Simulation technology as a training tool is a proven concept in various professional fields – for example F1 drivers, pilots and astronauts have already benefited from simulation-based training for many years.
It’s only recently that immersive technology has seen rapid growth within the construction sector. Advanced simulator development for construction site machinery is being implemented by many leading construction businesses, who are using leading edge technology simulation-based operator training, as a versatile and effective tool to train operators in a safe environment. The plant and machinery sectors are seeing great results with this new technology.
Plantworx, the UK’s largest working construction machinery exhibition in 2019, (11th -13th June at the East of England Arena, Peterborough) will host the UK’s first fully interactive construction Simulation Zone, sponsored by Plantforce Rentals. The Zone will promote virtual interactive training, in a fun and informal environment - which will highlight the very latest technology in construction and how it is changing the way we work.
The Simulation Zone at Plantworx will comprise six state-of the-art simulators which will replicate a ‘real working construction site’ - but in a virtual world. Each of the simulators will be linked and will represent an individual construction machine – an excavator, wheel loader, tower crane, dozer or an articulated dump truck – as examples. Visitors to the zone will be invited to work together on the simulators in the virtual world to complete tasks on a construction site. Spectators will be offered oculus rift headsets to join the virtual world as bystanders and offer encouragement and support to the participants!
Participants can expect to experience GPS machine control with the latest attachments. Also, height and slew restrictors and machine control by GKD Technologies and other highly advanced technologies, which are being used in today’s construction processes.
A winning team – Plantworx and Plantforce Rentals
Plantforce Rentals have traditionally been at the forefront with leading projects such as HS2 and currently have over 100 machines working on nuclear reactor project, Hinkley Point C.
The company experienced this change in training operators digitally first hand, which encouraged the company to launch its own program of training for its plant operators, working closely with UK Plant Operators founder and simulator training expert, Dale Hawkins. Dale and his team have already trained 150 plant operators on Leica GPS and machine control on the Hinkley Point C project.
The in-house training program focuses on the full spectrum of GPS machine control technology, electronic height/slew restriction systems, the safe use of attachments and fuel efficiency, using state of the art simulation technology.
The Plantworx simulation zone will house a number of 80-inch screens and a huge event screen will project live feeds from the simulators and their operators, which will create a major visual and audible impact. All Plantworx visitors will be invited to participate.
Immersive training experts, including Dale Hawkins and members of the Plantforce Rental team, will be on hand to guide each participant through the virtual world of simulation technology. Companies and contractors who would like to investigate this type of training are also invited to experience what the zone has to offer. No previous experience is necessary!
Dale said, “Innovation in construction is a topic I feel very strongly about, I’m very excited to be working with Plantforce Rentals in helping to build a technologically advanced team of plant operators. I believe the simulation zone at Plantworx is the ideal place to show-case what can really be done within simulation and how tier-one contractors, as well the associated supply chain, can all benefit from this new age thinking within construction. The future is bright the future is simulation!”
Plantforce Rentals Managing Director Claire Trott added, “We have embraced all new advancements in construction and excavator technology - everybody needs to understand this industry is rapidly changing for the better - we feel we are ideally placed to take on 2019 with a smart new strategy, it’s also about understanding the importance of building a new advanced work force to assist us in bringing the whole business into the new way of proactive thinking. We are delighted to be sponsoring the simulation zone at Plantworx 2019 - a real chance to showcase and share our knowledge of new innovations which we are very excited about.”
The Plantworx team is anticipating that the ‘Simulation Zone’ will be one of the highlights of the show, located in the Indoor Arena.
Why use simulator training for operators? Dale Hawkins explains the processes and advantages.
Training plant operators is not an easy task – this is due several factors including the transportation costs and logistics of getting a large piece of construction kit to a safe environment to enable the training of a potential plant operator. Then there is the safety aspect of the process – where traditionally a training instructor would be hanging off the side of a moving machine offering instruction to the operator. The safety standards of today would not allow this, therefore the trainee operator is tasked with learning to use the controls in the cab unaided – this could be the most dangerous time of the training program – and could cause untold damage to both man and machine! Also, this method of training only offers a one on one training schedule which elevates the cost and availability of such a course.
These new innovations in simulation offer a very cost-effective safe classroom based training solution where we are able to bring multiple candidates in to a classroom and teach the basics to these operators so when they do get the chance to sit in the real machine they are already familiar with the controls of the machine making the training a much safer and a more speedy process, thus allowing more candidates to be trained in a shorter time frame and a lower cost.
GPS Machine Control Training
With simulation digital machine we are able to mount ‘real to life’ machinery attachments with in-cab controls to the simulator, this enables us to also bring large numbers of experienced operators in to a classroom and teach them the more technical side of plant operation - with a special focus on operator aids like GPS machine control, rail specification height and slew restriction and any other highly advanced technologies which are being used in today’s construction processes.
Plant operator profiling and efficiency training – this method can help the operator become more efficient in his/her daily work practices. An operator may have a lot of experience in operating heavy plant machinery, but he/she may not be efficient - which when calculated over a year - could cost the company a considerable amount in fuel and site wastage. We have used simulation to help teach these drivers how to become more efficient - for example how to set the machine up for a dig with minimum rotations of the machine - the shortest distances - making sure you use full buckets - planning of the site roads and haul routes. This is also extended to the site management team for the planning process when ordering plant machinery for the site.
Another reason we use simulation is there is a national short-fall of machinery operators in the UK, especially with major projects such as Hinkley Point C and HS2 using large numbers of operators. The plant machinery sectors are not pushed in the careers paths of school leavers, most are pushed towards well-known trades such as plumbing and engineering, when in fact there is more work and a very similar rate of pay to become a plant operators, we run a program called ‘On -Track’ where we take simulators into schools and encourage young people to try the machines and offer them information on routes to take if they would like a career path in construction. We also work with some major plant hire companies who offer apprenticeships.