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Speeding Up Simulator Training Exercises Can Lead To Improved Training

NEWSLETTER ARTICLE

Every year in the chemical processing industry a great sum of money is invested in simulator training of control operators on process unit operations. When done correctly, simulator training has proven to be a cost effective way to impart crucial skills and experience to operators. Many factors determine the effectiveness of simulator training, including the fidelity of the process simulated, similarity between the simulator and the actual control system, etc. Now, new evidence is emerging to suggest that speeding up the simulated events can help improve the effectiveness of the training.

One recent article, L. Miller, K. Stanney, D. Guckenberger, E. Guckenberger, Above Real Time Training, Ergonomics In Design, Vol 5, No 3, July 1997, reviews studies that have consistently reported the benefits of above real time training, or ARTT. Above real time training is essentially maintaining all aspects of the regular simulation, except the simulation runs at a speed faster than normal. For example, a sequence of events that might normally take five minutes in real life is compressed into a two or three minute duration, reportedly providing better “realism” to trainees. It has been found that time compressed training improves performance, increases retention, and reduces stress compared with conventional training.

Although ARTT has only recently become a mainstream item, the idea can be traced back to the late 1960s and early 1970s to Jack Kolf of NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. Test pilots complained that real life events seemed to occur at a quicker pace than in the simulator, even though the simulator events were running at the same speed as real life events. So, researchers speeded up the simulations and pilots soon endorsed the change claiming it more closely approximated real life conditions. Subsequent research in the late 1980s and early 1990s confirmed the anecdotal evidence experimentally. In one study that used a simulated Air Combat Engagement Environment Module, the ARTT pilots were found to be 28% more accurate on emergency procedure tasks and shot down six times more enemy aircraft compared to a control group.

Although ARTT has been tested and used in the aerospace and defense industries, it holds similar potential for the chemical processing industry. One important application is enhancing the operators’ ability to cope with upsets and off- normal situations. One of the most commonly heard complaints from operators about handling upsets is the increase in the tempo of events, often to a point that overwhelms the operator. Research by Beville Engineering has shown that upsets can easily triple or quadruple the alarms the operator must respond to and the number of control moves the operator must make. Having the operators experience the events in a simulator at above normal speeds holds great promise in enabling the operator to handle the events during real time conditions.

Copyright © 1997 Beville Engineering, Inc., All Rights Reserved

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