In the construction industry, a lot of companies are choosing to train new employees on the job. While that usually involves shadowing a more experienced employee for a while, there is no replacement for sitting at the controls of a piece of heavy and equipment and actually doing the work.
Or is there?
Whether for the training of new equipment operators, or to help existing operators advance their skills, equipment simulators are giving a lot of people a training and career path in the earthwork and underground utility construction industry.
Experience in the field takes a while to acquire, but simulators move training along faster, bridging any gaps in the skills of employees more efficiently.
Thanks to a recent CAT equipment simulator demonstration and hands even, OE Construction got a first hand look at the ways in which simulator training could be leveraged to help deal with the number one issue the entire construction industry is facing: hiring and retaining qualified employees.
What is equipment simulation training?
If you haven’t already participated in this, an equipment simulator is basically a special machine that is setup with software and equipment controls to emulate actual
equipment operation, all kinds of equipment and models such as dozers, excavators, loaders, haul trucks, motor graders, scrapers, and so on.
The system is setup to allow an equipment operator to explore the machine controls and options, to practice using the equipment controls to operate the equipment in all kinds of virtual scenarios, to master the machine operation from beginner to advanced operation techniques, to even work with the simulation in virtual 3-D mode to emulate real life situations and job site conditions.
What are the benefits of equipment simulation training?
Employee screening — since finding people who are already trained in specific pieces of equipment isn’t always possible, using the simulators as a screening technique for hiring is ideal. Testing potential employees in the simulators to see how they react, their level of coordination and to verify the skills they claim to have, but without putting actual machines or other employees at risk, is a great way to find the right staff.
Improved safety and less risk during training — each piece of equipment is monumentally expensive, to say nothing of the importance of safety for both the operator and the people working in the field with them. Leveraging simulator training is a great opportunity to experience real life situations with zero risk to projects, existing equipment and personnel.
Each person, whether new to the company or someone who needs to upgrade their skills, can be trained more efficiently, with less risk and and lower costs, such as those that are associated with equipment damage or project delays caused by accidents.
Improved safety on the job site — even an experienced operator can face some new challenges in the field, be they related to weather or other circumstances. These can be simulated safely, giving the employee a chance to really hone their skills before attempting them in the field. Overall, this contributes to a much higher level of safety.
“Simulators can recreate the feel and experience of load shifting, unsafe lifts and other hazards, so that trainees learn to respect the machine before they ever get into the operator’s seat. Trainers can also condition operators to respond to the unexpected by injecting equipment faults or inclement weather into the simulation. This is knowledge that is difficult to teach in a real machine, and it results in operators who are better prepared than they were without simulation, particularly when they have the opportunity to repeatedly practice specialized or difficult maneuvers in a safe, controlled environment.” Source
This kind of improvement becomes measurable, as there is a direct correlation between experience / knowledge / skill and safety.
Feedback and retention — using simulators allows those being trained to get immediate feedback on their work. With high quality communication and feedback comes retention: if people feel qualified to do their jobs, and supported in learning more in their work environment, they’re more likely to stay with a company than those who are left to ‘sink or swim’.
Stay tuned as OE evaluates this technology in our own company; we’re hoping to share some pretty exciting developments in the operation of heavy equipment!