The Factory of the Future, Today

Every organisation wants to improve efficiency.  In manufacturing, this is particularly true where there is a constant and pressing need to improve Overall Operating Efficiency.

Automated factory floors must run like clockwork

Nowhere is this a higher priority than in the production process, where modern, automated factory floors must run like clockwork, day in, day out and continue to improve year after year.

Because even the tiniest changes in design and layout can have a huge impact on production efficiency, manufacturers need to be able to test and refine improvement measures before they are implemented in real-life.

But how?

This is where visualisation – the ability to view, adjust and simulate a production environment before it is altered or perhaps even built – is coming increasingly to the fore.

The old ways...

Until now, changes to the factory floor layouts and production processes have relied on the ability of leaders to communicate their ideas effectively, perhaps illustrated with two-dimensional designs or even mocked-up layouts in open floor spaces to simulate the to-be designs.

Manufacturing is an increasingly complex environment, with multiple teams, often based in different locations, needing to work in synchronicity.  Sharing 2D plans of sophisticated machinery, processes or production environments is limiting to say the least.

The inevitable lack of detail makes it impossible for all involved to be sure that there is a truly shared, common vision.  This makes it particularly difficult for team members to make full and fruitful contributions.

Inevitably, the hoped-for improvements do not materialise as well as they should when applied to the actual production environment, resulting in lost production, higher rates of error and rework as changes are tried, refined and re-tested in the live environment.

"The very process of testing & refinement in a live environment necessarily risks interruption, downtime and reduced productivity."

The new ways...

Nowadays, innovative manufacturers who embrace visualisation technology are expanding their capability at pace.

We are now seeing visualisation applied to almost any production scenario.  From the physical building environment to the production line and the minutest detail of sophisticated machinery, all can be created and experienced visually before anything is physically built, introduced or changed.

The experiential nature of visualisation means collaborative working is much more effective, with teams able to share their ideas accurately and in real-time and seeing the potential consequences of their decisions more quickly and clearly.

This common visual language significantly reduces the to-ing and fro-ing which hampers so many change management and business transformation programmes.

Production environments can be designed for maximum efficiency from the outset, and existing environments can be continually refined without the need to impact day-to-day operations.

Step inside the factory of the future

Visionary Render from Virtalis is used by some of the world’s leading manufacturers.  It’s an incredibly powerful solution, which brings together the right combination of software, hardware and training to enable manufacturers to be innovative, to design the factory of the future and refine plans before implementing in the real-world.

Its application incorporates anything from products being developed but yet to have a physical presence; production facilities which are not yet built and work cells and production lines not yet installed.

The immersive visualisation of things which only exist conceptually makes all the difference.  Rather than an external view of the physical world, participants are able to step inside the virtual environment, experiencing products and facilities much earlier than they otherwise would.  

This is a major advance for forward-thinking manufacturers who can utilise the technology to fine-tune proposed production equipment and processes within the environment in which it will reside.

Further down the chain, this approach supports optimal performance as managers can carry out assessments to optimise the entire manufacturing facility safely and easily, all without having to leave their office or impact an operational environment.

Working with Siemens

Siemens in Congleton manufacturers industrial drives for applications such as airport conveyor systems, exporting 98% of products to 78 countries.

We have supported the company’s business transformation journey, delivering immersive visualisation solutions.

Visionary Render from Virtalis enables Siemens to use a realistic 1:1 scale virtual model of their evolving new products, manufacturing work cells and their complete production environment, enabling all stakeholders to experience a virtual version of products as the are being developed, or all or part of the current or proposed future production facility.

Visualisation and the cycle of continuous improvement

No manufacturer can stand aloft and admire their beautifully efficient plant for too long, the marketplace will always be hard at heel.

Again, the need to drive continual improvement means investment in technology pays dividends.

While a virtual manufacturing plant allows organisations to optimise operations off-line before implementing them in real-life, a Digital Twin goes one step further.

A Digital Twin enables a production facility to be monitored remotely in real-time through the capture of the wealth of data coming from factory floor equipment.

This complex information is applied to a highly detailed, immersive model incorporating both product and the production plant environment. Rendering this type of Digital Twinning within an immersive environment provides the greatest possible level of context, maximising the value of the information available in the data itself.

This richness of information, which entails ‘experiencing data’ rather than trying to interpret it from a database, leads to much greater understanding of manufacturing performance, facilitating better and faster decisions to optimise production.

"Digital Twinning within an immersive environment provides the greatest possible level of context, maximising the value of the information available in the data itself."

Where next?

While the benefits of immersive visual environments to manufacturing are broad and clear, perhaps the most exciting result from this technology will be the greater scope for organisations to be more visionary – and brave – in their approach.

With no need to invest in physical plant or people to explore new ways of working, the only true limit is the imagination.

Find out more about Visionary Render or get in touch to discuss the potential use of visualisation within your organisation.

The Factory of the Future, Today

This post was certified by Virtalis on Jul 07, 2020 and last updated on Jun 18, 2021

Review: This article is well-researched and provides valuable information.