Getty Images/iStockphoto

6 industrial metaverse use cases for manufacturing

Industrial metaverse use cases for manufacturing include facility design and employee training, though adoption of the technology is still in its early stages. Learn more.

The industrial metaverse can potentially help manufacturing companies improve their facility design, maintenance and training, though adoption of the technology is not yet widespread.

The industrial metaverse (IMV) is made possible by technology such as cloud computing and wearables, like headsets. Employees can use industrial metaverse technology to create a virtual layout of a factory before building it or learn how to use potentially dangerous equipment without risking injury. However, the relative newness of the technology means companies are using the industrial metaverse in isolated areas of their factories, if at all.

What is the industrial metaverse?

The metaverse is a three-dimensional immersive connected environment in which individuals can experience and interact with digital representations of real-world items and scenarios. The industrial metaverse is the metaverse in an industry setting. For example, a person may play a game in the metaverse, but an employee of a car company may use the industrial metaverse to virtually learn how to assemble a car.

Industrial metaverse technologies include cloud computing, AI, data analytics capabilities, the internet of things, edge computing and augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR). All of this technology is integrated to deliver a real-time immersive experience.

"We're simulating real machines, manufacturing facilities, factory buildings [and] transportation systems," said Dutch MacDonald, managing director at BCG X, a tech build and design unit at Boston Consulting Group, located in Boston.

6 industrial metaverse use cases

Those simulations can potentially help manufacturers improve various processes, from building a facility to demonstrating new products to customers.

Learn more about some use cases for the industrial metaverse in manufacturing.

1. Facility design and engineering

Employees working on designing a new building can use the industrial metaverse to create a virtual design of the structure and identify any potential problems before building it. They can do the same when creating new equipment.

"Think about the lead time for designing, building, deploying and activating equipment," said Stephen Laaper, a manufacturing strategy and smart operations leader in the supply chain and network operations practice at Deloitte. "[Carrying out those processes digitally] minimizes late-stage changes and [associated] high costs."

Industrial metaverse technology can also help users make improvements later.

"I can lay out a factory floor and test and learn before building in the real world, and once built, I could use IoT and edge computing to optimize it over time," MacDonald said.

2. Process planning and redesign

Simulations can also help users figure out the best way to carry out a process or improve an existing one. For example, if a supply chain leader wants to speed up an assembly line, they could create a simulation of the assembly line and its equipment to learn why delays are occurring.

Industrial metaverse technology can give users insight into the way equipment operates prior to starting production, Laaper said.

3. Predictive maintenance

The industrial metaverse can help users determine when equipment will require maintenance, taking that ability a step further than previous technology.

While predictive maintenance is possible without the industrial metaverse, IMV technology enables users to view data for not only one machine but for all the processes and systems that are affected by that machine undergoing maintenance, said Ryan Martin, senior research director for industry and manufacturing at ABI Research, a technology intelligence firm located in New York. Having access to that information enables users to make better decisions about maintenance timing.

4. Virtual product R&D, prototyping and testing

Using industrial metaverse technology to design a product and test it can benefit companies in multiple ways.

Using the industrial metaverse for prototyping is faster than creating a product prototype in real life and companies won't need to spend money to make a real prototype, Martin said.

In addition, companies can use IMV technology to enable potential investors or customers to experience their products, even if the organization hasn't created the product yet or it isn't ready for a demo. For example, if a car company is doing a demo with customers using industrial metaverse technology, potential customers can view a product in other sizes or colors.

5. Training

Industrial metaverse technology enables users to undergo training without needing to train on potentially dangerous machinery.

Workers can use the industrial metaverse to learn new skills without affecting facility operations, Laaper said. For example, if workers need to train on a machine, that machine will be out of commission for the training time, potentially delaying operations. In addition, AI can give trainees feedback as they practice.

The industrial metaverse can also give workers reminders about procedures after they've finished training.

In a previous role at the biotechnology company Illumina, David Williamson helped develop a metaverse application that guided employees as they transferred 40 tubes of chemicals into kits for customers. Assembling the kit required specific sequencing, so users wore VR headsets that scanned the kit, then identified the correct tube for each spot.

"While a lot of the metaverse has come up through gaming, industry is where the metaverse will shine," said Williamson, currently CIO at Abzena, a life sciences company located in San Diego.

6. Collaboration and guided work

Companies with multiple locations can use industrial metaverse technology to enable hands-on employee collaboration.

For example, a more experienced worker could use the metaverse to guide a junior employee through a complex operation, Williamson said. Employees at different office locations could use IMV technology to work on digital prototypes together.

Early days for the industrial metaverse

Most companies are still investing in the individual technology components that must combine to create the industrial metaverse.

"It is a journey, and it is super-early," Martin said.

Currently, limited applications for the industrial metaverse are more common than widespread use, he said.

"It's not likely that you'll see an entire factory recreated in a virtual or immersive environment, but you might see the production line," Martin said.

Mary K. Pratt is an award-winning freelance journalist with a focus on covering enterprise IT and cybersecurity management.

Dig Deeper on Supply chain and manufacturing

Data Management
Business Analytics
Content Management