Let’s build the Industrial Metaverse together for a more sustainable world

Keynote address by Cedrik Neike, Member of the Managing Board and CEO Digital Industries, from the NVIDIA GTC on 21st of September 2022. You can watch the full recording here.

Digital transformation key to realizing the future vision of “Dream it, Make it…”

Industry is everywhere. Most of what we use in our daily lives was produced by industry: Your laptop or the tablet you used to stream this conference. Your chair. Your morning coffee or evening beer. The vaccines which protect you. The car you drive. Industry accounts for 1/3 of worldwide GDP, it is a driver of economic growth, prosperity, and social development.

 

Industry can be proud of what it's achieved. Manufacturers worldwide have done amazing things in the past years: They ramped up the production of Covid-19 vaccines in less than a year. They built giga-factories to drive e-mobility. They offered better products at lower prices with fewer CO2 emissions.

And we at Siemens are proud to play a part. We're leaders in industrial software and as a tech company 92% of Fortune 500 industrial companies today use our software tools. We say: If you can dream it, we can help you make it.. In addition, we're number one in industrial automation. The world loves IT, but runs on OT – operational technology, which controls machines. And 1 in 3 machines worldwide runs on a Siemens controller.

Industry must become more sustainable

But the environmental scorecard of industry does not look great: Industry is responsible for 20% of global CO2 emissions. And more than a third of global energy consumption. Globally, only 13% of waste is recycled. That's why the efficient use and reuse of materials is essential for industry more than ever to reduce its carbon footprint and make the transition to a circular economy. In order to address the climate crisis, we in industry need to act. Now.

As my favorite philosopher Spiderman likes to say: "With great power comes great responsibility."

So, what can we do to produce more sustainably? The answer: We need to leverage the potential of the Industrial Metaverse. Why? In the past, we wasted huge amounts of resources to build imperfect products by trying it. In the Metaverse very different people can come together. From Bavaria to the Silicon Valley. And they can work together in real time as if they were standing in the very same place, in front of the very same machines. You can have them collaborate and from the beginning and design the perfect product which can also be recycled.

 

You can then take this data and simulate its production in the Metaverse. Then, when we produce, we can have a virtual twin running in parallel helping us make better and faster decisions than in real-life. That’s what we want to do. To do more with less.

Accelerating the digital transformation

But in order to realize the Industrial Metaverse, we need to accelerate the digital transformation of industrial companies worldwide.

 

The only problem is: If we look at industry, most companies are still at the beginning of their digitalization journey. Small- and medium-sized businesses in particular still have a significant transformational path ahead of them.

 

And this is where we as a formerly “boring German industrial company” come in. At Siemens, we've been paving the way towards the Industrial Metaverse for more than a decade. We spent billions to acquire software assets and combine them with our automation assets. By combining the real and digital worlds. By building digital twins. And we are better at it than anyone else in the marketplace.

The Industrial Metaverse is now the major next step – a natural evolution of what we’re already doing.

So let me take you on a journey. Let's start with the Digital Twin of the Product. Let's have a look how it works at one of our automotive customers. When they plan a new e-car these days, they largely work in a virtual environment. They analyze individual parts of the car, like its front end. Does it look neat? Is it aerodynamic? If not, then it is back to the virtual model. And they re-do it, until it works.

 

Using the same data model, they then run simulations to see if all the parts fit nicely together. If they do not work as intended, they go back to the first step and redesign. This virtual fine-tuning assures designers that the parts will work as planned once they exist in the real world. At some point, the complete car has been developed, without physical prototypes – or at least with far fewer models than in the past. This shortens the time-to-market by 50% or more.

It's all about speed and optimization.

The big thing that differentiates us from the competition that we take this digital twin of the product and virtually simulate the production process itself. Instead of throwing the model away – we take the digital model and determine how we can best produce it. That's the second thing we do.

 

In this step, we virtually plan production lines and entire factories based on product features. All this before a single piece of the plant is even built. We simulate and test the product flows. What the different robots need to do. Or where the robots must be placed so they don't collide.

 

By simulating all working conditions for humans, robots, production lines and even entire plants, we make sure that real production will run as intended. The Digital Twin helps us produce faster. It also helps us avoid waste, save energy, and simulate the use of alternative materials. It helps us think and implement resource efficiency across the entire life cycle.

 

So, our digital twins already work great. But in the Industrial Metaverse, we'll be able to do this even better and faster. And for that to happen, we need to accelerate the digital transformation! We need to step it up.

 

How do we do that? By combing the IT world with the OT world. And most companies need help integrating IT and OT.

We need to become more data-driven than ever.

Today, most companies optimize individual elements of their value chain and do this over and over again. They're process-driven. By contrast, digital transformation means you're more data-driven in your decision making optimizing end-to-end system value. You iterate your processes and use data to improve them every time.

 

How do we do that? We integrate data across the entire life cycle of a product. From dreaming about a new product to planning the production to producing it and all the way to even recycling. We call it: Dream it, Make it, Recycle it. Because the vision is to create products for a circular economy, we need to integrate all those parts and make the data flow.

 

But we also need to make the data flow from the actual production or the product itself up to the cloud. All field devices and control units operating on the shop floor are of course producing a lot of data. Now it's all about to make the best use.

 

And vertical integration adds precisely those data analytic capabilities from the IT on the top floor all the way to the OT on the shop floor. As a result, manufacturing companies now have more optimization potential than ever before. If we integrate those two layers, companies can become truly data-driven for better decision making .

 

Why is that important? A single factory can generate over 2,200 terabytes of data in a month. Imagine: That's over half a million movies on Netflix. And Netflix only has around four thousand movies in its movie library. And we can do a lot with these data if we analyze them comprehensively! I like to say: Infinite data can help save finite resources.

Solving real-world problems

Let me illustrate the great impact we’re already having with some concrete examples: We joined forces with the British water company Yorkshire Water to locate and remove blockages in the sewage system which can then result in the pollution of rivers and waterways. 

This is possible with data. Real-time rainfall data as well as data from sensors in the sewage system. An AI system uses the data to predict problems like a network blockage before they happen. Yorkshire Water gets notified where blockages are most likely to happen. So that in the real world, engineers can inspect and resolve issues before pollution incidents occur.

Another example that shows the huge value of data coming from our own Electronics factory in Amberg, Germany, where we annually produce 17 million of our Simatic controllers.. We are our own “Customer Zero” –using our own innovations in our own factories. In Silicon Valley, you call this “Eating your own dogfood.” I’m half French, so I like to say: “We drink our own champagne…!”

In Amberg, we use AI for predictive maintenance, so we can schedule repair before a machine breaks down. And we use data to track the carbon footprint of a product along the entire supply chain. This is highly relevant in order to decrease the CO2 footprint since up to 90% of emissions can come from the supply chain and not from operations.

 

These examples show the significant impact we’re already having. But we can and we must do more! That’s why we recently started a new, close partnership with NVIDIA to enable the Industrial Metaverse. Siemens and NVIDIA bring great strengths to the table which complement each other.

 

Remember that a modern factory produces the equivalent of a half-million Netflix movies in data each month? It’s impossible to get all this data into the cloud. So, we need to analyze the bulk of the data on the shopfloor, on the Edge. We use our Industrial PCs and NVIDIA’s AI capabilities to analyze huge amounts of data. That’s the first thing we do together.

And second: We’re together building a hyper-realistic Industrial Metaverse.

 

We’re combining NVIDIA’s real-time, full-fidelity photorealistic visualization with Siemens’ real-world engineering and physics-based simulations. And this is what it can look like: What you’re seeing here is the simulation of a real-life automotive factory.

Building the Industrial Metaverse

We need to go beyond what we’ve achieved so far. And that’s why we need to build the Industrial Metaverse. And not just us. Only all of us in industry working together can do it.

 

Imagine:

What if we can be even faster than real-time production with the help of AI?

What if we can optimize everything in production: energy, material, waste?

What if all our products were recyclable from the beginning?

What if industry became carbon neutral?

Everywhere.

 

If industrial production could immediately reduce its carbon footprint by only 1%, that would mean around 70 million tons less CO2 per year. We can achieve this goal. Because we know the solution:

 

One: We need to speed up digitalization of industry, our digital twins show how this works.

Two: We need to combine the real and digital worlds more than ever by fusing IT and OT.

And Three: We need to make intelligent use of all the data available and become truly data driven.

 

That’s how we can build the Industrial Metaverse. Which has a great potential for saving our finite resources, to do more with less so that industry can continue to be proud but also more sustainable.