Having an actionable and implementable workforce plan in these uncertain times is more important than ever, says workforce development solutions provider Immersive Technologies Europe, Middle East and Africa and Commonwealth of Independent States regional VP Johan Stemmet.
“It is core to any mine’s business continuity plan and pivotal to make up for lost production caused by Covid-19 shutdowns and/or slowdowns across Africa.”
Immersive is supporting many of its African customers in the development of strategic workforce plans as they work to resume operations amid the outbreak.
Stemmet stresses the need for mines and suppliers to be agile to adapt to the “new mining environment”, which has led to innovation in the training space.
With research suggesting that direct contact and the length of exposure to infected people are two of the largest predictors of transmission, extra precautions are needed when training mining equipment operators.
“It is possible to maintain appropriate physical distancing between a trainee and trainer in simulation, but many mines are further reducing the risk of exposure by placing the trainer in a separate location equipped with a remote trainer station,” states Stemmet.
As it is unclear how long the current physical distancing measures will be in place, mines need to ensure that their training processes accommodate these measures by, for example, replacing in-cab training with simulation and transitioning from classroom lessons to online learning, where possible.
“Technology is an enabler, the digitalisation of training and assessment methods with video capabilities and remote training solutions has become more essential. New technologies that support remote video, audio and simulation controls are being shipped from our factory to mining companies in Africa, and are a must-have for training installations to ensure business continuity and, in many cases, comply with the physical distancing policies set out by government,” adds Stemmet.
He says Immersive has developed these enhancements for seamless implementation, which have an immediate impact on productivity and safety through effective training.
Remote Trainer Station
“Accelerating delayed compliance training sessions and focusing on specific productivity initiatives have been priorities for many of our customers. Our Remote Trainer Station and support technology have greatly assisted in establishing a new way of working, keeping operators and trainers safe,” notes Stemmet.
It developed the proof of concept for the station a few months ago. The solution enhances physical distancing while preserving quality outcomes and learning engagement between trainers and operators.
Using two-way communication and monitoring functionality, trainers can continue to coach and train as if they were in the same location as trainees.
The trainer, based in a remote office location, can view and listen to a video feed of the operator through an additional tablet and/or laptop screen while speaking to the trainee through a headset.
The trainer can also view the module and/or conversion kit on the main trainer station through a video feed.
“With access to the same views and user interface on the trainer station as they do in the simulator, trainers can initiate training, perform administrative functions and generate reports remotely,” highlights Stemmet.
While in the simulator, operators can view a video feed of the trainer on a tablet screen attached to the main simulation screen, hear the trainer’s instructions through a speaker and speak to the trainer using a hands-free microphone.
In response to the pandemic, Immersive has also focused on improved remote troubleshooting, remote guidance for hardware and software upgrades, enhanced curriculum support, secure remote connection to equipment and online user groups, besides other initiatives.
Stemmet notes a stable uptake of Immersive’s services by mines in Africa with increasing focus on remote support amid the global Covid-19 outbreak.
“With large adviser and technical support teams based in South Africa, which regularly visit sites, we adapted our approach to mitigate the disruption of customer operations.”
The company has also seen a surge in requests from customers to assist them with their mine data analyses and in the building of structured and focused curricula to get operations back up and running and to meet production targets following national lockdowns.
Stemmet explains that the physical distancing measures aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19 have a significant impact on many of the mission-critical tasks that require individuals to be in proximity with each other, especially tasks that cannot be performed alone.
The impact is amplified in the underground environment, as most of the work and travel spaces are confined.
“Immersive has responded extremely well to these challenges through our remote access processes, remote training processes and maintaining a high level of responsiveness to customer requests.