Industrial Plant Operators Now Train for Safety with Virtual Simulators

plant operation simulator

The International Society of Automation (ISA) is a leading, global, nonprofit organization that is setting the standard for automation by helping over 30,000 worldwide members and other professionals solve difficult technical problems, while enhancing their leadership and personal career capabilities. ISA develops standards, certifies industry professionals, provides education and training, publishes books and technical articles, and hosts conferences and exhibitions for automation professionals. Recently their writer Peter Richmond shared how “Operator training simulators raise operator competency, improving plant performance and reliability“.

This article is a great read because it demonstrates that the same process we use in medical simulation for learning outcome identification and, design, implementation and evaluation is also utilized in their industry. Furthermore, the advancement of 3d technology enables them to train operators like never before.

Using 3-D Virtual Simulators:

Process Automation: Operator training simulators in the modern plant 4

Once reserved for cutting-edge engineering and creative industries, 3-D visualization is being used in new and innovative ways across a number of industrial sectors, helping to safely and effectively train plant operators and staff.

The emergence of 3-D visualization as a method of training has grown out of the need of many industrial companies and organizations to instruct their employees in a safe and secure environment. In addition, the nature of continuous process plants necessitates minimal downtime, and there are often few opportunities for initial training of new staff and for ongoing training for experienced staff, particularly in scenarios that may only occur rarely.


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Five-phase, performance-based training approach

Plant operators can benefit from incorporating 3-D visualization into their training systems in many ways. Chief among these is the ability to have high-fidelity operations, maintenance, and safety training in a cost-effective, low-risk setting. Putting people in the field in dangerous and often remote locations, such as offshore energy platforms, strictly for training purposes, is not only costly, but also risky to platform operators, their co-workers, the facility itself, and the environment. Because of advances in simulation, visualization, and interactive gaming technology, it is now possible for offshore operators to learn much of their craft in a safe, realistic training environment.

Virtual reality simulation is particularly well-suited for industrial training, where remote, unsafe, and pressure-filled sites are increasingly common. This type of technology enables platform operators to receive a large portion of their training in a virtual environment, reducing cost and risk. For example, risk of injury can be eliminated because operators are not immediately placed in an unfamiliar environment. After going through such training programs, operators are less likely to make mistakes such as spills or shutdowns, which could have serious consequences. They are also less likely to encounter emergencies they have never before experienced. In situations where units are shut down only once every year or less often, virtual reality training is an invaluable practice tool for staff at all levels.

Many believe this approach fits especially well with the new generation of engineers and plant operators who are already familiar with this technology and who are used to an entirely different learning environment than previous generations experienced. In addition to providing a more realistic training environment, 3-D virtualization training ensures a more interactive and hands-on experience.

It is a very exciting time for many industrial companies and organizations as they help drive virtual reality solutions and create innovative and practical applications directly relevant to their staff’s needs. As the conditions and demands on the industry evolve, plants of all kinds are increasingly using virtual environments to help plant operators and staff rapidly adapt and hone their skills.

Read the Full Plant Operator Simulator Article here.


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