A resource from the leaders in simulation training.

Hey Troubleshooters! Welcome back once again to TST. Thanks for spending this time with us.

Lately we’ve been posting about hot topics in manufacturing training. We began this series with a quick overview of learning management systems (LMS). Then in Part 2, we spent a little time on microlearning. Part 3 was all about gamification, and why manufacturing training is definitely headed in this direction.

Today, we’re taking a look at simulations, an up-to-the-minute trend in manufacturing for a number of very good reasons.

What is simulation-based manufacturing training?

In case you’re just stumbling onto us now, and you don’t know what simulation-based training is, it’s training using a simulated environment for learning, instead of training in the real world or on the job.

Why use simulation training? Well, it’s ideal for any dangerous job or high-risk task, whether that risk is to human life or expensive equipment. A simulated learning environment is a safe place for rookies to make mistakes and learn from them, and to log hours and hours of practice until they are ready for the real thing.

Simulation can either be physical or computer-based. A physical simulator is an actual structure that imitates real life, such as a flight simulator. Airline pilots and astronauts have long been training using these physical simulators. Surgeons learning a new operation that could be dangerous to patients also use simulators. (In fact, simulations are widely used in the medical world.)

In the manufacturing industry, actual production-line equipment is often retired from the line and used as a simulator for training maintenance professionals to repair it. (This does have its drawbacks, as we will see later.)

The second kind of simulation training is computer-based. Recent advances in computer technology have made computer-based simulation training a very credible option. As in the gaming world, simulation software has the capacity for extreme realism, using 3D, virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality to create a virtual environment that is very close to the real thing, only safe. (We’ll be talking more about VR, AR, and MR in upcoming posts.)

Computer-based simulation training

Physical simulators have been around for nearly a century (the first flight simulator, the Link Trainer, was built in 1929), and so they are not really what you’d call news!

On the other hand, computer-based simulation training is a much more recent trend. Its growing popularity is due to the fact that it offers a number of significant benefits over physical simulation, particularly in manufacturing training.

Advantages of computer-based versus physical simulation

  1. No production downtime. Computer-based simulation doesn’t require shutting down a production line (and maybe missing quotas) while you teach electrical troubleshooting of manufacturing equipment on actual machinery.
  2. No purchase of costly machine for simulator. If you don’t want to shut down production during training, you can simply take a machine out of the line and use it solely for training. However, since most of these machines cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, it requires a huge outlay of capital to get going.
  3. No large, dedicated space required. Physical simulators, especially manufacturing machinery, can require a lot of expensive real estate in which to house them. At most, computer-based simulators will require a computer lab, usually a small room with some computers.
  4. No need for trainees or instructors to travel. Software can be easily loaded onto local training computers, or a web-based program can be used, enabling students to use the program remotely—any time, from anywhere. This is great for reducing training costs such as flights, hotels, meals, and transportation for trainees or instructors coming in from out of city or state from other sites for training.
  5. Easy updates. Technology moves at the speed of light these days and production line machines get outdated quickly. Software is easy to upgrade, especially if it’s web-based, but have you tried moving a belt conveyor?
  6. Ease of adding or changing faults. When you’re using a physical simulator, someone has to go in and create the hidden faults for the trainees to find and repair, and then do it again for the next lesson. Computer-based simulations are far more flexible to program, and completely scalable.
  7. Trainees can get as much practice as they need. Some programs can be done from the trainee’s own home computer, and they can practice as much as they need to without requiring an administrator to be present or monopolizing a physical simulator. They may even do it on their own time.
  8. Lower admin burden. Computer-based training programs often come with tools that reduce the administrator burden, allowing fewer admins to train more trainees. They make it easier to track trainees’ progress, and generate valuable data about competency. Very sophisticated programs may use algorithms to automatically feed more or less challenging material to students based on their proficiency level.
  9. Scalability. Computer-simulation programs are easily scalable and can grow with a business, for far less outlay than acquiring multiple physical simulators.

Simutech Multimedia’s Simulation Training

To get an idea of the realism of computer-based simulation in manufacturing training, take a look at Simutech Multimedia’s most recent 3D simulation training module, Troubleshooting Industrial Sensors. With a garden-variety computer, any user will get a very realistic experience for learning how to diagnose and repair the kind of industrial sensors used in virtually all manufacturing settings.

And that’s it for today, Troubleshooters! Be sure to tune in again next week when we look at how not only 3D, but VR, AR, and MR are revolutionizing training in industrialized settings.

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