August 11, 2021
Working in an industrial plant is a challenging career choice. With safety incidents occurring occasionally, it is extremely important for each worker to receive comprehensive training. The real question is how long it takes until the future of education relies on virtual reality entirely.
Knowledge is power
Although the oil and gas industry is known as a pioneer in knowledge management, factors like costs and budgets tend to force many companies around the world to conduct business the way they always have. This means knowledge management initiatives are largely pushed to the side. Based on the ways companies manage their expenses in conjunction with workflow fluctuations, we see unpleasant situations regarding knowledge retention. Workforce fluctuation is one of the biggest problems in the oil and gas industry. For every two operators who leave a company, only one operator joins. That leads to a tremendous loss of knowledge when each worker leaves, and if we keep in mind the classic training methods of learning, the results are not the best. More importantly, many of the operators leaving are highly experienced. The result is a lack of mentors, which affects the knowledge transfer to newcomers.
The classroom method of learning and its efficiency
Before the oil and gas industry started using virtual reality, training used to be based mainly on the classic “classroom” method of learning. The absence of a holistic approach and consistent programs for knowledge retention became a cause of concern in the industry. The main way of learning about dangerous, even fatal incidents today is through good old-fashioned storytelling. Experienced operators tend to talk about all the previous incidents that happened during their careers, but with them gone, there is no one to share the knowledge. Although this might seem like a handy method, nothing could be farther from the truth. Describing a job through verbal expression is just not effective, and how much knowledge is transferred depends on how skilled the speaker really is.
The next method of learning that is widely used in the oil and gas industry involves reading procedures and training manuals. Although this method relies on having detailed instructions for different operations, the effectiveness of this method is not the best. In an experimental study by MIT, only 30% of participants prefered reading as a learning method. This method is also quite slow compared to others since it requires a high level of focus. A third widely used learning method, shadowing, is used by many plants today, but with 50% of senior operators retiring within the next 5 to 7 years, this method will no longer be as useful. In addition, shadowing is very different from real-life situations, and it can’t prepare workers for unexpected situations. So does the oil and gas industry’s future rely on passing knowledge from one worker to another through different methods? The answer to that comes in the form of virtual reality.
Studies have shown that the classroom method of learning and storytelling are highly inefficient compared to virtual reality learning. Interestingly, theoretical learning offers a knowledge retention rate of only 20%, while practical learning’s knowledge retention rate at a stunning 80%. With this in mind, it is clear that virtual reality is becoming more and more valuable in delivering learning value from past experiences. Although various classic learning methods can be used, the real question is how effective they really are and whether they qualify the new workforce to work in the field. The answers to these questions were described in our previous blog post, where you can also find out more about classic learning methods and their efficiency.
Linde Virtual Academy and its solutions
Our team of experts carefully investigates each incident, which is then updated in or added to the Linde Virtual Academy library. Each incident helps us think of new ways an individual could face danger. By preparing them in advance, the chances of an operator being prepared to reverse a dangerous situation is quite high. Linde Virtual Academy offers a solution in the form of an ever-growing number of scenarios based on real-life situations. This way, all lessons learned can be re-created and knowledge stays within the company despite the harsh retirement trends. What really makes the whole experience different is that all the lessons are centralized and available for newcomers who can experience them anytime, anywhere. All the lessons are also available around the world, no matter where they were recorded. This enables every worker in the oil and gas industry to achieve a safe workplace and maximise their knowledge retention.
It is clear that living in the future comes with its own problems, but at Linde Engineering, we believe knowledge retention shouldn’t be one of them. We started developing Linde Virtual Academy in 2019 to eliminate some of the main problems the oil and gas industry faces today. It delivers realistic training programs for newcomers, offering a safe learning environment, highly effective hands-on scenarios that are hard to replicate in reality and knowledge that is centralized and kept in-house. Based on the success stories from our partners Afrox and ORLEN Unipetrol, we deeply believe the future of effective, improved, comprehensive education lies in virtual reality.