Simulation & Games-based Solutions for the Training of Manual Assembly Workers

This year’s GaLA conference in Paris will feature a new initiative targeted at engaging industrial users and potential users of serious gaming and simulation solutions. As part of the programme I’ll be looking at the ways in which manufacturing industries are exploring the use of games and simulations in the context of two global phenomena.

alt

Fig.1. Megatrends affecting manufacturing industry worldwide

Around the world manufacturers are confronted by rapidly changing conditions with profound affects upon the way that they design products, plan production, and train employees. Aging and changing workforce demographic tends to compound a skill shortage problem which threatens the ability of organisations to fully harness the knowledge of their blue collar workers as a production asset. Meanwhile changing customer demands and behaviours lead to shorter product lifetimes and an increase in the number of variant models which should be produced at any given facility. In order to remain competitive manufacturers need to consistently find new ways to gain an edge.

alt

Fig.2. Development and trends in technology-enhanced assessment. Source: the use of ICT for assessment of key competencies – JRC/Christine Redecker, 2013

Meanwhile, industrial training and workforce development should be seen in the context of the significant technological advances being made, which are summarised in Fig. 2. Data mining techniques and behaviour tracking are the stepping stones on the path to more mature learning analytics systems, while automated feedback and intelligent AI tutoring will eventually realise the full potential of personalised learning solutions. Simulations and games are seen as playing an important role in enabling these future realities, and furthermore, they are increasingly flexible and affordable due to emerging approaches to radically enhancing the efficiency of their production.

alt

Fig.3. Virtual training complements training on physical mock-ups leading to a 12.5% reduction in time to Start of Production

While the market is relatively well served by established high end simulation tools it is increasingly realised that such high fidelity is not only not required for all training purposes, in fact it can be counter-productive on a number of levels. Applications based on game engine technology such as Unity can more effectively be deployed in many training scenarios, and can be dramatically effective, for example, by reducing time to start of main production by 12.5% or more through a complementary virtual training intervention! If that was not attractive enough, they are able to achieve these high level results through recycling existing enterprise data drawn from modelling and product lifetime management (PLM) systems so that authoring time is dramatically reduced and non-technical specialists are able to create powerful mid-range applications in very short timescales.

alt

Fig.4. Easy integration of modular knowledge sharing tools

These middle range solutions are also flexible to such an extent that they are easily adaptable to handle the emerging trends in technology-enhanced assessment and meet the changing global requirements of manufacturing companies outlined in Figs. 2. & 3. (above). Feedback loops of many kinds can be implemented based on the analysis of training simulation and games generated data. Examples are illustrated in Fig.4. including product design feedback loops, production planning feedback, assembly worker population performance analysis, assembly worker – production engineer dialogue, and many more.

alt 

Fig. 5. Example uses of gameplay to enhance system use and pedagogic intent

Game engine-based solutions also facilitate the straight forward exploitation of game driven solutions. Benefits of this approach include the oft-cited examples of increasing motivation to train and improve performance, and providing clear feedback of personal performance improvement, but they also run deeper than this. Careful matching of the game form to the pedagogic intent has been demonstrated to reduce mistakes, improve precision and speed up attainment of performance mastery in carefully controlled mixed initiative group studies involving real assembly line workers. The use of tempo-based, rhythm games is particularly promising in this area.

I’ll dive into these areas in more detail during my talk at the GaLA Conference industrial session on 23rd October in Paris, just one of many interesting explorations designed specifically for industrial users of serious games and simulations. Full details available at: http://www.galaconf.org/index.php/sgs-exhibition

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.