“For building owners and factory and facility managers, remote monitoring is important. It’s even better when you can understand the context of what is physically all around the location where an industrial IoT sensor is placed. Is it near a window, a compressor, or any type of machine that could be giving off heat? That context is much more clear and insightful in a digital twin than with a simple 2D dashboard.”
— Alexandre Piedade, Incubation Manager, Siemens
A global manufacturing and technology powerhouse, Siemens develops leading software and systems in addition to vital products as varied as trains, motors, sensors, voltage control equipment, medical imaging devices, and more. To drive continuous innovation and growth, Siemens’ IT organization has an in-house incubator dedicated to unlocking new capabilities for the various business units to help reduce risk, simplify knowledge transfer, and drive productivity.
In recent years, the team has been setting up proofs of concept (POCs) and expanding Siemens’ use of Matterport digital twin technology at business facilities around the world. “We are always on the lookout for novel solutions that can enhance the way we do business,” says Alexandre Piedade, Incubation Manager, Siemens. “In Matterport we saw an opportunity to provide immersive, intuitive experiences that were far superior to photography and an inexpensive alternative to other scanning solutions.”
Driving value across manufacturing operations
In late 2022, the incubation team helped coordinate the capture of approximately 4,000 m² of one of its manufacturing plants in Asia. Some 2,500 m² captured in the digital twin feature the facility’s shop floor and the remaining 1,500 m² document warehouse areas. The high-resolution digital twins enable Siemens personnel to meet virtually with new and existing customers to discuss the company’s manufacturing capabilities in exquisite detail.
With the high-definition imagery in a Matterport digital twin, internal stakeholders and customers can perform thorough review of production and assembly line setups for as long as necessary, without disrupting operations. Tight spaces that might only accommodate a few people in-person can be viewed in unison online. Zooming in on specialized equipment to highlight advanced features requires only the flick of a finger on a mouse. The noise issues of conducting meetings during a production run are eliminated along with the physical safety risks and complexities of welcoming visitors in-person. Management is particularly interested in conducting tours using virtual reality (VR) headsets, mitigating the risk of unauthorized photography of sensitive areas and reducing travel costs and loss of productivity with travel.
Piedade, who is based in Portugal, helped oversee the capture of Siemens’ entire corporate campus in the Alfragide area near Lisbon. Between its nine buildings, including a Siemens Experience Center, in addition to an Experience Center located in Porto, and other satellite offices and manufacturing sites, the incubation team has scanned nearly 30,000 m² of the company’s facilities. Matterport digital twins of some 500 sites have garnered more than 20,000 views to date.
The digital twins of the Lisbon campus and customer Experience Center rocketed to popularity during the pandemic, when it was difficult to gather in large groups for new hire training or for visitor tours by customers, partners, and students. “Even now when we’re onboarding new employees, it’s helpful when they can explore the digital twin at their own pace, then arrive later knowing exactly where to find their work area and key common spaces,” Piedade says.
Industrial IoT Integrations
A digital twin-based tour of the Siemens Experience Center Alfragide highlights the firm’s capabilities with integrating IoT sensors in manufacturing operations. “We’ve made heavy use of the Matterport SDK to integrate real-time IoT data in the context of digital twins,” says Piedade. “For building owners and factory and facility managers, remote monitoring is important. It’s even better when you can understand the context of what is physically all around the location where an industrial IoT sensor is placed. Is it near a window, a compressor, or any type of machine that could be giving off heat? That context is much more clear and insightful in a digital twin than with a simple 2D dashboard.”
The company was also able to optimize spatial configuration planning for new equipment and achieve time savings using Matterport digital twins during a factory relocation in Berlin. The facility’s staff wasn’t sure if some of the equipment was going to fit within the assembly line in the new location. They captured a digital twin of the facility and used the Matterport SDK to import an OBJ file to show the equipment in 3D, virtually staging it in the proposed space.
The measuring tool within the digital twin helped confirm measurements remotely with 99% accuracy, without stakeholders needing to be physically present at the new location to take and re-check time-consuming manual measurements. Siemens stakeholders were instead able to collaborate in online meetings by synchronously viewing the 3D render and exploring design modification scenarios, avoiding equipment clashes and cycles of change orders.
“The team was able to rotate the machinery and tweak the positioning online in the digital twin twin during planning meetings, saving a lot of time and physical effort to get it right earlier in the process thanks to virtual staging,” says Piedade.
When trade shows were canceled during the pandemic, Siemens Energy used Matterport technology to develop a virtual tour of an E-House, a prefabricated substation used as power distribution center. The digital twin of the featured E-House, a 1,700 m² distribution building used by a Siemens Energy customer in Brazil, enabled visitors then and now, to explore everything from the voltage switchgear to the circuit breakers, auxiliary power supplies, and HVAC and fire protection systems - from anyplace, anywhere.
“The immersive, 360 degree viewability of the E-Houses has been very useful for our sales and marketing efforts,” Piedade says. “For a purchase of this magnitude, it’s helpful to enable large numbers of stakeholders to view and get familiar with the product without having to travel for an in-person visit.”
Piedade sees a bright future for continued partnership with Matterport on industrial applications for digital twin technology. “We are seeing growing interest across continents and business areas for leveraging the rich information in digital twins,” says Piedade. “It’s just another way that Siemens helps champion and model use of leading technologies, including integrations into larger systems that our customers will also be interested in for their own operations.”
See the Lisbon Experience Center (image below) digital twin here
Get the full digital twin experience here