In this article, we will cover the fundamental aspects of virtual training and validation. Factory owners can use this article to learn more about virtual training, validation and how to potentially implement virtual training in their factories.
This article covers:
- The Importance of Staff Training
- Virtual Training and Validation
- The Benefits of Virtual Training and Validation
- The Industries Using Virtual Training
- What Does it Take to Implement a Virtual Training Solution
The Importance of Staff Training
It is important that factory staff receive the necessary training about the factory environment in which they are operating, in order to contribute to overall factory efficiency and improved production rates. Staff should ideally receive training about:
- How to operate machinery and equipment on the factory floor
- Health and safety standards
- The ERP and MES systems utilized in the factory
- IoT platforms and architecture utilized in the factory
- The assembly lines and production life cycles of the factory
- New automation, IoT and Industry 4.0 developments
Ultimately, training staff members contributes to the development of their individual skills, improvement of staff morale as well as the factory’s bottom line. Factory owners have a number of choices regarding training. They can either hire a consultant or company to provide training, provide in-house training or look at integrating newer methods such as virtual training and validation.
What is Meant by Virtual Training and Validation?
Virtual training refers to a type of training that takes place in a simulated virtual environment, generated by a computer. The person being trained is immersed in this 3D virtual environment. Furthermore, the trainee engages using physical responses with the virtual learning environment through AI glasses or other wearable technology.
A factory worker, for example, could receive training about how to operate a certain machine in this virtual environment. The physical engagement of the employee with the machine, in the virtual environment, would be facilitated through the AI glasses.
Validation refers to the use of glasses or videos to check that employees are actually implementing the virtual training they received in the real-world factory environment. The combination of virtual training and validation allows the factory owner to not just implement training solutions but also to check whether staff absorbed what they learned, which is important to quantify the ROI of the training.
There is a need of course to invest in a robust industrial cloud to collect and store the data generated by the virtual training. This could be data about staff responses to simulated situations, the time it took to train each individual staff member to operate machinery in the virtual environment, or the rate of implementation of the training on the factory floor. This data could in turn be processed at the edge. Consequently the virtual training modules and environments could be updated regularly, based on the analysis of trainee responses.
Virtual training and validation fits in with Industry 4.0 since one of the main objectives of Industry 4.0 is to optimize the computerization of Industry 3.0. So by using virtual training methods, the computerization of traditional training and development is further promoted in the manufacturing sector.
The Benefits of Virtual Training and Validation
There are several key benefits associated with virtual training and validation that include:
- It greatly reduces the risk of damage to expensive machinery due to inexperienced operators. Staff can practice on machines in a virtual training environment until they are ready to operate the machinery on the factory floor. Validation ensures that staff are actually engaging with the machines in the manner in which they were taught during training.
- Staff can learn at their own pace, without feeling insecure or embarrassed since their responses are not being observed by other members of staff, which is usually the case in the traditional group training format.
- Virtual training accommodates situations that can be difficult to simulate in a traditional training context. Let’s consider a scenario where one wanted to train emergency staff and personnel to respond to conditions after tornados, floods or other natural disasters. Within the virtual context, all the situation-based issues, geographical contexts and variables could be easily simulated, and staff trained based on these inclusive simulations.
The Industries Using Virtual Training
Virtual training is also being used in the emergency services, manufacturing and customer service industries. The automotive sector especially has been one of the biggest adopters of virtual training.
Audi uses virtual reality training to train logistics employees about the proper methods for packing brake discs and other large vehicle parts. The employees are given a set of virtual reality glasses and controllers and they engage with virtual representations of their work equipment such as cardboard boxes, components and containers. They learn how to prepare the cardboard boxes, how to place sun visors in the proper positions and the correct labelling techniques all within the virtual environment so that they are well-prepared for the real-life situation.
What Does it Take to Implement?
A factory owner considering a virtual training and validation package should first compile detailed notes about the training that is required, such as the machines that staff need to be trained about and other unique factory-related contexts.
The factory owner should then consider hiring a technical provider that develops virtual training modules, provides wearable technology and that has experience developing solutions for the manufacturing industry. Factory owners should ensure that they give technical providers detailed information about what they require, such as the number of staff that they would like to train, the situational contexts (machine operation, assembly lines, product life cycles, etc.) and the type of validation that the staff has agreed on. There may be some privacy issues to consider with validation, which is why it is important to first have a meeting with staff to discuss validation. The technical provider would then have to consider the options and design a virtual environment based on the factory owner’s specifications.
Additionally, the technical provider should develop a robust industrial cloud service in order to store data about staff responses to the training and integrate these responses into any additional IoT platforms/big data platforms within the factory. The technical provider should also provide the glasses needed in order for staff to participate in the training. Generally the more functionality provided by the glasses the more expensive the glasses are. Some technical providers charge per set of glasses and others charge per unit, which is a more cost effective option if there is a large amount of staff that needs training.
The actual training is simple, this just requires the factory owner to set aside a time for the employees to receive training and provide them with the wearable technology.
Virtual Training and Validation as Enhanced HMIs
Most factory owners are familiar with the concept of an HMI (Human Machine Interface) which could be a screen, smartphone or PC that allows humans to engage with and control machines on the factory floor. Factory staff can perform multiple tasks using HMIs such as adjusting machine settings. Additionally, they can receive information about the factory such as KPIs, through HMIs.
Virtual training and validation can be viewed in the context of enhanced HMIs in a way, since the glasses (interface) allows humans to engage with virtual machinery in the virtual environment. The virtual environment is entirely computerized and is based on computer logic. Humans engaging with the virtual factory machinery in the virtual environment are using human intelligence. Humans are engaging with the machinery in the virtual world in the same way that they would with machinery in the real world, but through the enhanced interface provided by the glasses and the virtual world. The only difference is that the real machines are not damaged and staff can practice as much as they would like in the virtual environment. Also the virtual world can be easily adjusted to accommodate multiple scenarios that factory staff should be trained about. So virtual training and validation can be viewed as next generation HMIs or enhanced HMIs.
Virtual training and validation solutions are being adopted increasingly and this trend looks like it will continue in the future.
When a factory owner is considering training staff, it is advisable to start thinking about integrating at least one virtual training module into the training and to work with a technical provider with experience in the manufacturing industry.