Add Simulation to Train with Confidence

November 15th, 2019

Typical operator training programs combine classroom-based instruction with real-world seat-time but the results are often discouraging, because there are three kinds of uncertainty.

Are you choosing the right people to train? Are your trainees learning properly? Are your new operators working well enough?

We can summarize the current arrangement in a graphical way.

Thankfully, simulation will help you do better by reducing these three kinds of uncertainty. Here’s how.

1.      User Simulation to Pre-screen Your Training Candidates for Operator Aptitude

If the number of people wanting to train exceeds the number of available “seats” in your training class, use simulation to create a new pre-screening step to evaluate operator “aptitude”. (So-called “psycho-metric” tests can’t reproduce working with the levers, joysticks, steering wheels, and pedals that you’ll find in the cabins of heavy equipment.)

The fact is, simulator-based pre-screening should reveal improvement in the simulation results as people “get the hang of things”. (If there’s no such improvement, then there’s not enough operator “aptitude”.)

Of course this should be done whenever new trainees are selected based on multiple factors, including promotion from within to grow your own operators, even when a workforce is unionized.

2.      Use Simulation to Improve Your Classroom Instruction

In a classroom setting, trainees can listen to instructors and watch videos to get a sense of real world work. But using simulation, you can teach by showing, to demonstrate basic machine functionality and present best practices in a way that’s completely safe and reaches all of your trainees at the same time (as they sit together in your classroom).

Indeed, with the right kind of simulator, you can zoom in/out and arbitrarily change the point of view during simulation e.g. using the computer’s keyboard and mouse, to better communicate key ideas by presenting views from both inside and outside the simulated cabin. (In the real world, you just can’t say “Come closer, put your head in here and then you’ll see better”, because there’s so much danger. And of course you can’t “fly” your students up in the air to look down at things from up above.)

You can even use simulation to prepare your own screen capture videos to demonstrate good habits (and perhaps bad ones too) for later review, along with any screen capture videos by the simulator supplier.

3.      Use Simulation to Prepare Your Trainees for Real Seat-Time

Finally, using simulation, trainees learn by doing to prepare for real-world seat-time. (Remember that any kind of certification that your new operators will require means doing real (not simulated) work well enough.)

Practically, this typically means working in one of two ways. When the heavy equipment is easy to access, trainees can begin by doing something easy at the simulator and then the same thing in the real world. After that, they return to the simulator to do something harder, and then the same harder thing in the real world. In this way, bit by bit, trainees first acquire core skills at the simulator and then “ramp up” at the controls of your heavy equipment.

But when that equipment is off-site, such back-and-forth is not possible so trainees instead start and finish at the simulator first, and then “graduate” to the real world.

Either way, it’s important that simulation results respect the target values that you’ll establish. In that way, you can be confident that they are truly ready for that “graduation” from the simulated world to the real one.  (Otherwise, there will be “accidents” that damage equipment, and possibly hurt people too.)

Once again we can summarize the improved arrangement in a graphical way.