I suspect that when many parents are teaching teenagers to drive, they wish for an environment where the novice can drive an actual car but without other traffic. Simulators are great, but they aren’t real cars, so what’s needed is a safe driving area where accidents can’t happen.
Many process plant managers want the same thing: a training environment where classroom instruction is supplemented with actual pumps, valves, and instrumentation. This provides real hands-on experience, but without risk of lost product or safety incidents.
Emerson understands this need, and providing this type of training for end users is the motivation behind our Interactive Plant Environments (IPEs). How this concept works is the topic of my article at Automation.com, Hands-On Training, Combined with Traditional Classroom Instruction, Provides a Realistic Learning Environment. We’re responding to a need from end users in all manner of process manufacturing environments.
Many process plant managers would like to upgrade the skill levels of their existing personnel and quickly get new hires up to speed, but this is often a challenge. Even if they can find qualified engineers and technicians, they may have little or no practical experience in an actual process plant production environment. They may have a strong foundation of theory gained in a classroom, but that won’t be sufficient to deal with an upset in a distillation column, for example. And for both types of employees, time is often of the essence, so they need to be brought up to speed quickly, without placing an undue burden on existing staff.
So, how do we do that? We assume that most trainees have some baseline understanding, able to differentiate between a valve and a pressure gauge. We begin with a variety of self-paced online courses, and then build to classroom training at our site. But we don’t stop there, because as important as both of these types of training are, the next step is even more vital.
The most effective form of training for increased retention is learning by working with the actual equipment, and the automation and instrumentation components found in process plants. An example of this can be found in one of Emerson’s Interactive Plant Environments, located in Charlotte and Minneapolis. These locations include classrooms supplemented with comprehensive, hands-on training facilities capable of simulating a working process plant environment, but without the hazards. Each IPE closely simulates actual plant conditions, with real-world hardware and software.
That’s the step capable of making a huge difference. Online courses and classroom training are available from many sources, but Emerson’s IPEs are unique and offer a comprehensive platform capable of simulating countless situations with equipment and software. Our IPEs run oil- and water-based batch processes, each including a magnitude of measurement points, empowering trainees to evaluate multiple technologies and performance characteristics. Many standard courses are available, and custom programs can also be assembled.
This training approach is increasingly being used to supplement and improve upon on-the-job training as it’s often a better fit for the staffing levels, expertise and workloads found in today’s process plants. This physical environment has proven to be very effective as it allows students to learn by doing in a hands-on manner, bringing them up to speed quickly with learning directly applicable to improving their job performance, potential for promotion and operation of their plant.