Simulation-Based Training: From Then to Now

Simulation-based training has been used for almost a century to train pilots by replicating the real-life scenarios of flight. The “Link Trainer”, created by Edwin Albert Link in 1929 was the first known simulator of flight. It allowed learners to navigate a specific route at a particular altitude, make descents, and experience other conditions in aviation without taking off the ground or leaving the classroom. This simulation provided a safe and effective tool to learn flight before flying an actual plane. Years later, the Link Trainer would prove how effective simulation-based training is in training a large workforce efficiently.

At the start of the Second World War, there was a need to safely and efficiently train a vast number of pilots, among other positions involved with the operation of military aircraft. The Link Trainer provided the safe and interactive instruction in aviation that would train hundreds of thousands of pilots, and help the USA and Britain acquire the talent they needed to fight in the air.

Flash forward
Today, simulation-based training has evolved. Juxtaposed next to the training capabilities realized by the hardware and software in US army aviation today, the Link Trainers used in WW2 were primitive. Today’s simulators can imitate all kinds of flight conditions, weather patterns and emergencies while simulating communication procedures with air traffic control — all in a safe environment where the learner can understand the repercussions of their costly mistakes.

What is simulation-based training?
The description from a research article titled “Simulation-based medical teaching and learning”  accurately describes simulation as “ a generic term that refers to an artificial representation of a real-world process to achieve educational goals through experiential learning.”

But, perhaps the most significant characteristic of simulation-based training is that it is participatory. Learners training through simulations get to experiment with techniques and approaches in real life conditions, without the pressure of danger. Participants can make mistakes under a realistic representation without hurting themselves or others. A Simutech Multimedia article titled, “Does Simulation Training Really Work?” discusses the many benefits simulation-based training has over traditional methods.

From aviation to manufacturing
What evolved from the Link Trainer has become a great solution for training staff in all industries that carry a risk towards expensive equipment and staff safety from hazardous events, such as arc flashes. Along with aviation, corporations have a lot to gain by implementing simulation-based training in the manufacturing industry. The current manufacturing skill gap provides a similar scenario to the training needs at the beginning of WW2. Where the Link Trainer flourished in training a large airforce quickly and effectively, simulation-based training can repeat itself in the manufacturing industry.

The roadblock facing the manufacturing industry
The manufacturing industry is growing at an astonishing rate, and so is the lack of skilled trades workers. The implications of this talent shortage will be significant for the growth and profitability of manufacturers going into the technological renaissance. A research article from Deloitte Manufacturing Institute titled “The skills gap in U.S. manufacturing 2015 and beyond” provides an excellent resource for understanding the implications of the skill gap, and paints the picture of its alarming reality.

“A recent study estimates an average U.S. manufacturer is potentially losing 11 percent of its annual earnings (EBITDA) or $3,000 per existing employee due to the talent shortage. Yet another study paints a bleaker picture: a loss of an average $14,000 per open position that goes unfilled. Given that more than 50 percent of U.S. companies are planning to increase their domestic production levels by at least 5 percent in the next five years, the lost earnings figure presents an alarming precedent.”

The whitepaper from Deloitte gives two major contributing factors that have created the circumstances for a talent deficit.

“There are two major contributing factors to the widening gap – baby boomer retirements and economic expansion. An estimated 2.7 million jobs are likely to be needed as a result of retirements of the existing workforce, while 700,000 jobs are likely to be created due to natural business growth.”

Among these realities, other contributing factors towards this widening skills gap include:

  • The younger generations have an unglamorous, archaic view towards the manufacturing industry.
  • Staff are lacking knowledge in STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
  • High schools are not providing as many technical programs as they used to.
  • Increase in complicated automated processes creates a need for more skilled workers.

If companies are going to see the realization of the technical renaissance, along with the projected growth of the manufacturing industry, they have to find a solution to the talent crisis ahead of them. While there are many approaches to this dilemma, one promising answer lies with simulation-based training.

Creating talent (instead of finding it)
If organizations are to overcome the challenges of the skill gap crisis, it is likely they will have to first invest in creating their own talent. It is time for businesses in the manufacturing sector to create their own curriculums that address the realities of their individual and unique operations. Simulation-based training would provide an excellent basis for creating a curriculum that produces proficient, skilled tradespeople in the manufacturing industry, much as it did for aviation at the beginning of the Second World War.

A curriculum with integrated simulation-based training has many benefits for the manufacturing industry including these factors:

  • Rather than sitting through a lecture, simulation allows trainee participation.
  • Trainees can learn from their consequences and understand the repercussions of their mistakes before they attempt problems in the real world.
  • Simulations can be adjusted to fit different skill levels from beginner to advanced.
  • Simulators can be programmed in different languages — also know as, multilanguage simulation training.
  • Participants learn hands-on skills and thinking skills (knowledge-in-action skills, communication skills).
  • Participants can be proactive by learning about different scenarios before they occur.
  • Learners can get feedback immediately to have a better understanding of what skills they need to improve.

Simulation-based training in electrical troubleshooting
Many companies in the manufacturing industry — including Simutech Multimedia’s customers — have implemented simulation-based training and reaped the benefits. One significant example of simulation-based training is found in interactive programs that teach electrical troubleshooting.

Simutech Multimedia was established in 1995 and has been integrated into manufacturers educational programs to provide staff with a better understanding of their equipment, and how to troubleshoot electrical problems that lead to downtime. With a growing skill gap and a lack of skilled troubleshooters who can tackle complicated and intimidating electrical issues, Simutech Multimedia was created to fill the void. The result — companies have reduced production downtime by creating proficient troubleshooters available around the clock.

A modern perspective on simulation-based training
What we can learn from the Link Trainer, we can apply to the skills gap in the manufacturing industry. When there was a large skills gap in pilots at the beginning of the second world war, the U.S. and Britain used simulation-based training to turn a large, unskilled airforce into a talented fleet safely and effectively.

With an urgent need to fill positions in skilled trade, simulation-based training is a proven and reliable solution. Through simulation-based training, manufacturers can close the skill gap by providing staff with the experience needed to handle technical malfunctions that result in downtime, under the intense real-life conditions of the manufacturing industry, through safe and active participation.

Get started with Simutech Multimedia’s award-winning electrical troubleshooting simulation system today!






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