Defense Media Network

Virtual Training Becomes A Reality (SPONSORED)

What happens when multiple people need to learn to operate heavy equipment, but often, heavy equipment is not available? The chance of an untrained or undertrained operator getting behind the controls becomes a real danger.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) reports that 1 in 10 construction site workers are injured each year. The chances of that scenario happening can be reduced with simulator training.

Simulation Training

Caterpillar introduced simulators more than 15 years ago. With a “safety first” culture, it’s no surprise that simulation would be part of its training program. Caterpillar then licensed the simulator business to Simformotion TM more than 10 years ago. Cat® Simulators are modeled after actual machines down to the OEM controls. Software is modeled after actual worksites and developed with Cat operator experts to ensure every exercise uses the same techniques and applications that Caterpillar uses on jobsites worldwide. The machine physics match exacting standards to ensure that the simulated machine responds/reacts realistically to the environment, maneuvers and terrain interaction.

The hardware system is built so that users can convert from one machine model to another using the same base unit. This is especially useful when a small footprint is needed or simulators are inside a trailer for travel to off-site locations.

Cat simulators are also outfitted with a motion system that accurately represents the full range of whole-body vibrations a user will feel when the simulated machine is running during training exercises. Users can experience forward/backward and left and right tilt as well as up and down movement. Users will not only gain the knowledge and skills needed for controls and applications, they will also learn how to make the precision movements necessary to increase productivity, better learn tipping points on machines and much more.

What Simulation Means to Training

Traditional training means waiting for an instructor, good weather and the availability of a machine. Traditional training also means paying for fuel and maintenance and taking the risk that an untrained operator may have a mishap. Simulation changes the method, the risk, and the costs. Trainees can get hands-on experience, but in the safety of a virtual environment. The user can practice techniques as many times as needed until the steps are mastered. Once the trainee has a decent understanding of how to operate the simulated machine, he or she can apply the techniques to a real-world worksite scenario. Training on Cat Simulators gets the operator to proficiency faster, and with more confidence and knowledge retention, than just training on a machine alone.

Many organizations need to train multiple operators during multiple shifts. The simulators train consistently, the same way every time. The simulators train for safety, too. For example, a working seatbelt so the trainee buckles up every time he/she is in the seat. Reports for each operator generated during simulation sessions are another way to call out safety issues and track their progress.

The simulation reports can also assess a new hire’s skill level. Companies can find out who is worth hiring before any paperwork is completed. One assessment will help HR find the best candidates and weed out the rest. Or find out where current operators need training and identify bad habits for retraining.

Cat Simulators Use Cases

Simulator training is being utilized by customers worldwide in multiple industries. With a well-cited skills gap prevalent, finding new operators is a challenge. State and federal agencies are training their own workforces in response.

New Mexico Dept. of Transportation

Burnie Nicholson, New Mexico Dept of Transportation Training Academy Director, added Cat Simulators training to his program more than 10 years ago. “Before the simulators we would have four or five pieces of equipment, per training session, that would go down for one reason or another.” The trainees were blowing hoses, overheating machines, even blowing transmissions. Replacing a transmission, even with a used transmission was $80,000. That doesn’t include labor costs, or the cost of lost productivity.

The simulators are in mobile trailers, so when the trainees head out to the iron, the simulators go, too. If trainees are missing gears, taking too long on a task, or otherwise having problems, they go back to the simulators for more sessions. When they start the program, they are benchmarked with the Cat Simulators reporting tool, SimU CampusTM. After the training, they again record and report the operators’ results to see how they have progressed. “What I like about the data is that it gives you everything: wheel slips, collisions, loading time, even how long it took to do the entire exercise, and then at the end, how the operator did overall,” says Nicholson.

The simulators made such an impact on the DOT program that they were able to cut out a week of training. But the good news didn’t stop there. Nicholson says, “Since getting the simulators, we haven’t lost one transmission.” Last year, they saw more than 11,600 operators go through the training program. With thousands of miles of roadways to maintain in the state of New Mexico, it’s understandable. The program has also caught the attention of other states and the Army Corp of Engineers. They welcome visitors to the program from outside the state on a regular basis.

Army Reserve Engineer Units

When soldiers are trained to operate heavy equipment as part of their duties, the actual equipment is often not available. Training in a virtual environment is a safe and efficient way to train new enlistees or personnel that need to keep skills sharp between deployments. Cat Simulators provide a means of virtual training that can be used at any facility or mobile unit, 24×7. Currently, Cat Simulators training is being utilized at over 30 locations throughout the US.

Military personnel train on the simulators to master controls and applications before training on actual machines during field training. Soldiers train over drill weekends to keep skills sharp between deployments. Many types of construction take place at home or on foreign land and soldiers must be ready to build anything from a helicopter landing zone or just clean up after a natural disaster. Simulator training allows soldiers to learn how to operate equipment safely, at anytime day or night.

“The simulators also allow units to train during every Battle Assembly, which is not possible at units with limited training space, money for fuel, or during inclement weather,” says Lieutenant Geoffrey Cummings, Army Guard Reserve Company Executive Officer for the 417th Engine Support Company. Not only do soldiers gain technical proficiency, they also develop motor skills, muscle memory and develop critical thinking skills.

Simulators are also changing lives in Dept. of Corrections facilities throughout the U.S. Unions are adding simulators to apprenticeship programs. Both are contributing needed workers to the skilled trades and helping states’ efforts in building a workforce.

Cat Simulator training takes the risk out of the equation for the operator and the instructor. Costs of unplanned maintenance from a mishap, fuel use, and other costs associated with operating an actual machine are removed from the budget, allowing those dollars to be spent in another area. Discover safety, savings and trained operators – all from Cat Simulators.

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