The future of manufacturing training lies with virtual reality, whether it is a fully immersive simulation training exercise or a computer based training application based on 3D models of the workplace and its equipment.
Imagine the Brilliant Factory which operates as a Model-Based Enterprise. The CAD file for the new product is used to create a 3D model which accompanies the product throughout its lifespan.
Labels and metadata are added to the 3D model along with physics properties while remaining true to the source file. With the 3D model of the product parts, the manufacturing engineer is able to design fixtures and use an Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset to prototype fixtures and the fabrication process prior to receiving molds at the plant.
The machinist dons a VR Headset and is able to take the product apart in virtual reality using his hands, and examine each component part. The machinist can virtually fabricate and assemble the product prior to beginning production.
All the product training that occurred during the first few production runs now occurs prior to the first run. Thanks to recent advances in virtual reality hardware systems, this scenario is now possible, and is an efficient, replicable process.
Next year, young adults will be playing computer games using a virtual reality system in their living room. Will they report to work to learn about their technical job through a PowerPoint?
PowerPoints are not interactive and do not deliver high retention results. For this reason, many companies are adopting computer based training programs which rely on 3D game engines and 3D models: the result is called “serious gaming.”
Markets and markets recently projected that serious gaming would be a $5.4 billion dollar market by 2020. Technical training will be at the forefront of this surge in adoption since it relies on visual learning. The “serious game” can be delivered on a standard computer or through a VR Headset.
The younger workforce is already wired to learn through interactive gaming – advanced manufacturers will take advantage of the technology in training the workforce to replace retiring Baby Boomers.
Manufacturers adopting this approach will find another benefit: it results in effective knowledge transfer program, solving one of the most vexing problems in workforce development. The experienced Baby Boomer can serve as the subject matter expert in developing the company’s interactive 3D training application. The knowledge they bring to the project will be digitally captured and can be exploited in trouble shooting and what if scenarios imbedded in the training.
The interactive 3D training application uses a hands-on approach to learning whereby the student must engage with the virtual environment in ways that are not possible with a linear PowerPoint.
Because the knowledge is captured digitally, it can be digitally disseminated, ensuring uniform training opportunities where each person’s experience is custom tailored to the choices they make within the virtual world of the 3D training application. This approach also facilitates a global training platform since the emphasis on visualization and hands-on activities supersedes language barriers. The digital format also makes the training scalable.
Studies have shown that simulation based learning can deliver up to a 90 percent retention method. Robert Bosch, the world’s largest supplier of automotive parts, has trained nearly 10,000 service technicians on direct injection and braking technology using consumer grade VR Headsets and virtual reality content. http://fieldservice.com/2014/10/13/the-power-of-virtual-reality-training-in-the-field/
Serious games are often designed from a first-person perspective to deliver a higher impact experience. Like computer games, workers can achieve competency levels with measurable results. Decision-making skills can be tracked and assessed in the virtual plant.
Another area of application is to create a virtual machine for training purposes. This minimizes wear on physical machinery and provides a safe training environment for the worker. It also allows the plant to train employees on new equipment before it’s installed, driving efficiency in plant expansions and upgrades.
When it comes to virtual reality technology in the manufacturing workplace, the future is here. There will be advances to come, but the threshold has been lowered to allow any size company to reap the benefits from this technology.
Bio: Melanie Hill is managing member of 3rD Corner, LLC, a company which integrates hardware, software and 3D models to create virtual reality solutions for advanced manufacturers in training, product configuration, prototyping, facility design and factory layout design. She can be reached at 864/908-9659 or MelanieHill@IVCgreenville.com.
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