- By Melissa Landon
- December 08, 2020
Honeywell announced the creation of the Immersive Field Simulator, a virtual reality training tool designed to produce a detailed facsimile of an industrial plant’s facility down to each pump, valve and touch screen.
Nov. 2, 2020 - Honeywell announced the creation of the Immersive Field Simulator, a virtual reality training tool designed to produce a detailed facsimile of an industrial plant’s facility down to each pump, valve and touch screen. The technology lets plant operators and field technician train off-site in a socially distant atmosphere but still see exactly what the plant looks like and witness realistic responses to their interactions with control panels and other equipment.
In an interview, Vincent Higgins, global director of technology and innovation for Honeywell, told me more about the tool. “We have created an exact replica of the plant,” said Higgins. “Our customers want a virtual training tool that looks just like their plant and shows, for example, exactly where their pumps are down to every detail.”
Higgins explained that Honeywell uses the 3D drawings that were used to construct the physical plant to create the virtual version drawn to scale. “You can take the measurements in our replica, and it will match up to the measurements in the field,” he said.
The virtual copy of the plant also imitates the responses an operator would see in the field. “In the real world, if you do something wrong, the environment will respond,” Higgins said. “In our virtual training world, it’s the same. If you make a mistake, you can actually see the result.” The sound and 3D video add to the virtual plant experience as well.
Virtually training a competent, confident workforce
COVID-19 has presented many challenges, including the reduction of the number of people who can be on site. This new training tool will help plants face that challenge. Plants can use the Immersive Field Simulator to train workers who will ultimately work on-site, as well as those who may continue working remotely.
The Immersive Field Simulator provides benefits unrelated to the pandemic, too. Virtual learning is, in many ways, more effective than both classroom and e-learning training methods. A PwC study reported that virtual learners were up to 275% more confident in their ability to carry out what they’d been taught than their classroom and e-learning counterparts. In addition, virtual learners finished their training approximately four times faster and demonstrated up to four times more focus than classroom learners and e learners. Also, 78% of those surveyed following the study indicated that they preferred learning via virtual tools over other modalities.
Reducing downtime and human error
“Our virtual learning tool is designed to promote safety and reduce downtime,” Higgins said. “More than 50% of unplanned downtime is caused by human error.” Practicing procedures in the virtual world first helps cut down on things that create downtime, such as machine breakdowns, performing the wrong procedure, or doing a procedure incorrectly. “Why not do the maintenance in the virtual world first and test it over a half day period and then go out and do the work?” he said.
Specifically, the virtual environment is useful for practicing starting up and shutting down the plant. “Start up and shut down are very carefully planned events. There is a series of steps, and doing these steps incorrectly can destroy equipment or hurt people,” Higgins noted.
Using gaming technology for a higher purpose
“The Immersive Field Simulator uses similar technology to what is used for gaming,” Higgins said. “The simulator can be used by multiple users at the same time, kind of like a multi-player game. We even use avatars. You interact as a team for a specific outcome, but the outcome is about saving lives and money and tech—unlike a game.”
“We’ve taken gaming technology and used it for a higher purpose,” he said. “It’s having an impact in the industry on real people and situations.”
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