Virtual Factory: a systemic approach to building smart factories

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesis

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Constant evolution in the global manufacturing resulting from various forces like innovation, changing demands, competition, and regulations is forcing manufacturing enterprises towards more digital and smarter operations to stay competitive in their respective markets. This evolution of manufacturing towards digitalisation led to a new paradigm in the last decade, which has been called the “fourth industrial revolution” or “Industry 4.0”. Yet, it is not a trivial matter for manufacturing organisations to deal with the accelerating frequency of radical changes by means of new strategies, methods, and technologies. Evolving dynamic forces have immense impacts on the digital transformation of manufacturing operations as well as the priorities of scholarly works. Nowadays, it is more apparent and easier to comprehend the relation between evolving market dynamics and their reciprocal consequences on products, processes, and manufacturing systems. Accordingly, manufacturing organisations must handle the initiation of change as well as its propagation, which triggers a multitude of unpredictable and complex modifications in production. This challenge is characterised as the concurrent/coordinated evolution of products, processes, and systems, in other words, “co-evolution” in scholarly works.
The Virtual Factory (VF), as “an immersive virtual environment wherein digital twins of all factory entities can be created, related, simulated, manipulated, and communicate with each other in an intelligent way”, enables data integration across the manufacturing value chain as well as the integrated use of technologies and methodologies. Therefore, VF is recognised by scholars as a useful and effective solution to deal with the co-evolution paradigm. However, there are still significant gaps in the knowledge domain as well as empirical challenges in the application domain in terms of designing, developing, and utilising the VF concept. Therefore, the purpose of VF research work is to address such gaps and challenges by designing and developing artefacts and frameworks together with empirical evaluations of designed artefacts in the industrial cases.
The VF research work presented in this thesis is the final outcome of a three-year- long PhD study conducted as part of a comprehensive research collaboration project named Smart Factories. The thesis on hand is the final effort to frame the three-year-long research aiming to establish a systemic design and development approach for DT-based VF, employing a collaborative virtual reality capability that can integrate product, process, and system models to support the manufacturing enterprises for handling co-evolution problems during their adaptation to evolving environments. Thus, with this final effort, this thesis is aiming to:
Establish comprehensive and methodical foundations for the empirical, conceptual, and philosophical discussions supporting the previously discovered and disseminated knowledge on DT-based VF employing a collaborative virtual reality capability that can integrate product, process, and system models.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherAalborg Universitetsforlag
Number of pages304
ISBN (Electronic)978-87-7573-934-9
Publication statusPublished - 2022
SeriesPh.d.-serien for Det Ingeniør- og Naturvidenskabelige Fakultet, Aalborg Universitet

Bibliographical note

PhD supervisor:
Prof. Charles Møller, Aalborg University

Assistant PhD supervisor:
Associate Prof. Arne Bilberg, University of Southern Denmark


  • Virtual Factory
  • Smart Factory
  • Digital Twin
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Virtual Reality


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