In the past, we talked about the benefits of immersive technology for STEM education and e-commerce. Yet there is another area where virtual and augmented realities can be used just as effectively - heavy equipment training for machine operators.
Thanks to the R&D project we've been working on, we learned how virtual reality can enhance traditional heavy equipment training. Through research, testing and interviews with training experts, we now understand what kind of benefits VR can bring to the companies that face the difficult task of preparing machine operators for work.
Take a look at our list of the 8 most crucial benefits immersive tech can add to the heavy equipment training:
1. BOOST MACHINE OPERATORS' SKILLS
Main benefit of heavy equipment training in virtual reality is the opportunity to support machine operators’ professional growth. In most countries, the only legal requirement for heavy equipment operator is to pass the official exam and hold a proper licence. The licence however is not always the best indicator of the operator’s manual skills.
In the environment where even a tiny mistake might prove extremely costly, it's in the best interest of the company to invest in machine operators' manual skill growth. That’s why VR training simulator is such a great solution. Studies show that VR training systems are just as effective as the traditional ones. Furthermore, over 80% of users find the VR training to be the best learning method.
Considering the fact that VR training is cheaper and safer than the traditional one, it is no surprise that more and more companies are investing in training programs based on Virtual Reality.
2. APPLY COMPANY'S INTERNAL STANDARDS & PROCEDURES
A licence to operate heavy equipment indicates that an operator has a certain level of skills to handle one particular machine. However, working in a corporate environment requires a bit more. Every company has its own set of internal standards and procedures, specific to their unique working conditions.
The problem is, those standards and procedures are often taught in an ineffective, theoretical way, often ending up with poor results of such training. However, thanks to VR training, employees can learn about internal standards and procedures in a realistic environment. This spike of engagement level leads to the sharp increase in employees’ comprehension of internal regulations and procedures.
3. DECREASE RISKS TO SAFETY
One of the starkest advantages of VR training over the traditional one is the complete lack of risks to safety. For companies with presence of heavy machinery, safety is usually the highest priority. And it's not only about safety during work - it's just as important to ensure safe environment during training sessions.
It is crucial to not only reduce the number of accidents but also near-misses. A near miss is an incident in which no property was damaged and no personal injury was sustained, but where, given a slight shift in time or position, damage or injury easily could have occurred.
Reducing safety risks requires analysis to identify the defects in the system and processes. That’s another advantage of VR training systems as the training in virtual reality helps to gather data of gaps in operators’ skills.
Eventually, lowering the number of accidents leads to financial gains - not only through the decrease of compensation costs for injured employees, but also by lowering the potential costs of damaged equipment and property.
4. RECREATE HIGH RISK SCENARIOS IN A RISK-FREE ENVIRONMENT
The traditional training for heavy equipment covers standard scenarios and use cases of the machines. Unfortunately - unusual, high-risk scenarios are never covered through these traditional courses. It would be too dangerous to put the operators through such training in real life. That’s why most of those scenarios are covered only through theoretical seminars.
VR training creates a great opportunity to cover all possible scenarios - even the most risky ones. Thanks to virtual reality, it doesn’t matter if the scenario involves gas pipes or risky terrain. Operators can learn how to behave in extreme situations in a completely safe environment. Acquiring such skills can prove crucial when such risky situations happen in real life.
5. SCREEN & ASSESS THE PERFORMANCE OF STAFF WITH EASE
Creating efficient training programs is inseparable from systematic screening of employees’ skills. To effectively train employees, a company needs to analyze what are the gaps in their skill growth.
With VR training simulator, a company can observe and monitor employees’ skill progress in an effective, risk-free environment. The valuable data gathered through this process can help spotting the gaps in their professional development. This can lead to the improvement of the training processes throughout the company.
Screening and assessing staff’s performance in the traditional way is also vulnerable to human factor and bias of the trainers. It's hard to unify and standardize the traditional screening method throughout the whole company, across different branches and different trainers. That’s another advantage of VR training courses. They eliminate human factor and potential bias. The performance of all employees is assessed the same way, with standardized rating system. It’s also a great tool to make these screenings consistent throughout the company, no matter of its size.
6. REALISTIC & ENGAGING HEAVY EQUIPMENT TRAINING
When it comes to occupational safety and health (OSH) training courses, lack of engagement from trainees’ side leads to low levels of apprehension of health and safety regulations. Most of the employees look at these issues as an annoying and unnecessary formality. They don’t pay attention to the content of these courses and they want to go through it as fast as possible.
Part of the problem comes from the form of the traditional OSH training. Most companies deal with this issue by giving their employees lengthy books of rules they need to get familiar with. This form of training obviously creates space for low engagement of the trainees.
VR training is probably the single most effective way to increase engagement and focus of employees on the training material. The nature of VR doesn’t allow its users to do anything else simultaneously. Trainees have to give their full attention to the course, dramatically increasing comprehension levels. Thanks to the realistic and practical nature of VR training, it takes trainees through real life scenarios, which makes the whole training much more interesting and memorable.
7. COST-EFFECTIVE ALTERNATIVE
Traditional machine operators’ training comes with a long list of direct and indirect costs. First group of costs is connected with the machines used during the training process. It’s not only the cost of purchasing the machines, but also the ongoing costs of fuel and maintenance.
The second group of costs is related to the human factor - trainers and trainees. Trainers wages take a huge portion of training program costs. Most of the machines require 1:1 ratio of trainers to trainees, which makes it an extremely labor-consuming process. Additionally, companies lose money on lost productivity of its trainees, as these highly qualified professionals could’ve been doing proper work instead of training new employees. Add costs like the cost of insurance programs and the cost of traditional training raises dramatically.
There’s no ‘free’ alternative to the traditional training. However, virtual training can lower mentioned costs significantly. The costs of simulators and VR programs are nothing compared to the cost of real machines. While traditional training programs usually require 1:1 ratio of trainers to trainees, VR training allows simultaneous training of many employees by just one trainer. Fuel costs are also dramatically cut, as VR simulators only require electricity. Also, all of the smaller costs like costs of potential injuries and accidents are virtually eliminated as VR training is risk-free. Additionally, with VR simulator a company can move its experienced professionals from training positions to the real work.
8. READY-TO-USE SOLUTION
Apart from the cost reduction, higher engagement rates and risk-free environment, VR training process has one particular advantage - it is convenient to apply. Convenience of VR training process can be seen in many ways. First of all, there is a convenience of infrastructure requirements. Training on real machines requires a lot of space, and is often held outdoors which makes it sensitive to weather conditions. On the contrary, VR training can be held even in a tiny room inside of a small office.
And because of its risk-free nature, the trainer doesn’t have to be a highly-skilled machine operator. It can be an HR specialist, as his or her role is not to train the new employees. He/she is there just to explain the process, while the training itself is fully automatized. Additionally, VR training sessions are not influenced by weather nor the machines’ availability.
In conclusion, virtual reality is a great tool to improve heavy equipment training. As industries with strong heavy equipment presence are becoming extremely competitive, a lot of companies are turning to new technologies to gain business advantage over their competition. We believe that virtual reality is one of the best technologies that can truly contribute to the success of the digital transformation. It's a cheap, risk-free and convenient solution, which can completely transform the world of heavy equipment training.