Modular, Interactive Operator Training

Helen Chen, a project engineer and member of Emerson’s TAG business, shared a recent project with me where she developed modular, interactive operator training screencasts for a DCS modernization project. TAG provides specialized services for process manufacturers on control system projects–from studies and system documentation to turnkey installations and follow-on support for DCSs, PLCs, SISs, etc. They perform projects with many of the process automation suppliers’ systems.

The story begins with the wisdom of a first grade student who developed a narrated PowerPoint presentation to describe her vacation. Her teacher happened to be the spouse of the project manager on this large modernization project. He was thoroughly impressed with the narration and wanted to bring something like this into the operator training for this project.

The standard training is usually a presentation through a written manual. He wanted something pre-recorded, interactive, and site specific for this particular customer because the team was migrating this plant from a single loop board mounted controller system to a DCS. It was a huge leap for the operators to make.

Helen spent time learning the Adobe Captivate software. During the Factory Acceptance Test (FAT), she was able to do a lot of recording on the system. She also made a point of asking the operators there what their concerns were during that time. They were concerned with everything…navigation, point manipulation, alarms. One of them shared with her that this just didn’t seem real and it was “like playing with video games and most of us aren’t computer savvy.”

From these interactions, Helen developed a training content from System Introduction (how to log in…) to Navigation, Point Manipulation, and Alarms…everything that the team thought the operators needed to be able to operate their new DCS system. From that point, Helen used their system including their graphic displays to make recordings of all the topics in the training content, such as navigating using the custom buttons, changing setpoint, etc. The final step was to publish in html format and to burn to CD.

The project team took this training to the process manufacturer’s site and presented the individual topics to the trainees. They encouraged interaction between the trainers and trainees by having the trainees work through exercises including a workbook they developed. This training was done on a simulated DCS system while the trainers proctored and answered questions.

They were able to address all the questions that the trainees had as soon as they came up so that they could thoroughly understand this material. After the training, this pre-recorded interactive training remained with the site in CD format.

Having the training pre-recorded also helps keep it consistent. The team provided a training manual and “cheat sheet” for quick referencing. Now the curriculum appeals to the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. After the training, the project team saw that operators became very comfortable with the new system and that was a tremendous advantage during actual system cutover.

TAG Interactive Operator Training
The vision cast by a first grade student has been extremely well received by the site personnel and this modular, interactive operator training will be included in upcoming projects at the site. Helen shared a screencast with a short excerpt (6 minutes) from the actual operator training to give you a flavor of what they are now using.

Sometimes valuable innovations are spawned from unlikely sources.

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