Digital transformation and the industrial metaverse

Siemens has sponsored this post. Written by Dale Tutt, Vice President of Industry Strategy, Siemens Digital Industries Software.

(Image: Siemens.)

Across industries, companies are navigating a period of increased pressure, uncertainty and opportunity. The prevalence of smart and connected products in many industries has continued to grow as companies seek to improve functionality and user experience through software and electronics, and an increased interest in sustainable solutions. Meanwhile, challenges related to supply chain management, workforce dynamics and sustainable innovation drive uncertainty while also creating opportunities for companies to gain a competitive advantage through creative solutions. These pressures and challenges — and the opportunities they create — are pushing companies to innovate both in how they operate and in what they offer to the market.

To thrive in the future, it is critical for companies to become more resilient, agile and adaptive to dynamic conditions. This is possible through digital transformation, explored in a series of articles authored by myself and my colleagues from Siemens Digital Industries Software. Thus far we have examined four technologies—the comprehensive digital twin (CDT), software and systems engineering (SSE), information and operational technology (IT/OT) convergence and artificial intelligence (AI)—each of which constitutes a facet of digital transformation.

Mastering and synthesizing these technologies will enable companies to progress on their digital journeys, attaining higher levels of digital transformation maturity and enabling powerful capabilities like AI-powered generative design and closed-loop optimization.

In the final installment of this series, we will dive into the industrial metaverse (IM) and how it may prove to be the most transformational in how companies conduct their business. The IM continues to show potential for reinventing how products are designed, manufactured and maintained. It combines the physical basis of the comprehensive digital twin with the impressive visualizations of the metaverse to create a shared and immersive environment where learning is faster and more intuitive, design concepts are more easily understood, and where new ideas can be investigated quickly and thoroughly to drive innovation for the future.

Why the industrial metaverse is more than CAD in VR

Industrial customers remain interested in the potential of the IM for high-fidelity and real-time visualization of systems in immersive environments. The immersive environments of the IM can help change how products are designed, certainly, but also how they are manufactured and maintained, hopefully making the jobs of people easier throughout a company.

Readers have undoubtedly heard of the metaverse as a consumer product — conceived of as a virtual place that users can go to play games, socialize, engage in commerce and even own virtual property. The industrial metaverse is similar in name only. The IM is a physics-based virtual environment that enables the evaluation, analysis and prediction of behavior based on deterministic models of your product, process, production plant and more. This environment is accessible through several different devices, including but not limited to augmented and virtual reality (VR). It also aggregates and normalizes data from multiple sources to enable a holistic assessment of a system or product all in one environment.

The result is a virtual environment, founded in physical reality, that enables fast and intuitive conceptualization, design and detailed engineering of complex products and systems. Instead of assessing system performance based solely on charts, tables or raw data, designs can be visualized and manipulated in full 3D, enabling users to interact with the digital twin. This can help uncover problems that, in the past, were often not discovered until prototypes were built and tested in the real world, leading to schedule delays and increased cost and material usage. Any problems identified in the IM can be resolved quickly through rapid design iteration in the virtual world, saving time, resources and money.

Furthermore, the IM is not a standalone environment, divorced from the day-to-day operations of a company. The IM can ingest data from multiple sources, both real and digital, and orchestrate this data into a single experience for the user. This brings all the information into one view, enabling greater transparency and a deeper understanding of the dynamics of a system design, production process, supply chain or myriad other concerns. As a result, the IM is more than a space for creation, it also enables companies to actively monitor, analyze and manage real-world assets in a closed-loop process to make more informed engineering and business decisions.

Reach the industrial metaverse through digital transformation

To reach its full potential, the IM must become more than a visualized version of the digital twin. On the manufacturing floor, every movement and action must be accounted for in a precise way, demanding real-world physics. Increasing access to cloud computing will support the IM with the necessary computational power to back up immersive visuals with physical simulations, vastly increasing its value in the design and development process.

By applying real-world physics and robust operational data to the IM, we have the potential to create more than a gamification experience. The result can be a shared and immersive environment where learning is faster and more intuitive, design concepts are more easily understood, and where new ideas can be investigated quickly and thoroughly to drive innovation for the future.

Such a powerful environment is the culmination of key technology trends taking shape across industries today. Companies that embrace the digital transformation journey will be positioned to overcome the challenges on the horizon and surge ahead of the competition by leveraging the capabilities of the comprehensive digital twin, software and systems engineering, integrated IT and OT systems, artificial intelligence and ultimately the industrial metaverse.

This article is the final installment of a new five-part series of articles on digital transformation. Read the first four articles to delve into the power of digital transformation and key technology trends driving the future of innovation:

About the author

Dale Tutt is the Vice President of Industry Strategy for Siemens Digital Industries Software, leading the development of digital transformation solutions that address the industry-specific needs of customers. Tutt joined Siemens in 2019 as the Vice President of the Aerospace and Defense Industry. Prior to joining Siemens, Tutt worked at The Spaceship Company, a sister company to Virgin Galactic, as the VP of Engineering and VP of Program Management, leading the development of spaceships for space tourism. He led the team on a successful flight to space in December 2018. Previously, Tutt worked at Textron Aviation/Cessna Aircraft in program and engineering leadership roles. As the Chief Engineer and Program Director of the Scorpion Jet program, he led a dynamic cross-functional team to design, build and fly the Scorpion Jet prototype from concept to first flight in 23 months. Tutt also worked as an engineer at Bombardier Learjet and General Dynamics Space System Division.