SKILLS DEVELOPMENT Through simulation-based training operators are trained on how to respond to real-life situations without putting them and machinery at risk
Workforce development provider Immersive Technologies will launch the Operator Performance Analytics (OPA) service to compare and improve operator skills and behaviour in South Africa later this year, following consistent growth in mine-related training and the use of mining simulation-based training products and services.
The OPA is a business improvement service designed specifically for site managers to accurately identify operator performance variability and training needs.
“Since operator variability is a massive problem – and in the worst cases, the risks can be fatal – OPA is structured to deliver immediate analysis across multiple data systems with critical information presented within a dashboard tailored to the site manager’s needs,” says Immersive Technologies regional VP Anthony Bruce.
The OPA integrates the workforce development plan, machine operational data and simulation data into a comprehensive system to improve safety, provide insights into operational risks, minimise productivity losses, manage machine health, and optimise resource allocation for training and development.
“We are clearly seeing continued investment from mining companies that realise the need to shift from a compliance to a performance focus . . . to continue extracting profit from the South African market,” Bruce states.
Moreover, the combination of black economic-empowerment legislation, as well as mines’ realising the effectiveness of simulators in bridging knowledge and competency gaps, has increased demand for simulation-based training, Bruce adds.
Business development consultant Pieter Page also attributes this demand to higher safety standards being implemented at mining operations and labour union pressures for workforce development. Page explains that, most significantly, mine management saw an opportunity for improved productivity gains through the correct alignment of simulation technology to operational objectives, and the impact of simulators on workforce behaviour change.
Simulation-based training offers many quantifiable benefits from a learning and development standpoint, as it drives a higher degree of learning retention and development of psychomotor skills.
“Our best-practice methodology applies simulation to all key facets of the workforce development cycle, including operator screening and selection, workforce ramp-up, compliance tracking and performance improvement,” Bruce adds.
Immersive Technologies’ simulators track hundreds of operator behavioural inputs that are validated against original-equipment manufacturer standards, which, in turn, enables the company to design workforce development software programs based on rich data sources. These programs will improve the company’s ability to identify, isolate and remove operational risk.
Simulators have also provided a mechanism to accurately measure mobile machine operator competencies in a way that is less subjective than measuring performance, information retention and behavioural change.
Simulators played a role in community upliftment and skills development programmes, says Bruce. Taking potential operators through simulator-based screening and training development interventions has allowed for the establishment of a skilled community workforce. These individuals were then employed by mines and mining contractors in rural Africa on a part-time or permanent basis.
Meanwhile, Page adds that blurring lines between production and training will continue, as greater availability of more data will allow for training programmes and scenarios to be generated directly from data in the field.
With the focus on safety continuing to increase, he explains that simulation will always play a strong role in education and training. There is simply no other way to reproduce dangerous situations and train operators on how to respond to real-life situations without putting people and machinery at risk, he adds.
Immersive Technologies’ simulation-based training products and services use a data-driven approach to education and training. Simulation-based training, with a blended learning approach, is the safest and most engaging form of training for new machine operators, as it enables them to quickly identify gaps and apply relevant training, notes Page.
Further, with the South African mining education and training sector having room for improvement, Page notes that Immersive Technologies has also noted a steady growth in the sector’s maturity, particularly in areas such as the application of technology and data-driven decision-making in support of more effective workforce development.
He attributes this steady improvement to a growing acceptance of the importance of aligning people, processes and technology to effectively implement new approaches and business improvement and to mitigate challenges in the industry.
Meanwhile, Bruce cites some industry players’ ‘attachment’ to old and outdated modes of education and training, including excessive dependence on instructor-led training and low use of available data, as a significant challenge.
This hampers the delivery of the required training to the correct people and the required levels of knowledge retention and skills transfer, which, in turn, “result in an underwhelming impact on operations, a questionable or unknown return on investment and, often, reduced investment”, Bruce concludes.