Integrating Virtual to Real – 30-year Vision

The concept is easy but most have not executed the virtual-to-real mirror.

The concept is easy but most have not executed the virtual-to-real mirror.

Do you have any visions from 30 years ago that are still not quite reality? I do. A vision that product and process design data (virtual reality) will connect in a closed loop system with actual data from production, supply chain, and in-field use (physical reality). I think many in manufacturing have this one.

Are we closer? Definitely! Each side has far more complete and integrated software than ever before.

Are most companies to a point where virtual and real are close mirrors? Some but not most.

Are many companies now feeding the relevant analyzed data from production back into design? No. Only a few.

Those few are making amazing strides and have a competitive advantage. In fact, they won’t talk in detail about how they make the information flow from need to design to production to use and back to all of those steps. They have information flowing to create an ever stronger mirror between virtual and real. To help decisions , and to boost the innovation on both sides to be more effective.

Those companies are the exceptions. Even some of the largest companies in industries with very strong use of digital manufacturing and virtual design and simulation capabilities are not yet making use of the rich manufacturing data that’s now available.


There are holes in the technology. Like a broken mirror, they get some fragmented views of the other side. With an incomplete picture they still cannot reliably make good decisions. There are ways to take steps toward greater integration and thus a more complete reflection on each side.

I discuss all of this on a webcast just recently posted on the Dassault DELMIA Apriso website. In this session, I point to ways to find the gaps, explore why they exist and what might be possible if they did not. Then begins the delicate work of threading through the underlying reasons why there are still software gaps.

What are those underlying reasons? Organizational, cultural, process and mindset issues that require new and more effective ways of communicating, collaborating, and working toward shared purpose than most companies or individuals have ever learned.

I’ve been fortunate to have a 30-year career writing about and researching information technology and especially software for manufacturing. I remember the CASA SME Wheel with a common information architecture at the center. I’m delighted the vision still lives, and that we are closer.

I’m also sobered to realize that the main obstacles are no longer technology, but mindsets, culture, organizational “silos” and business processes. The human dimensions lag, and that is not surprising. We have not focused nearly the same amount of innovation energy in that direction.

So here’s to working toward greater software integration between virtual and real worlds. It will require us to use our human capacities more fully. Each of us can work toward that, while the software development and integration companies work the technical issues.

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