Virtually real: Using Virtual Reality to enhance engineer training

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Striving for technical excellence by definition goes hand in hand with embracing new technologies and actively driving innovation. As many of you will know, Alderley has successfully taken its first steps into the world of Virtual Reality, which was showcased during the recent visit paid by Baroness Fairhead (if you have missed the article, you can find it here).

Now the Alderley Services Team has for the first time employed Virtual Reality as part of a metering training course in Australia. Led by Garreth Dold, Commissioning Engineer at Alderley, the participants of the course were able to familiarise themselves with their Alderley-built skid in what one of the participants fittingly described as a “life-like experience”.

The possibility to effectively train Engineers on skids and other equipment remotely holds significant potential, and as a result will likely drive the future of training. “Allowing engineers to virtually acquaint themselves with the skids holds significant cost and safety advantages” knows Matt Cottrell, Junior Controls Engineer, who along with Andrew Charles, Project Engineer, was substantially involved in the programming of the VR equipment. “Skids are often located in remote locations or offshore, and getting engineers out there to train can not only be very expensive, but it also offers a potential safety threat in environments classed as hazardous.”

At the same time, a theoretical training which often involves looking at images and slides does of course not have the same effect as actively training on ‘the real thing’. This is where VR comes into play. “From the comfort and safety of a room, you can transfer yourself onto a skid in the middle of the ocean within minutes. The technology has made quantum leaps over recent years, and even though you know it isn’t real, you can’t help but forget. And as we keep developing the tool, more and more fine details can be included, up to the very smallest parts. The possibilities are virtually endless.”

Based on the fantastic feedback we have received from the participating engineers – who felt it “exceeded expectations” during the trial – and several requests to keep developing this training tool, we have no doubt that we will hear a lot more about Virtual Reality in the near future – certainly at Alderley.