Posted on 11/8/2017

Process Industry: Costs vs Benefits in Virtual Reality Training

Franco Bevione

If you still have doubts in making investments in Virtual Reality Training (VRT) because it seems too expensive, this blog post will help to remove many of your concerns. VRT solutions can actually be a source of great savings and are well-suited for almost any process-related industry that utilizes human machine interactivity (HMI), resources (tasks, training, continuing education), Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) policies and risk management, or deals with maintenance repair operations (MRO). VRT dramatically improves both the operator's performance and tasks by proactively preventing errors while facilitating faster issue recognition to enable correct and effective solutions, every time.

Before we proceed, we want to specify that we are talking about high-quality virtual reality systems and not the typical, lower-cost, point-of-entry units that are normally employed.  Of course, there is a dramatic difference in the level of sophistication in technologies currently on the market. 

When you develop a training program for your company you’re making a significant investment in terms of money, time and resource allocation. VRT also accommodates updates and revisions so that training initiatives can always be revised to remain current.  It’s important to note that a quantifiable reduction in training time and a significant cost savings can be accredited to VRT because participants are learning on a system that perfectly aligns with the way that people learn tasks: kinesthetically. What we’re saying in simple terms is that adults recall up to 90 percent of what they heard, saw and performed using AR/VR, as opposed to simply reading about how to perform a task or watching a video on “how to.” Additionally, AR/VR is user-friendly and is widely accepted as a better way to update and re-educate personnel on the latest processes to improve their work levels. See Chart A below for specific details on time reduction studies.

In the projection of a 24-month training program, elapsed time reduction can reach about 8 months, creating a cost savings of approximately 33 percent. 


Calculation based on information and data from source “Performance Comparison of Different Training Methods”

The fact is, human error is the primary cause of accidents (as much as 32 percent3). The chapter regarding HSE policies2 details how VRT systems create a useful and successful application when strictly connected to Safety and Risk Management.  We can also reference the data search of the Energy Safety Institute at the University of Houston1, which conducted a study comparing the main causes of accidents in the Process industry (see chart B).  Results show that 4 out of 5 major offshore accidents are caused by human error.  If a Virtual Reality Training platform were utilized, then it could generate a diminishing trend of accidents that can decrease by a minimum of approximately 12 percent2.

Chart B3

The significant cost savings coming from VRT technology in HSE policies is determined by several aspects, including: a diminishing trend of accidents involving human life losses and injuries, a lower cost for any remaining accidents and a reduction in liability insurance coverage normally required as risk is greatly reduced.

With a Virtual Reality Training environment, operators can experience real-life tasks, critical situations, refresh their skills and, most importantly, learn how to properly react to emergency situations, in an extremely realistic and virtually risk-free context. Clearly, it’s not possible to create some of these situations in real-life training scenarios so it is increasingly difficult to properly train for them without the VRT.

Virtual Reality can be an answer also for maintenance repair operations (MRO), providing high-level tools through which operators will perform maintenance, repair interventions and operations more efficiently and effectively.  In this scenario, a reduction of time and mistakes results in significant budget savings, as shown in the following Business Case simulation 2, see chart C.

Estimated Operators cost on total MR expense = 10 percent at an average cost of $2.6 million3 for 1 Outage.  A VR platform can provide a performance improvement of 60.7 percentThus, the total savings on MRO can be around 4-5 percent.

Chart C

Finally, with an improvement in Operator performance we see a faster and more precise execution in tasks which have an added impact on cost reductions, especially when dealing with complex and critical operations where VRT Systems allowed for the prevention of major errors. In an example case study (see chart D) we can advance a cost savings of at least 13 percent if we consider an average number of 30 outages per year in 1 refinery (50 percent caused by human error), with an average cost of $2.6 million3 for 1 Outage.

Chart D

To summarize, we are not suggesting that you cancel classroom training methods altogether or even put them aside. What we’re suggesting is the right mix of classroom training plus VRT to deliver the optimal solution in creating the best-trained people possible.  As you know, classroom training (or in-field training for that matter) often includes coordinating physical locations (logistics), employee schedules, Manager schedules, Trainers, equipment, etc. Hours of classroom and on-the-job activity (typically with physical mock-ups of a real part of the plant) are wasted once the product is updated/situations change or both. Instead, we strongly recommend introducing VRT solutions into the training curriculum mix. Doing so can quickly and positively impact ROI, reduce classroom downtime and save money. VRT does achieve higher levels of improved trainee performance in a faster, more efficient and productive way. Trainees will learn by virtual “hands-on” procedures, many of which could not be re-created in a safe training environment, yet are critical to the task. 

1-  Source: Ocean Energy Safety Institute at the University of Houston – May 2014

2 - Internal data and calculation subject to authorized disclosure. More details can be disclosed to third parties on request and if covered by NDA agreement            

3 - Polytechnic of Milan - Process System Engineering (2013)

Other References:

 “Creating a Reliability Culture” - Case Study CLG -

Integration of ISA Standards for Effective Decision Support, Dr. Maurice J. Wilkins

About the Author

Franco Bevione | WEDOO

Franco Bevione is the CEO of WEDOO LLC, a global company engaged in the development of digital solutions to support Industry 4.0, based on virtual and augmented reality technologies. WEDOO has locations in Italy, the United States and China. Bevione is responsible for driving the company’s vision and global strategy of stealth innovation for the North American market and is a successful entrepreneur whose expertise includes industrial engineering, operational management and multimedia production. Bevione has facilitated leading solutions for the automotive, transportation, oil and gas, health care, and other industries in both B2B and B2C digital arenas by engaging his deep knowledge and training intel to resolve challenging problems in manufacturing equipment maintenance, operations and safety.


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