Developing the best preventive maintenance program is only half the battle. If technicians aren’t properly trained to execute the plan, it’s all wasted effort. Performing proper preventive maintenance on equipment requires strict adherence to the SOPs (standard operating procedures) as designed. Improper execution of the SOPs limits the effectiveness of your program and can have a direct impact on equipment downtime during operations. Your preventive maintenance program can only ever be as good as the training you provide.
Implementing virtual reality (VR) training can prove extremely beneficial in helping your maintenance technicians run through the processes quickly and efficiently, without impacting actual equipment. Most preventive maintenance programs utilize detailed, linear procedures that require hands-on repetition for mastery. Traditional training approaches often struggle to give maintenance technicians the tools to practice and improve efficiency without risk to safety, equipment, and throughput. Let’s unpack the role VR training can play in enhancing your preventive maintenance program.
Provide More Consistent, Impactful Training
Detailed sets of procedural tasks are the building blocks of any preventive maintenance program. It is imperative that all technicians perform the SOPs as designed for maximum effectiveness. Technicians must be allowed to practice and make mistakes during training to effectively cement procedures, which is often not feasible because of potential impacts to safety, equipment, and operational throughput.
For this reason, VR training is a perfect fit. VR transforms risky and potentially dangerous training situations into engaging and safe environments that allow your maintenance technicians to learn procedures and make mistakes when practicing. The trainee can receive immediate and consistent feedback. Your subject matter expertise is directly embedded into the training program, ensuring that the maintenance technicians learn the procedures the right way. This is a marked difference from traditional training, where every trainer may have a different approach and might introduce contradictory feedback.
Since maintenance technicians can master the skill sets needed faster and more effectively, they can apply those skills on the job to shorten the time it takes to complete the routine, giving your staff time to complete more maintenance-related tasks during planned downtime.
Onboard New Hires More Effectively and Efficiently
Onboarding new talent and training them on processes to effectively conduct preventive maintenance can be challenging. First, you have to train the new hire on how the overall process works. Second, you have to find equipment to provide them hands-on experience to make the learning stick— impacting revenue from downed essential equipment. Finally, you have to closely monitor the training environment to ensure no one gets hurt. This is especially true for employees who work with dangerous equipment, or in controlled areas, where trainees and other workers can be exposed to dangerous situations if mistakes are made.
Because the training takes place in a safe and virtual environment, new maintenance technicians can learn and retain the information better. They don’t have the pressure of a potential mistake costing the company money or putting their health at risk distracting them from learning. Another benefit of VR training is that it doesn’t have to happen all at once. Training can be spread out and used during downtime within their other training activities or before they are safely allowed into controlled areas. This on-demand approach also allows trainees to customize additional practice based on their specific needs and comprehension.
Further, VR training can abstract simple, repetitive portions of the procedure where it doesn’t impact learning objectives. For example, if a technician must remove 20 bolts from a manifold before accessing a component for replacement, they can simply tap the bolts in the virtual world to indicate the needed action. What might take 10 minutes in the real world takes seconds in VR. These types of interactions often happen throughout a SOP. A procedure that takes hours in the real world, might take only 15 minutes in the virtual world. And, a trainee making a mistake can receive feedback and reset the virtual training simulation in seconds to retry that portion successfully.
Because they are getting far more repetition than with traditional approaches, when they do start working on physical equipment in the real-world environment, they are much more advanced than their peers who have undergone traditional training. A recent client noted that new trainees that had spent two days using a coordinated VR training module to perform equipment maintenance technicians performed better than those that had been in the traditional training program for two weeks.
Improve Talent Retention
The onboarding process can make the difference in retaining new talent or watching them leave. Quite often, the reason cited for departure from the company is the lack of proper training. Expecting technicians to learn complicated procedures with no margin for error can be extremely stressful. When done in group environments, trainees often spend more time trying to avoid looking bad in front of their supervisors and peers than truly trying to learn and understand.
VR training can help address these issues since trainees are not forced to wait for the training manager to find a large enough group of people to plan a day for training. Likewise, it reduces the need to take down production equipment, have training equipment available, or use maintenance windows for training purposes. And, trainees can see impacts of mistakes and repeat portions on which they need additional support, all without feeling the additional stress of performing in a group environment.
While VR training doesn’t completely replace on the job training (OJT) with actual equipment, it reduces the amount and stress of OJT by getting trainees more comfortable and competent beforehand. A maintenance technician can build understanding through repetition in a headset before the scheduled OJT, increasing learning and reducing stress when they’re on the actual equipment for the first time.
Incorporating VR training as part of your preventive maintenance program enables your maintenance technicians to complete the SOPs correctly every time. Since they can master processes through many repetitions in a safe and virtual environment, they’re better able to transfer the skills to the actual equipment on the plant floor. Equipment maintenance that used to take six hours can be finished in three, allowing you to complete more maintenance during your planned window of downtime. Sound good?
Get the most out of your preventive maintenance program by getting in touch with one of our VR training specialists.
During the ongoing health crisis, VR also offers another benefit — the ability to perform initial training in a socially distant, on-demand fashion. Foundry 45’s VR training as a service delivers content and shipping management for VR training headsets. New hires can perform initial training and equipment orientation tasks from their homes before showing up for their first onsite day. This reduces the need for large group training events and minimizes the need to set up training rooms for social distance requirements. If you are looking for ways to improve your training during these challenging times, ask us how we can help implement an added layer of protection and peace of mind in the COVID-19 world.