Industry 4.0: Guide to Smart Manufacturing with Digital Twin Technology

In manufacturing, safety, and consistency are always a top focus. From machinery performance to factory floor workflow, teams are always looking for ways to optimize their manufacturing process and improve efficiency.

The use of digital twin technology offers massive advantages to teams in the manufacturing sector looking to take the performance and safety of their operators to the next level. As photorealistic models of the plant or site, digital twins are a crucial resource that can help streamline the training, asset tracking, and space planning in the manufacturing process. 

In this article, we’ll explore how the versatile functionality of these 3D models is helping teams overcome challenges and drive value in the manufacturing industry. 

What is a digital twin in manufacturing?

Digital twin in manufacturing is a virtual replica of a physical product or space, including warehouse, factory floor layout, machinery, or systems created using real-time data from sensors and IoT devices. They represent digital replicas that give access to the manufacturing facility for training, touring, and planning without safety hazards, disruption risks, or travel.

Digital twins are utilized in manufacturing throughout the entire product lifecycle, from new product design and prototyping to production, operation, and maintenance. These immersive digital representations offer real-time views of manufacturing spaces that facilitate informed decision-making and improve production processes.

Industry 4.0: How digital twins and smart technology are transforming manufacturing

At the dawn of the 19th century, steam power and mechanization led to the first industrial revolution. Two centuries later, we find ourselves in the midst of Industry 4.0 — a digital transformation that integrates digital twin modeling, augmented reality, the Internet of Things (IoT), and machine learning to enhance manufacturing productivity and automation of many key processes.

According to a 2022 survey from tech advisory firm ISG, 69% of respondents from the manufacturing sector say they have smart technology initiatives in place. And nearly two-thirds of respondents say that they’re embracing smart manufacturing in hopes of reducing costs.

With Matterport, teams have access to a visual digital twin that models a physical space at one moment in time. But when integrated with IoT sensors, your digital twins can go to the next level, offering real-time data and powerful insights into your manufacturing operations. Together, these cutting-edge technologies help companies optimize safety and automate manufacturing processes.

5 examples of how digital twins are used in manufacturing

Digital twins are helping the manufacturing industry work faster and smarter. Digital twins can also help optimize factory floor configurations, decrease downtime, and give you a deeper understanding of the physical assets that you manage. Here are the top five examples of digital twin benefits in manufacturing:

  • Immersive, low-risk training

  • Dimensionally accurate space planning

  • Intuitively locating maintenance and repair documentation

  • Global site visits and inspections without travel

  • Welcoming tours and guests virtually

1. New hire training 

  • Challenge: Hiring new operators and getting them trained up for safe, proactive work is a big investment. Training in a classroom can lack the contextual relevance of some safety or skills material, while training on-site at a factory or plant floor can limit opportunities to ask questions or review areas due to active operations and noise. 

  • Solution: Digital twins enable operators to immersively explore and experience their new work environment, without any physical risk or potential disruption to operations. They can navigate the virtual representation and complete linked AR training information while gaining a deeper understanding of the physical environment in which they’ll apply their skills. 

2. Space planning

  • Challenge: As new machinery, workflow changes, and other operational needs shift space use, planning your changes with basic floor plans, schematics, and photos can leave opportunity for error or miscommunication. 

  • Solution: With a dimensionally accurate, photorealistic view of your manufacturing facility, it’s easier than ever to map out the placement of assets, building projects, and compliance with crucial OSHA regulations like smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and AEDs to ensure a safe workplace. Digital twins enable collaboration with links and tags for other users to document and view the information they need to help make decisions. 

3. Maintenance and repairs 

  • Challenge: You never know when a machine is going to break down. An unexpected repair can slow your process down and lead to a loss in revenue. 

  • Solution: Linking asset repair detail, manuals, and other needed documentation directly to each asset in your digital twin makes locating and planning repair swift and intuitive for anyone to locate. Digital twins integrated with IoT-connected devices can offer predictive maintenance insights on top of the physical context — so you can clearly scope and plan repairs.

4. Remote site visits

  • Challenge: In the global footprint of many organizations, knowledge transfer across locations is key. But it can be hard to ensure teams are communicating efficiently and with up-to-date information.

  • Solution: Sending a digital twin of the factory floor to key stakeholders provides alignment across your organization. And instead of costly travel, and carrying around paperwork or photos, decision-makers can simply use their mobile devices to view virtual models of a production line and the full context of the space around it. 

5. Tours and guests

  • Challenge: You want to welcome the folks who are engaged and invested in your operations. However, balancing on-site visits and walkthroughs with the potential distraction, disruption, and risk is important. 

  • Solution: With an immersive 3D digital twin, guests, and service providers can experience the virtual environment on any device, including using VR, without ever actually entering the facility. This creates a true-to-life experience for them, without the need to plan for visitors in the production area. 

Create digital twins to streamline manufacturing processes with Matterport

Teams across the manufacturing sector are turning to Matterport to help them create dimensionally accurate 3D digital twins. Here are a few ways Matterport is helping manufacturing companies transform outcomes:

  • CRB is a versatile facilities management firm that worked with Matterport to create 3D scans of manufacturing spaces. Being able to offer these photorealistic models to clients reduced site visits by one-third and sped up the project planning process by as much as three weeks. 

  • The facilities management consultants at JFC & Associates partnered with Matterport to give their clients photorealistic models of their assets. With greater asset visibility, their clients were able to improve decision-making and situational awareness. 

  • Electronics product manufacturer SEACOMP joined forces with Matterport to scan digital twins of their offices and offer clients virtual walkthroughs. This enhancement effort reduced travel costs by $250,000 per year while also improving the quality of workplace training. 

  • UK-based water utilities firm Northumbrian Water partnered with Matterport to integrate digital scans into their existing building information modeling (BIM) systemThey managed to bring 3D assets into a 2D legacy platform, reducing site visits and enabling more informed asset management

Contact us to learn more about how Matterport’s all-in-one platform can transform your manufacturing space into immersive digital twin models. 

Want to learn more? Discover how teams are already using Matterport to work smarter and faster. And take a tour through the exciting world of digital twins to understand how this immersive digital technology is powering smart manufacturing.

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