Aggregates Manager

March 2014

Aggregates Manager Digital Magazine

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Page 23 of 43

OPERATIONS ILLUSTRATED AGGREGATES MANAGER Voices of Experience Tom Whitworth Danny Turner ▼ ▼ "S imulators allow the operator to become familiar with the overall machine controls quickly without any hazard to the operator or machine, without taking the machine out of production, and without wasting money on fuel," says Tom Whitworth, account manager for Simformotion LLC, the licensee for Cat Simulators for Caterpillar Inc. "You don't want to do away with all of the operator's iron time, but the simulator allows you to do away with a portion of it and keep track of it at the same time." ere are some things that can be done on a simulator that can't be done on a machine. An operator learns to operate equipment from the safety of a classroom with a trainer nearby to answer questions and explain procedures. If the trainee does something wrong, the trainer can address it immediately and have the operator perform the operation the correct way. Cat Simulators training exercises contain benchmarks from Cat expert operators. e simulator soware tracks training performance and generates a report each time an operator uses the simulator. Operator performance can be tracked from the time of hire and throughout his/ her training and employment. "A brand new operator will obviously have to spend more time on a simulator, but each one learns at a different pace," Whitworth says. "One may only need 20 hours to learn all the controls, where another may need 40 hours or longer before feeling comfortable enough to get on a machine. e applications included in each simulator are the same operations used on actual jobsites, so the training translates seamlessly to real-world use." An operator can get on a simulator and practice a particular exercise every three months or so to keep skills fresh. If there's an operator that has a really bad habit, he/she can perform the exercise on the simulator until the bad habit has been corrected. "In the aggregate industry, there are some big companies with multiple locations that might not have enough operators at one location to justify buying a simulator," Whitworth says. "So, some companies outfit trailers as mobile labs. Instead of making everyone come to one location, the trailer can be driven to different locations. It can be at one quarry for a couple of months and then moved to the next, cuing out travel time and machine downtime." Much goes into the development of a simulator program, and customers determine what is developed next. "If our customers are interested in a particular machine, we have the ability to develop one," he says. "We also offer custom simulation development. If a customer wants a certain machine model, environment, and particular training exercises, a simulator can be developed just for that customer." "W e got our first simulator about two and a half years ago," says Danny Turner, the training and development coordinator at Aecon Mining in Alberta, Canada. "Our original idea was to use it as an evaluating tool for new hires, and it worked out really well for that. Our new hires sometimes are not what they say they are. When we first started using the simulators, we only hired about 60 percent of the people who applied, because they couldn't pass our simulators. Now, people seem to know we're tracking this closely, and we are geing beer quality people." e company eventually purchased a dozer simulator and an excavator simulator, and set up a training center in August 2013. e simulators are now used for both evaluating new hires and for training and retraining. e training center includes E-learning computer programs, as well, which work well with the simulators to provide a complete training solution. "Simulator training is usually a one-time thing," Turner says. "We bring in an operator for a full day. He'll do computer training and then move to the simulator. By the end of the day, we've run him through many different programs. If he's not comfortable, we'll bring him back again the next day. It's based on the individual. "Once the operator is finished with the simulator, the trainer takes him out in the field," Turner continues. "ere, the trainer goes through much the same scenarios as the operator performed on the simulator. If the trainer finds an area the operator is having trouble with, he will bring him back to the simulator to show him what's being done wrong and how to do it right." Aecon is located in the Fort McMurray area of Alberta and much of its work is performed in the oil sands. Because the oil sands are located in the boggy muskeg, most of the work is done in the winter when the ground freezes hard enough for large equipment to drive on it without geing stuck. is means that many of the company's operators are on furlough for several months during the summer. When the operators return to work, they are sent to the training center for a refresher course before returning to their machines. "Simulators are a big investment," Turner says, "but we'd be lost without them. You can see a return on the investment in a short amount of time. We push to our clients that there aren't too many companies that use simulators and computer training before puing operators to work. And we promote the fact that we do."

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