Stepping Into the Industrial Metaverse

Manufacturers invest in digital transformation technologies as the foundation for an immersive plant floor experience.

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In social settings, the metaverse environments like Second Life, Meta Horizons (Facebook), and even Fortnite provide an entertaining way of connecting people in a virtual community. In manufacturing, the metaverse is also about connecting people, but it is focused on improving operational efficiencies, building new markets, and unlocking measurable value.

According to a recent report from Deloitte and the Manufacturing Leadership Council (MLC), a division of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the manufacturing industry is expected to be fundamentally transformed by the industrial metaverse.

The report, titled “Exploring the Industrial Metaverse,” was published in September 2023 as the result of an online survey of over 350 senior executives in the US manufacturing industry (not identified by segment). The survey was conducted in May followed by a series of executive interviews in June.

Before diving into the results, it would be helpful to understand how Deloitte and MLC is defining “industrial metaverse.” According to the report: “The industrial metaverse is the convergence of individual technologies that, when used in combination, can create an immersive three-dimensional virtual or virtual/physical industrial environment. As technology evolves, the industrial metaverse will likely allow access to these immersive 3D environments from any internet-connected device, including virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) devices, as well as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and equipment, from anywhere in the world.”

And the timing is right to transport CPGs into this immersive world of next-gen technology. That’s because, as the report notes, manufacturers currently focused on digital transformation are investing in the foundational technologies needed to launch an effective metaverse. These technologies include cloud computing, analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT), digital twins, and 3D modeling.

“The manufacturing industry is positioned to springboard into the industrial metaverse,” said John Coykendall, vice chair of Deloitte LLP and U.S. industrial products and construction leader, in a statement. “The exponential growth of smart manufacturing in recent years has created a strong foundation for implementation and understanding of the value that metaverse-enabling technologies can bring. Companies who innovate with tech-forward strategies, and remain agile and adaptable to implement them, could set themselves apart to unlock future growth and opportunity.” 

Nearly all (92%) surveyed executives said that their company is experimenting with or implementing at least one metaverse-related use case and, on average, they are running more than six. Some of the areas of implementation include real-time monitoring, immersive training, and supply chain management, with the primary benefits being higher throughput, employee attraction and retention, and improved supply chain performance, respectively.

In addition, many of those surveyed (74%) expect industrial metaverse technologies will improve revenue, and 55% expect it will reduce costs. However, there are still some key concerns—namely, cybersecurity.

Risks and rewards

According to the study: cost, talent and interoperability are viewed as key challenges among respondents, while cybersecurity concerns stand out as a top potential risk. Surveyed executives rank barriers to adoption as: implementation cost (51%), lack of talent with the right skills and knowledge (50%), and integration with existing technology platforms and systems (45%). Respondents are most concerned with the cybersecurity risks associated with implementing metaverse-enabling technologies (72%), risks around data protection and IP (55%), brand and reputation risk (49%), and privacy of personal information (37%).

But, the study suggests that manufacturers believe the value of the industrial metaverse will outweigh the risks and represents a paradigm shift that could transform manufacturing in the next five years.

Read the full report here.