Simulators aren’t new to the industry, but many companies don’t understand the cutting edge training they offer for heavy equipment operators. Simulators are easy to use, cost effective, and allow operators to be well trained and comfortable before being placed in the cab of an expensive piece of equipment. They combine technology and operator instruction with rich graphics and realistic controls to help operators feel like they are in the actual machine, allowing them to become familiar with and memorize the machine’s essential operating techniques.
“I think simulators are important for the overall training experience,” says Tom Whitworth, an account manager for Simformotion™ LLC, the licensee for Cat® Simulators for Caterpillar Inc. “A simulator provides training in a virtual environment. It keeps the operator and other ground personnel out of the equation and out of harm’s way.”
Training exercises on the simulator are measured and recorded for each operator’s simulator sessions. That way, the operator can see how well he/she performed. An instructor can check the results to determine if there are areas of inefficiency that need further instruction and additional training time.
“We use our simulators almost every day here,” says Danny Turner, training and development coordinator at Aecon Mining in Alberta, Canada. “In the last four months, we’ve had 250 trainees go through our training center.”
The use of simulators allows operators to make mistakes without endangering themselves or the equipment. This is huge. No one wants to put a greenhorn behind the wheel of a haul truck or at the controls of a loader, excavator, or other expensive machine without knowing he/she can operate it correctly.
“If you make a mistake on a simulator, it’s better than making one on a machine,” Whitworth says. “A trainer can immediately explain to the operator what he did wrong, give him instructions on how to do it correctly, and allow the operator to practice until he has mastered the operation.”
One of the biggest benefits that simulators offer is the ability to track and keep records of each operator’s performance. “We can track time, usage, the speed at which the operator is going, and even how much material the operator is actually putting through,” Whitworth says. “Then you get a report of that operator that you can save to track performance throughout training.”
Simulators also allow quarries to continue producing aggregate while operators are being instructed in the training room. No unnecessary equipment downtime is required. This is especially important when training someone to load a haul truck, which requires the use of more than one piece of equipment at the same time.