Virtual Reality, a key point for the future of manufacturing

19.10.2017
Virtual Reality, a key point for the future of manufacturing

The Volkswagen Group is adopting Virtual Reality to further optimize its production processes: let's find out the Digital Factory working group and the Digital Reality Hub, which will gather all the Group’s Virtual Reality tools, applications and users on a single platform.

Surrounded by curious onlookers, Dennis Abmeier moves around the room, slowly but surely feeling his way around. Two joysticks, one in each hand, seem to be keeping him stable, and he has an oversized black headset on covering his eyes. Behind Dennis is a wall-mounted screen displaying everything he is seeing through the headset in real time. Dennis, who works in Volkswagen Group IT, is fully immersed in the virtual world of the production hall of the ŠKODA plant in Mladá Boleslav where he has arranged to meet up with Malte Hedemann from Volkswagen Brand Logistics and Mathias Synowski from Group Logistics.

Virtual Reality, a key point for the future of manufacturing

Dennis Abmeier, IT Volkswagen Group specialist

The Digital Factory working group

The three experts are members of the Digital Realities team and the Group Digital Factory working group led by Frank Jelich. “Our aim is to ensure that employees, brands and sites are better networked by deploying the latest innovative developments”, says Jelich. All 12 brands and 120 sites are represented in the working group by various experts. The working group enables its members to exchange ideas and information across all the brands in order to ensure that the Volkswagen Group is always on the right course for the future. “We therefore benefit from close cooperation between the best experts from the entire Group”, says Jelich.

Digital Reality Hub

Dennis Abmeier, Mathias Synowski and Malte Hedemann are demonstrating the exact role that Virtual Reality (VR) will play in the Volkswagen Group’s factory of the future. To do so, they bid farewell to their colleagues in Brunswick and headed (virtually) for Mladá Boleslav, hundreds of kilometers away. Although they are actually in two different rooms, in the virtual world they are standing directly opposite each other and interacting naturally with their surroundings in the form of a so-called “avatar” – a 3D graphical character assigned to each user.   The whole set-up is possible thanks to the new Volkswagen Digital Reality Hub, which will combine and host all existing Group VR applications, participants and tools on one platform in the future. Real locations, for example production and logistics halls, can be recreated 1:1 and used, irrespective of whichever site users are at, for simulating production planning processes, so-called “3P workshops”.

Virtual Reality, a key point for the future of manufacturing

Mathias Synowski (on the left), Logistic of the Group, and Dennis Abmeier, IT Department, immerse themselves in the virtual world of a logistic pavilion at Mladà Boleslav.

The enormous potential of Virtual Reality

The technology is expected to increase efficiency, firstly by enabling users to quickly and inexpensively work out the outcome of optimization measures as part of the 3P workshops and secondly on account of the fact that no physical components are involved. First of all, this saves individuals time and second of all saves the costs that would otherwise be incurred for travel, training materials and machinery. Mathias Synowski, VR user from Group Logistics, adds: “We can take part in workshops at other sites virtually or get support from experts from other brands virtually when implementing optimizations. This makes it much easier to work as a team every day and saves us a lot of time.” After the VR meeting, Dennis and Malte return to the real world to answer questions from journalists and colleagues. And there is no real reason why this kind of exchange could not also be performed through VR in the future. However, no matter how huge the potential of VR is, you still need to meet up in real life to enjoy a cup of coffee together.

Source: Volkswagen AG