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Why virtual reality training will save manufacturing

It’s not just cool and trendy to go virtual with your employee training. It can save manufacturers a substantial amount of time and money, improve safety and yield some serious gains.

3 key takeaways

The current model isn't working

Hands-on training for plant personnel is costing manufacturers more time and money than what's tenable due to downtime on labor and machinery.

Workplace injuries are a real threat

Due to unsafe training environments and insufficient practical experience, manufacturing workers are getting injured on the job at a crippling human cost.

VR provides efficient hands-on training

Training in VR allows workers to gain practical experience in a safe environment. And because it's executed on-demand, time and money are saved.

It’s no secret that training new employees to operate machinery is a crucial part of operating any successful business. This is especially true in the manufacturing industry, where the skills of just one operator can either make or break an entire production line. The challenge is that training qualified personnel is often a long and expensive process. And yet, many companies today choose to approach training in a way that only costs them more time and money than necessary.

The reality is that the traditional ways of training employees to carry out procedures, like reading unimaginative instruction manuals, side-by-side instruction, and sitting through dry in-person lectures, are no longer as effective in today’s fast-paced and constantly evolving work environment. Manufacturers need training with more flexibility, efficiency and smarter use of everyone’s time. 

So, what’s really wrong with the current approach to step-by-step training?

Well, it pretty much boils down to 3 overarching problems: 

  • It costs too much to operationalize, both in terms of labor and downtime. 
  • It’s a safety risk for inexperienced employees exposed to dangerous work sites.
  • It’s boring, and people don’t remember what they learned in the classroom. 

These are all major concerns that tend to go unaddressed by most companies. Why is that? Our guess is that corporate executives either aren’t aware of the opportunity costs of continuing “business as usual”, or they just don’t know how easy it is to solve these problems with the technology that’s out there. So, in the interest of remedying that bit of confusion, let’s break down why changes are urgently needed right now.

Downtime is a $50 billion dollar manufacturing problem

Recent studies have shown that the estimated overall annual cost of unplanned downtime is a whopping $50 billion for industrial manufacturers, making it impossible to ignore if you’re serious about minimizing losses. This includes labor, production and revenue losses which are in part caused by poorly trained personnel who mishandle machinery. And because most manufacturers only perform repairs after machines are broken, it becomes a vicious, money-hemorrhaging cycle that feeds itself. Currently, very few companies are exempt from this pattern, as over 82% of all manufacturers have reported incidents of unplanned downtime over the last three years. 

Over 82% of all manufacturers have reported incidents of unplanned downtime over the last three years.


Poor training puts everyone in danger 

Another pressing thing to note is that poorly trained employees can create a dangerous work environment and increase the occurrence of workplace injuries. Because they either lack the technical know-how to operate machinery or forget what they once read on a 50+ slide PowerPoint deck, the likelihood of human error results in accidents which can cause both harm to employees and break expensive machinery. 

In fact, the total costs of work-related injuries recorded in the United States in 2020 was a staggering $163 billion when factoring in everything from medical expenses to wage and productivity losses. Put into perspective, the cost of a medically consulted injury was $44,000 and the average cost of just one work-related death was $1.3 million in the same year. These losses might already seem pressing on their own, but there are also serious downtime costs to consider.

The bottom line is it’s in everyone’s best interest that employee training is handled better to avoid the devastating financial and human consequences of workplace injuries and unplanned downtime.  

The total costs of work-related injuries recorded in the United States in 2020 was a staggering $163 billion.

How technical training can be executed in a way that’s both faster and more affordable than conventional training 

It may come as no surprise to you that our answer lies in virtual reality technical training – a reliable method of providing workers with hands-on training that’s accessible from anywhere and stays in their memory bank. To unpack what’s meant by virtual reality training, let’s ensure we understand the basics of how it works.

What is virtual reality training? 

First and foremost, giving employees a realistic training simulation involves bringing them into a fully immersive experience, which is achieved using Virtual Reality (VR) – a fully rendered, 3D environment that captures the look and feel of being somewhere else. By using VR equipment like the Meta Quest 2, a machine operator can walk into a highly detailed engine room and interact with surrounding objects as they would in real life. Standardized training drills, such as step-by-step safety procedures, are then performed in virtual space, meticulously adapted to the manufacturer’s specifications. 

The benefits of technical training in VR

Considering how costly conventional training tends to be, the benefits of going virtual are impressive. The most obvious advantage is that it’s completely self-paced and accessible on-demand, meaning you can entirely circumvent the downtime on machinery that’s otherwise required for hands-on training. Besides that, you’re also able to: 

  • Reduce training time from weeks to days to hours 
  • Eliminate all risks of injury and machine failure 
  • Support memory retention via practical exercises 

These are just some of the obvious benefits that virtual reality training offers, but it shouldn’t necessarily be viewed in a vacuum. Because now is arguably the perfect time to get started, considering how training is lagging across the manufacturing industry.

With VR, you can entirely circumvent the downtime on machinery that’s otherwise required for hands-on training.


Customer story: Isover readies plant personnel with virtual reality training

With simulated procedures in Virtual Reality, Saint-Gobain Isover is able to provide sophisticated employee training on-demand.

Why now is the perfect time to start

By integrating virtual reality training in your training programs, you’ll  

  • Spend significantly less money than your competitors 
  • Reduce downtime for both machinery and staff 
  • Elevate your employer branding as an attractive workplace 
  • Make training safe and virtually free of workplace injuries

Sounds like a no-brainer, right? But how you get there is where people might get a bit lost.

4 things to consider when introducing virtual reality training to your company

So, what are practical things to consider if you want to implement virtual reality training in your own organization?


1. Data, privacy and security

Arguably the thing you’d want to ensure is that you’re building the technical training on an XR platform that offers cloud-based storage and a high level of security to protect your data. Because keeping company and employee information private is mission critical, a platform built on enterprise grade cloud infrastructure like
Microsoft Azure is an absolute must. You’ll also want to make sure that it has multi-user capability for team-based collaboration.


2. The right assets

What’s equally important is that you possess the required assets to put together a proper virtual reality training experience. That involves digital files like images, 3D models, blueprints, procedures and visual guides that can form the basis of your technical training. Alternatively, some of these assets can be made from scratch
with our support.


3. A solid team

Build the right internal support for a project of this scope. Because XR has only recently popped up on most companies’ radar, it often requires a robust effort to pass it through the organization. You’ll want to have a roster of training coordinators, operations experts, IT support and an executive sponsor who can put their combined weight behind the feasibility of such a project. And most importantly, there must be a project lead who can champion it throughout the organization.


4. An activation plan

Last but certainly not least, you’ll want to devise a thorough activation plan to account for all the necessary steps needed for such an undertaking – such as building, designing and testing – to ensure that the iterative part of the implementation process goes smoothly. Of course, this is where you can get ample assistance from XR industry professionals, who will guide you toward the most effective activation.

If these action points are taken, chances are you’ll have a really solid foundation for your virtual reality training and reach your goals in time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint

To wrap things up, we just want to remind you that making big changes, especially in conservative industries, isn’t an overnight mission. Nevertheless, it’s one that must be seriously considered to remain competitive in today’s working climate. We’re confident that companies will find it rewarding to save both time and money on this modern solution to an old problem – and the fact of the matter is, it’s never been easier to get started. Let’s get it done! 

Discover affordable and easy VR technical training

Join the SynergyXR experts in this webinar and come behind the scenes of our industry-defining platform to see how you can use it to build affordable and easy VR technical training.