The Operator Training Academy at earthmoving equipment suppliers Barloworld Equipment provides operator training for different work situations and assists in familiarising trainees with the different needs and challenges of these environments. Further, the company is expanding its training of operators and also trains supervisors in the operation and use of machines to make them aware of the operational parameters and maintenance needs of machines, says Barloworld Equipment Operator Training Academy head Willie Haasbroek.
The training academy trains operators in an almost ideal work environment. The company has identified a need to familiarise the trainees with different and less ideal work environments to simulate the types of environments the operators will operate their machines in.
The company focuses strongly on practical training and conducts on-site training for clients where the operators can practise on familiar machines. This includes training operators in the basics of how different machines work.
Barloworld Equipment also trains super- visors of machine operations in the basics of earthmoving equipment and the workings of the machines they must oversee. This training enables supervisors to identify dangers in the work environment, increase productivity, reduce cycle times and determine whether machines are being used for the correct application. This helps to reduce downtime and reduces costs related to unneccessary repairs as well as improves the scheduling of preventive maintenance interventions, Haasbroek says.
The company is currently expanding its supervisor training programme and trains supervisors on mines throughout the country, he adds.
Key areas that the Operator Training Aca- demy focuses on include safety, the correct operation of equip- ment and the importance of carrying out a thorough walk-around inspection of the machine before use. The inspection is an important part of the training because it improves the performance of machines and reduces downtime and prevents work-related injuries. Operators need to know why they must conduct inspections, what they must look for in different machines, as well as how to report problems.
The preoperational checks also form part of the preventive maintenance theme in the programme that emphasises early identification of problems to save costs and reduce operational downtime owing to breakdowns. Proper machine operation also reduces operational strain on a machine. The programme also places emphasis on reaction to, and reporting of, on-board warnings to reduce maintenance costs and prolong the machine’s life cycle.
Barloworld Equipment is currently updating its Operator Training Academy to bring its qualifications in line with the new South African Qualifications Authority requirements.
The training offered by the company revolves around two main needs of industry and includes training novices to operate machines and improving the capabilities and performance of skilled operators, Haasbroek explains.
The first training course incorporates the company’s corporate social investment programme, where unemployed people with a minimum qualification of grade 12, with maths and science, are trained to operate earthmoving equipment. The company does not provide employment for those who have finished the course, but has determined that about 60% of those who complete the programme find work in the mining and construction industries in South Africa within a year. The programme is successful because mines are able to hire machine operators who are already trained and can focus on particular issues that are specific to that work environment, says Haasbroek.
The second training programme teaches skilled operators how to use the machines more effectively, faster and more economically. The second course is only offered to operators with a minimum of six months’ to a year’s experience in operating a machine. The course, known as Operating Tips, concentrates on the effective and productive use of a machine.
A training course at the Operator Training Academy takes about one month to complete. The biggest cost associated with the training is hiring a machine for the practical training. This is why the Operator Training Academy does on-site training, wherever possible, and also uses new technologies, such as simulators, to reduce the costs of its programmes.
The academy offers on-site training throughout South Africa and also hosts sessions in Namibia, Angola and Mozambique, Haasbroek says. The main challenges encountered by the academy are the language barriers in Angola and Mozambique.
“The academy’s long-term goal is to have a training centre in each of the countries where Barloworld Equipment is represented,” says Haasbroek, adding that opencast mines generate the most demand for operator training.
Barloworld Equipment uses training simulators to reduce the time trainees spend on real machines. The company also reports an increased use of simulators to retrain experienced operators to enable them to learn how to operate machines using Caterpillar’s new joystick control technologies. Barloworld Equipment also makes the simulators available to clients who want to use them to train operators in the use of the new controls.
The simulation enables trainees to learn and understand the controls without the risk of harm to other personnel, operations or the equipment. Different work environments can be simulated and the simulator offers experienced operators a chance to refine their skills and increase production levels, Haasbroek says.