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Upskilling a new generation of workers within the constraints of the new normal depends on cutting-edge solutions such as immersive training; its benefits include plant-specific learning, reduced risks and costs, and faster training times, says Stephen Reynolds, industry principal – chemicals, AVEVA
Over the course of the pandemic, we have seen how connected meetings bring us together in one room. It is now possible to take a virtual class photo, where all participants gather in a room virtually. But the benefits of remote, collaborative software go further than cool backdrops or virtual auditoria. In the new normal, industrial businesses can replicate hands-on training from thousands of miles away.
Immersive training takes the virtual meeting one step further. The technology brings learning to life in an environment this generation understands and embraces.
For businesses with remote or dangerous installations, such as in chemicals or oil and gas, immersive training offers engineers, technicians and other professionals an interactive learning classroom where they can simulate possible scenarios, and gain (virtual) hands-on experience in high-risk situations.
Understanding immersive training
At its core, immersive training uses technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to create engaging, experiential learning in a safe, controlled and virtual environment. Trainees may put on off-the-shelf gaming peripherals such as console controllers and VR headsets like the Oculus Rift to access bespoke training programmes that support learning for both new and experienced staff.
AR and VR training can be used in many different ways. The technologies can offer an introduction to facilities and installations. They can also support safety and performance by reducing the risk of accidents and the need to shut down plants for real-world training. Novice operators can practice high-risk industrial procedures in safe training simulators, and teams can work together to strategise and test new products.
Immersive training minimises project risks, facilitates accelerated training with a lower budgetary outlay and maximises ROI – all while maintaining safe plant operation. And because simulating chemicals processes saves on energy and raw materials, virtual training offers significant sustainability benefits.
Unify the learning experience
While off-the-shelf VR and AR training environments have their place, unifying an organisation’s many systems into a single, secure data hub can help chemical companies unlock the benefits of immersive learning. Such a unified environment reduces the time and effort involved in sharing detailed engineering data and accelerates learning by enabling business-specific outcomes.
Linking up with a company’s digital twin, for example, enables organisations to parachute trainees into immersive, 3D versions of real-world plants. There, they can operate within an environment that mimics the dynamic process behaviour of the plant.
Such bespoke solutions build businesses’ confidence in their staff on several levels. Staff quickly learn their way around plants. They can easily understand the impact of wrong decisions. And they experience how correct safety and reliability improve plant performance without affecting health and productivity.
Consider cloud solutions
The possibilities of immersive training truly come into their own when anchored within cloud-based solutions.
On-premises simulators carry a high upfront capital expense and can only train one batch of employees at a time. By contrast, a subscription-based cloud solution shifts the cost to operating expenses that match training activity and budgets. Furthermore, cloud solutions open up training to a significantly larger group of employees that may be located anywhere – with trainees able to access modules on demand.
Maximise training ROI
By enabling businesses to deliver accelerated training that is sustainable, efficient, and effective, learning based on technologies such as AR and VR helps maximise return on investment (ROI) in plant personnel training. Not only are fewer training installations required, but travel costs are saved with virtual learning.
Similarly, scalable cloud-based systems offer better value for money. AVEVA data shows that immersive learning environments can generate as much as 40% in training time and cost savings.
The latest generation of immersive digital tools are enabling businesses to enhance the efficiency and development of their training programs in an efficient and flexible manner. As a new generation of digital-native employees enters the workforce, future-forward companies would be wise to invest in immersive training now if they want to build attractive workplaces that provide high job satisfaction and enable staff to excel. Better training means better results.
Learn how immersive training is transforming the world’s leading chemicals company here.