Essential for operators’ adjustment to the equipment, simulators also are a tool for improving operation with no need to go to the field. Remember their evolution.
In the past, Brazilian market needed professionals qualified to operate construction machines. In case of imminent lack of operators of excavators, for example, the operation instructor or foreman would stop the work front of the equipment and train the candidates to the function. In the last decades, the progress of the technology brought in tow operation simulators to allow initial interaction with the commands and main operations of the equipment even before putting the operator in the field. And the results—according to the experts—are surprising, as we will repass in this article.
Studies from the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Science show that simulation may get a level of 78 percent in fixing apprenticeship. This is considered one of the fastest methods to ensure this competence. The highest benefit from the use of simulators is to go beyond the limits of the physical world in favor of the apprenticeship, accelerating the qualifying process and also helping labor to carry out tasks related to each equipment.
Historically, simulators appeared in the 80s. At that time, they looked like videogames. With the evolution of audio and visual technologies, they received later a different suit: they continued to look like video games but with visual and graphic features designed closer to the reality. Little by little, real commands, pre-programmed scenarios, mobile platforms and 3D images—followed by more and more faster procedures—were included. This turned simulators more attractive, although something was missing to turn them similar to a machine. “This improvement came with virtual reality simulators, that allowed labor training using this technology”, tells Edivaldo Freitas, equipment engineering manager from Odebrecht.
He explains that even the most advanced models were designed to be used inside classrooms and did not have all features necessary to supply all necessities. “To make feasible their use in worksites, it was necessary to develop more scenarios of simulation and—in practical terms—a way of storing for transport that could allow simulators to go to operating places”, says him.
As time went by, the equipment division of Odebrecht Infraestrutura (AFEq) started to use virtual reality simulators that already were bringing tangible results not only in the evaluation of knowledge for hiring operators and drivers but also in the preparation of new professionals, certification of existing operators, training of mechanics and safety technicians and training of engineers and foremen in product application.
The practice was consolidated with the success of the program. According to Freitas, AFEq has currently six types of simulators – for articulated truck, wheel loader, track loader, crane, tower crane and crawler tractor. But before they would be used in the worksites, these simulators had to receive some adaptations, such as the construction of a steel cab and the development of an Instructor Manual, in addition to creating transport manuals, training programs, flow charts, class plans and agendas.
At the end, the installation of simulators allowed Odebrecht to get a considerable reduction in the time of forming operators and drivers and reduced 62 percent of the training costs. As remembers the engineering and human resources manager from Odebrecht, Elson Rangel, comparative analyses were developed in a large work carried out by the company comparing training carried out in a simulator of excavator and in the machine itself. “The sole recommendation given to the instructors was to record everything they did, quantifying if possible”, says him.
In these tests, the company reports a reduction of 20 percent in the training time using the simulator, a reduction of 62 percent in the cost per group of students and a reduction of 75 percent in the time of using the machine. “We may associate this idea of gain to the possibility of carrying out operations that were impossible before with a real equipment—such as machine tipping, overload and other operations characterized as dangerous or potentially harmful”—comments Rangel.
In the environmental point of view, other results may also be considered in the general account. With the use of simulators, there was an average reduction of 4 tons per group, preventing the liberation of 15 g/kWh of CO², 4,6 g/kWh of HC, 35 g/kWh of NOX and 0,2 g/kWh of MP to the atmosphere. This is the volume of gases that an excavator liberates in 100 training hours.
Although the results are surprisingly, Rangel points that the main differential is the possibility of increasing the training safety, since that not only the operator but also all other personnel involved are free from risks when training with the simulator, in a situation much more controlled than sessions carried out with the machine in the field. “In most training courses it was possible to replace 100 percent the equipment using the simulator, and the use of the machine was reduced in 75 percent in the training of new operators”, insists Rangel.