VR Manufacturing Tour

Siemens Congleton

We were recently asked by The Manufacturing Institute to produce their end-to-end virtual reality study tour, centred around a high-profile manufacturing facility. The company, who are a specialist manufacturing support organisation, work with everyone from ambitious SMEs to global brands, delivering training, leadership development and onsite consultancy. 

Prior to contacting us, The Manufacturing Institute had researched the market looking for suitable providers who could offer a fully immersive educational experience, to simulate a lean manufacturing Gemba walk [Gemba: visiting the actual place], as part of an operational excellence study tour. The purpose of this was to accelerate their delegates’ learning experience via direct exposure to new behaviours and practices. This would provide users with new insights into various organisations, to expand their scope of possibility and challenge existing mindsets.

The Manufacturing Institute has forged relationships with organisations over the years and has previously worked closely with Siemens in Cheshire. It was a natural fit to use their production facility in Congleton as the focus of this Virtual Reality tour.

We have been creating VR tours for the past 5 years as part of our immersive learning offer and have demonstrated experience of providing these services to large multinational organisations. The company chose us to create their bespoke tour, due to be included in a wider support package of virtual services being rolled out during the COVID pandemic.

Working with the senior leadership team, including the Managing Director, in such a high-profile organisation during this difficult time, presented shooting schedule challenges. In order for us to build the sections of the virtual tour at Siemens, we needed to capture each leader at specific times of the day in their respective areas. 

We were one of the few companies who were granted access to Siemens following the national lockdown. We conducted as much preparation as possible offsite, but ultimately, we needed to visit the site – in a COVID secure way – to create the required content for their virtual reality tour. 

Having limited access to the site also meant that we could not adhere to a typical workflow, whereby we normally visit a location to map-out hotspots and Points of Interest prior to the day of the visit. We overcame this with additional remote planning and by closely liaising with the site host. 

There were a number of technical challenges that were presented due to the detailed requirement of content. In order to replicate a real factory tour, we needed to ensure the experience was as real and immersive as could be. This meant that we needed to capture live presentations and Q&A sessions from each of the leaders. In turn, we had to ensure our 360-degree cameras only captured the people who we needed to capture, and then superimpose this later into a staged scene.

Using a series of high-performance, stereoscopic cameras and audio equipment, we made our way through the different areas of the manufacturing facility, starting at the reception area and covering all major locations within the plant. Our objective was to mimic the steps of a physical tour.

The user puts on a Virtual Reality headset and is taken through security. From there, they navigate around the manufacturing facility, uncovering audio, video and image-based information hotspots, which tell a story about the history and day-to-day operations of the Congleton site. 

When the user enters a specific place of interest, they are greeted by the representative who has ownership of that area. They are then taken through a presentation relative to what is happening in that location, uncovering gems of manufacturing excellence. 

Once the virtual talk has ended, the user can select from a number of questions to ask the representative, covering topics ranging from lean methodologies, leadership or operational excellence. 

Following this, the user continues to navigate their way through the manufacturing facility, visiting different locations, meeting new people and uncovering more insights.

The goal of our Virtual Reality Manufacturing tour was to solve a problem that existed due to COVID restrictions, resulting in most companies shutting shop to all but a few select visitors. 

However, the VR tour has proven to be much more than just filling a gap. It’s a way to effectively “visit the actual place” in a virtual world and allow unlimited numbers of delegates to experience the operational excellence of Siemens Congleton, as part of The Manufacturing Institute Study Tours. This is a powerful, engaging and practical way for users to develop insights, knowledge and inspiration to cultivate, shape and exploit their own organisation’s manufacturing capability.

We have received fantastic feedback from all stakeholders, with some reporting it to be a better experience than the physical tour, as it gives the feeling that the tour is personal to you, as opposed to standing in a huddle of 15 people all trying to listen to 1 tour guide. 

The VR Manufacturing tour will be distributed on the Oculus Quest 2 headsets to delegates from all around the world, who can now enjoy an amazing experience by virtually visiting Siemens Congleton.