Nevertheless, earlier this year the company rolled out the first of its new web-based training full-course packages (short modules have been available for some time). The training mainly focuses on the Experion process knowledge system. An instructor monitors each course, which all take a week. Virtual lab sessions can be accessed 24/7 via a remote server.
Honeywell has created a lunch-and-learn format for several live interactive webinars. "Additionally we are currently working on pre-recorded modules that cover important activities that are intended to provide refresher information and will last from 20 minutes to half an hour. We are still working on the logistics of the pre-recorded packages," notes Wyse.
This style of delivery also is being blended with more traditional training. For example, on some courses, users now are expected to have accessed eight hours' worth of material via webinars and podcasts before attending the actual course at a company training center.
In addition, the company has developed a mobile Experion system to deliver on-site training to groups of between six and 10.
An increasing push for staff certification in specific technologies will add to demand, Wyse believes. Users of its pulp-and-paper technology in Europe now must get certified, and this requirement likely will extend to other processes in the future, he says.
"The challenge is how to address the needs of different operators and different processes," says Dave Gillespie, leader, Honeywell Global Automation College, Ashland, Ky.
"I think in future there will be lots of e-training, possibly up to 50%. We have been working for about two years now trying to transfer our week-long courses into remote offerings. But, on the other hand, they are week-long courses for a good reason: we have a lot of information to get across. But there is a problem here because course content is always growing. We are at the point now where a week-long course (typically four-and-a-half days to allow traveling) cannot have any more information packed into it. They are at capacity. So this web access is a solution to that growing body of information," he explains.
Invensys also sees a shift. "We see a big change in the training market, especially for safety — also in the way that training is given. There is much more demand for compliance-based training now. It's also becoming more important to train people as a team now. So, we are looking more and more at reproducing a mirror of the plant, one that can be delivered in the field by virtual reality," says Maurizio Rovaglio, director of global consulting, Invensys Operations Management, Milan, Italy.
At the heart of this work is the company's new EYESim virtual reality immersive training solution (Figure 3). "We believe in the penetration of the message, in the way that the new generation of Playstations and Xboxes get their message across," he says.
With virtual reality EYEsim operators can learn a specific activity — for example, maintenance of a valve in a pressurized line — without leaving their work area. They give their onscreen avatar the necessary equipment and let their virtual representative do the task.
"Although EYEsim is very new, we are about to close a significant agreement to deliver it to a European petrochemical company. Management understand today that the new generation of operators need more appealing solutions and this gets the message across in a more penetrating way," he notes.
Seán Ottewell is Chemical Processing's Editor at Large. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.