment, but web browsers, tablets, and televisions can connect you to the digital realm as well. With ubiquity in mind, metaverse applications will provide different ways to experience the virtual environment using various platforms.

  • Digital twin importance: The metaverse aims to be a parallel reality to the physical world. To accomplish this, every object in the environment must have a persistent digital copy in the virtual world. This digital twin is synchronized with the state of the physical object and rendered in the virtual world, available for simulation and optimization.

  • IoT data: To maintain connectivity with the physical world, the metaverse needs a constant stream of information about the status of the real world. IoT devices will monitor the state of the physical world and provide the metaverse with the detail necessary to maintain the virtual digital twin environment. 

How does this impact manufacturing?

Manufacturing is one of the more compelling use cases for the metaverse. Beyond the new commercial opportunities in marketing and service offerings, there are a few key industrial opportunities that use the metaverse to optimize the manufacturing process.

Factory visualization
With a parallel world existing in the metaverse, the entire layout of the factory can be virtualized. The status and location of each machine, product, person, and tool are kept up to date with a continuous feed from IoT devices tracking every object in the physical world. The interactions between every object in the environment can be investigated remotely through mixed-reality devices. Virtual walkthroughs can be performed to identify problems or waste in the manufacturing line.

Figure 1: Data and objects are persistent across different devices including augmented reality and virtual reality.

One key capability of the metaverse will be the simulation of objects in the environment. With a detailed model of the interactions between objects and a stream of data from IoT, the metaverse provides a platform to simulate how things will work together. The impact of changes in equipment, materials, or human behaviors can be evaluated virtually before any changes occur in the physical world.

The metaverse provides the perfect collaboration environment, supporting capabilities like planning, training, and remote assistance. Products, services, and manufacturing lines can be tested and debugged remotely between cross-functional teams including engineering, operations, and possibly the end-user of the product being manufactured.

What’s next for manufacturers?

The next five to 10 years should usher in numerous technology changes related to how manufacturers and product owners use and consume services offered by the metaverse. It will be important to remain aligned with the technological advancements without getting caught up in the hype. Likewise, it will be crucial to identify suppliers that can span the breadth of technology in order to cultivate a solid ecosystem of partners.

Zac Elliott is technical marketing engineer for Siemens Digital Industries Software. 

Additional content from Siemens Digital Industries Software: 




Lean Digital Thread: The Manufacturing Metaverse


If you follow technology news, you’re aware of the buzz about the metaverse. Even if you do not follow technology news, you have likely heard that Facebook has rebranded itself as “Meta” to align with its focus on the metaverse. You may be wondering what the metaverse is all about and how it applies to manufacturing. Zac Elliott of Siemens shares his perspective.

View Story

Lean Digital Thread: Closing the Loop on Manufacturing


Throughout this series of articles, we have looked at the benefits of implementing a digital thread for electronics manufacturing. In this edition, I would like to close the loop (pun very much intended) on the lean digital thread and discuss closed-loop manufacturing. In closed-loop manufacturing (CLM) the systems and business processes used to design, plan, manufacture, and use a product are connected, thus enabling continuous improvement and self-organization of production processes.

View Story

Lean Digital Thread: Keeping an Eye on Quality


So far in this series of articles, we have looked at current trends in the supply chain and the challenges facing manufacturers. In general, the takeaway has been that we must do more with less: We need to be more flexible while simultaneously decreasing labor input, and we need to be more efficient while also managing component shortages.

View Story

Lean Digital Thread: Streamlining the Internal Supply Chain


In response to labor shortages exacerbated by the global pandemic, many manufacturers are leveraging digitalization and automation to reduce labor needs and improve productivity in the factory. This is not exactly a new trend, as many manufacturers have used Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and automated production lines to drive their manufacturing operations for many years. However, as new processes are automated and existing automated lines are connected to the full factory, there are many pitfalls to avoid and challenges to overcome.

View Story

Lean Digital Thread: Achieving Supply Chain Resilience


The shortage of semiconductor components emerged during a hypergrowth of demand for semiconductor chips. To emphasize the magnitude of the hypergrowth, the global semiconductor market is projected to grow from $452.2 billion in 2021 to $803.1 billion in 2028—almost 78% in just seven years, or an average of 8.5% annually. The combination of this growth in demand and the shortage of semiconductor chips poses a great challenge for the entire electronics industry and for manufacturers, particularly.

View Story


Lean Digital Thread: (Pro)curing the Supply Chain Virus


Turn on the news and you’re likely to see images of something that was never considered newsworthy in the past—shipping containers. In fact, the entire supply chain has suddenly become big news due to the ongoing, severe global backlog that is preventing consumers from getting the goods they need on a timely basis. It’s a true global crisis. Since the supply chain crisis coincided with, and was hugely exacerbated by, the COVID-19 pandemic, many expect that it will be resolved when the pandemic recedes. However, that is not necessarily the case. Some major changes, such as increased demand (especially for electronics) and labor shortages, are likely to continue for many years into the future, becoming the new post-pandemic normal.

View Story

Lean Digital Thread: Why is Everyone Suddenly Interested in Supply Chain?


Prior to the global pandemic, most people didn’t give the supply chain much thought. There was no reason to—consumers had become accustomed to simply clicking on an item on a website, and it would magically arrive on their doorstep the next day. What difference did it make how it got there and where its components were produced as long as everything was running smoothly? That reality has changed drastically in the past year and a half since the onset of the pandemic. Suddenly, it seems like there is a backlog of several months on every item, from cars to washing machines to books; the supply chain has become the headline news in leading publications.

View Story

Lean Digital Thread: AI Wields Powerful Weapon in Counterfeit Components


The world is still very much in the middle of a pandemic that has been altering the global economy in multiple ways. For starters, millions of employees suddenly found themselves needing to have the technical resources to work from home, their children had to start attending elementary school via Zoom, and, as a result, the demand for technology has seen a recent spike to unprecedented levels.

View Story

Lean Digital Thread: Achieving Operational Excellence Is a ‘Must Have’


Are current manufacturing processes no longer suitable for electronics? Newer consumer-buying patterns are pressuring factories to rely on technology to become more dynamic and agile. The latest technologies can be successful in streamlining certain processes, but the whole business process, entrenched in bad habits, merits real change. Here are five of the best positions for change.

View Story


Lean Digital Thread: Micro-Solutions—Solving One Challenge at a Time


As promised, Sagi Reuven jumps back to the manufacturing floor and shares his thoughts on the role of a manufacturing execution system (MES), reporting, and analytics. Reuven describes in more detail the micro-solutions concept and why he thinks it will make a huge impact on achieving productivity excellence.

View Story

Lean Digital Thread: Accelerating Global New Product Introduction


James Dyson once said, “Manufacturing is more than just putting parts together. It’s coming up with ideas, testing principles, and perfecting the engineering, as well as the final assembly.” In this column, Sagi Reuven describes the importance of process engineering or new product introduction (NPI) and how process engineers can make a big difference.

View Story

Lean Digital Thread: DFM Is Now as Easy as Spellcheck


In past columns, Sagi Reuven has written about topics mostly related to the shop floor. In this column, he talks about design for manufacturing (DFM). It is clear to everyone in the Industry 4.0 era that the holy grail is to close the loop between design and manufacturing.

View Story

Lean Digital Thread: Data-Driven Decisions and Micro-Solutions in Manufacturing


In past columns, Sagi Reuven has written about two pillars: (1) data collection and the basic questions you can answer, and (2) material management and its impact. In this column, he discusses the next level—changing the mindset from reporting to analytics and focusing on making small improvements.

View Story

Lean Digital Thread: Driving Productivity Excellence—Lean PCB Manufacturing


During the last few months, thanks to COVID-19, Sagi Reuven felt the supply chain impact on our hardware production for the first time and hence dedicates this column to effective material management.

View Story

Lean Digital Thread: Realizing ROI Starts With Making Smart Data


Sometimes, you think too much about the bits and bytes, and you forget why you started this journey; we’re all caught up in a tornado of marketing buzzwords. In Sagi Reuven's debut column, he shares how initialization has to start by turning data into smart data.

View Story
Copyright © 2022 I-Connect007. All rights reserved.