Virtual Reality-Based Simulator Optimizes Industrial Worker Training


·      Honeywell’s Immersive Field Simulator incorporates virtual reality to provide plant operators and field technicians with a detailed, accurate training environment 

·      Improves training times beyond traditional classroom-based learning and minimizes situations that can result in operational downtime

Many technology pundits have commented that Virtual Reality is a solution looking for a problem. I’ve long believed that, aside from gaming, VR is most useful to us as a training tool. I’ve drawn that idea from the many demos I have seen over the past few years. And it just keeps getting better. This week I had an opportunity to talk with Vincent Higgins, global director of technology and innovation for Honeywell, and receive a demo of the training capabilities Honeywell has developed so far using VR. The product is called Immersive Field Simulator.

After talking with Higgins, I remain convinced that we have only just begun to tap into the capabilities of VR for production and manufacturing.

Honeywell announced the introduction of an advanced industrial training solution that combines 3D immersive technology with industry-leading operator training simulation to create a collaborative learning environment for plant operators and field technicians. Honeywell’s Immersive Field Simulator is a virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality-based training tool that incorporates a digital twin of the physical plant to provide targeted, on-demand, skill-based training for workers.

“Faced with increasingly complex technology and an experienced workforce nearing retirement, operators need robust technical training and development solutions that accurately depict real-world environments,” said Pramesh Maheshwari, vice president and general manager, Lifecycle Solutions and Services, Honeywell Process Solutions. “Traditional training approaches often fail to meet the mark when it comes to helping panel and field operators and maintenance technicians in process plants become better at their jobs. The result can be reliability issues and increased operational incidents.”

The Immersive Field Simulator offers a smooth, virtual walkthrough to familiarize workers with the plant. It includes avatars that represent virtual team members. The simulator’s cloud-hosted, device-agnostic platform, which incorporates flexible 3D models, grows with the user as plant operations change. The simulator is customizable to meet specific instructional needs and project team members and plant subject matter experts can easily create customized training modules.

Honeywell’s Immersive Field Simulator transforms training for today’s digital-native workforce, enabling employees to learn by doing while increasing knowledge retention, minimizing situations that can result in operational downtime improving competencies across a variety of areas. 

“With our end-to-end solution, console and field operators can practice different operating and safety scenarios, including rare but critical situations, in a safe, simulated environment,” said Maheshwari. “This approach significantly improves upon current training tools and methods. VR-based training boosts confidence and retention while improving overall professional skills. Experience shows that students using VR can learn significantly faster than in the classroom.”

Honeywell’s Competency Management program, which includes the simulator training, is built upon decades of workers’ experiences using integrated control and safety systems. Honeywell has incorporated this experience into state-of-the-art competency-based offerings that improve worker performance and safety.

To learn more about the Immersive Field Simulator, please visit Honeywell’s Competency Management program.

Collaboration Helps Employees Return Safely to the Workplace

Collaboration continues to be one of the key words in this pandemic season for operations in industrial plant safety—which includes Covid awareness. This collaboration targets employees in asset-intensive industries.

  • Collaboration will combine Honeywell’s IIoT connected devices and safety software with Wolters Kluwer’s risk and environmental, health and safety management software 
  • Offerings will help customers in asset-intensive industries protect workers, adhere to compliance requirements and facilitate business continuity 

Honeywell and Wolters Kluwer announced a collaboration to integrate Honeywell’s Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) connected devices and safety software with the risk and environmental, health and safety (EHS) software from Enablon, a Wolters Kluwerbusiness. The collaboration is designed to enable enterprises in asset-intensive industries to improve their risk, safety, and operational excellence programs.

The collaboration enables customers to monitor their EHS performance, receive early warnings about issues from their Honeywell equipment, and take proactive steps to help prevent incidents and improve safety compliance.

“With companies concerned about making a safe return to their facilities, we are offering a solution that aims to provide peace of mind to management in terms of both safety and compliance to keep up with ever-changing health and environmental regulations,” said John Rudolph, president, Honeywell Process Solutions. “Our new reality requires innovative solutions that enable both business continuity and help protect the health of their employees.”

Given the heightened uncertainty of today’s business environment, companies have an urgent need for a more holistic, integrated, enterprise platform to operationalize real-time data collected from human and machine input. By leveraging this data, companies can use actionable intelligence through the integration of technologies to mitigate safety risk and remain compliant with regulations.  

Scenario – How it could work in today’s environment:

  • Before visiting the facility, Honeywell’s Digitized Workforce Management software provides an electronic questionnaire which, when complete, provides an access code and time of arrival to reduce the need for transfer of paper documents and improve social distancing.
  • At the entryway, the connected safety software solutions allow Honeywell’s artificial intelligence-driven elevated body temperature monitoring solutions to conduct non-invasive, preliminary screenings of personnel entering a facility. 
  • The system also detects if individuals are wearing the required personal protective equipment needed for entering the building and if they are doing so properly, in compliance with safety regulations.
  • These data points and other manual data points are then reported to the Enablon EHS software. 
  • Through a dashboard view, management can monitor workers to ensure that they remain compliant with rapidly changing health and safety regulations. The EHS solution also allows frontline operations employees to carry out measurements, checks and recordings directly in the field, without the need to walk back and forth to a control room.

By combining Honeywell’s connected safety portfolio and with Enablon’s software suite, customers can eliminate errors in recorded data and improve hands-on-tool time for operators.

“Our goal is to help predict and prevent accidents and out-of-compliance events before they happen,” said Chirag Shah, senior director, Product Management at Wolters Kluwer’s Enablon business. “To do this, companies need to act on data that comes directly from equipment and assets as well as data from workers and contractors in the field. Combining real-time human and machine data in an integrated solution will enable our joint customers to achieve the benefits of a digitized operation. By joining forces with Honeywell, we are helping our customers leverage the benefits of a true Industry 4.0 solution.”

Besides monitoring the health and safety of employees, the solution can also deliver environmental benefits. Today, industries must comply with environmental permits containing hundreds of specific requirements. The technology can monitor, control and report back on the health of these controls. Honeywell’s stationary and mobile solutions can be configured directly from the local environmental and regulatory permit conditions within local jurisdictions, providing early warning alerts to prevent non-compliance.

Free Training on Open and Secure Automation

Automation suppliers without a solid training program miss a great opportunity to serve customers and also generate good-will and long-term relationships. Hearing that call, Bedrock Automation has announced that the School of Bedrock is now open for free technical training in Open Secure Automation (OSA).  The School of Bedrock provides online virtual training in the essentials of implementing open standard 61131 engineering tools as well as all the Bedrock high-performance hardware and software products. 

“In our constant pursuit to radically reduce lifecycle costs, Bedrock is transitioning training to a zero-cost virtual service.  This will provide a great benefit to all users of Bedrock by eliminating a significant upfront cost of automation,” said Albert Rooyakkers, Bedrock Founder, CEO.  

The core curriculum today is focused on the content that Bedrock Automation requires for certification in its technology, which had previously been delivered primarily through live workshops supplemented by email, video links and PDF exchanges. It is now significantly more automated and available on-demand.

“Trainees can now interact with all program elements through a single portal. They can work toward the certificate at their own pace. They can track their progress easily, pick up where they left off, and see the history of all their interactions. The whole process is very user-friendly visually pleasing and free,” said Bedrock Customer Service and Technical Support Manager Craig Allen. 

The opening module includes a general introduction to Bedrock Automation and its Open Secure Automation offerings, including the Bedrock OSA, OSA Remote, as well as OSA Power products. It also covers the free IEC 61131-compliant integrated application development environment (IDE) and the Bedrock Device Management Tool which can be used to update all controllers and modules to the latest firmware with a single click.

The hardware portion of the curriculum focuses on the I/O and analog and digital Fieldbus management. The software curriculum covers working with variables and data types, ladder logic, sequential function charts, structured text, functions and user-defined types, a demonstrated understanding of which is necessary for certification.

3 Cognitive Biases Perpetuating Racism at Work — and How to Overcome Them

Life is a series of paradoxes. We’re living in a time of many people either temporarily or permanently losing their jobs while other companies are struggling to find qualified people to hire.

When we dip into the labor pool, are we limiting our searches through something called Cognitive Bias?

I ran across this article at the World Economic Forum by Adwoa Bagalini, its Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion Lead. He identifies three cognitive biases and shares some ideas for overcoming. Not to give away a punchline, but most of us should be students of W. Edwards Deming and/or Taiichi Ohno and should have learned about changing the process, not the individual.

From the paper.

We do know is that lasting, positive change is difficult to achieve without deliberate, sustained effort informed by reliable data that is free from bias. And it’s important not to underestimate the role cognitive bias can play in undermining these efforts – and to stay vigilant in spotting and mitigating it.

What is cognitive bias?

Human brains are hardwired to take shortcuts when processing information to make decisions, resulting in “systematic thinking errors”, or unconscious bias. When it comes to influencing our decisions and judgments around people, cognitive or unconscious bias is universally recognized to play a role in unequal outcomes for people of colour.

1. Moral licensing

This is when people derive such confidence from past moral behaviour that they are more likely to engage in immoral or unethical ways later. In a 2010 study, researchers argued that moral self-licensing occurs “because good deeds make people feel secure in their moral self-regard”, and future problematic behaviour does not evoke the same feelings of negative self-judgment that it otherwise would.

Moral licensing may help explain the limitations of corporate unconscious bias training in creating an anti-racist work environment, an effect which has already been observed when it comes to tackling gender inequality.

2. Affinity bias

This is our tendency to get along with others who are like us, and to evaluate them more positively than those who are different. Our personal beliefs, assumptions, preferences, and lack of understanding about people who are not like us may lead to repeatedly favouring ‘similar-to-me’ individuals.

Many hiring managers have a hard time articulating their organization’s specific culture, or explaining what exactly they mean when they say “culture fit”, leading to this being misused to engage employees that managers feel they will personally relate to.

3. Confirmation bias

This is the tendency to seek out, favour, and use information that confirms what you already believe. The other side of this is that people tend to ignore new information that goes against their preconceived notions, leading to poor decision-making.

Many people’s perceptions of others with different identities and with whom they have limited interaction, is strongly influenced by media depictions and longstanding cultural stereotypes.

For example, a 2017 study published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people tended to perceive young Black men as taller, heavier, and more muscular than similarly sized white men, and hence more physically threatening.

How to overcome unconscious bias

1. Change systems, not individuals

The main reason unconscious bias training programmes fail to have the desired effect in creating lasting change, is that they are focused on changing individual behaviours while leaving largely untouched the systems that enabled those behaviours to thrive.

2. Slow down and act deliberately

Bias is most likely to affect decision-making when decisions are made quickly, according to Stanford University psychology professor Jennifer Eberhardt, who studies implicit bias in police departments.

3. Set concrete goals and work towards them

Data is essential to making real progress on diversity goals, and especially important when it comes to mitigating the effects of bias because it provides an objective measure of what has improved – or worsened – over time.

Return From Covid

It almost sounds like a ’50s SciFi movie.

For a couple of months into the Covid pandemic, my inbox collected a steady stream of press releases about what this or that company was doing to either fight the coronavirus or prepare workplaces and workforces for the return to the office. That mighty river has turned into a stream at the end of summer.

The CTO of a Siemens company on NPR’s Tech Nation with Moira Gunn (good podcast, by the way) and I have interviewed Siemens about its combining of technologies to provide for safer workplaces in light of infectious viruses.

Then I received this note from Marty Edwards, VP of OT Security, Tenable, whom I’ve known for years as a reputable security specialist. “Prediction: Workers who return to the office may well bring new vulnerabilities with them.”

“While many critical infrastructure workers who operate, manage and secure the OT that underpins our economy can’t bring their work home, some of their colleagues certainly can. It’s likely that functions such as sales, marketing, HR, finance and legal of many essential services –food and beverage, manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies — have shifted to a remote-work model. When stay-at-home orders are eventually lifted, many of these folks will return to their offices with equipment that will be re-connected to corporate networks. With this comes the added risk of new vulnerabilities and threats being introduced to either the IT or OT side of mission- and safety-critical operations. During this transition, it’s imperative security teams have visibility into where the organization is exposed and to what extent, enabling them to effectively manage risk on a day-to-day basis. Put simply, the security challenges aren’t gone once everyone is back in the office.”

I have not worked in an office for years, unless you call a coffee house an office. But, many people will be returning to offices in the next few months. They will expect safe workspaces. As will all the factory workers (think about the morons running meat processing plants).

It took a while for cybersecurity to catch up with the sudden working-from-home IT challenge. Now, we’ll have millions returning to the corporate intranet bringing who knows what (computer) viruses with them. Another type of security to deal with.

One way or another, engineers will be busy dealing with this crisis for many months. Probably along with all their other work.

HPE Shows Company’s Investment In People, Environment, and Doing Business the Right Way

This recap of Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s (HPE) annual Living Progress Report for 2019 wraps up thoughts and coverage of all the many virtual conferences I experienced in June. The communications teams from all the companies worked hard and had to experiment in real time to bring out the best alternative to just completely shutting down.

These thoughts center on ethics—something given my experience in business I thought I’d never be writing about. If there were two institutions within which I worked where ethics was merely a word in the dictionary, they were business and church.

Thankfully that situation is changing, and this report from HPE is encouraging. I’ve met many people within the company. I don’t think this is superficial marketing-speak.

The report demonstrates HPE’s ongoing commitment to being a force for good by equipping customers with sustainable technology solutions, upholding HPE’s own high Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) standards across its value chain, and prioritizing company culture to fuel business outcomes by unlocking the innovation of team members.

“Our team members’ passion, ingenuity and resilience enable us to create technology solutions to tackle the many pressing challenges facing society today,” said HPE President and CEO Antonio Neri. “Current discussions around systemic racism, inclusion, and diversity demonstrate the importance of taking bold actions to create a more equitable and sustainable future. We are proud of our progress and committed to do more as a company and in partnership with our peers, customers, and partners.”

In 2019, HPE intensified its strategic focus on culture and launched the “Work That Fits Your Life” program to support a more inclusive workplace that values team members’ experience inside and outside of the workplace. New benefits include six months of paid parental leave for mothers and fathers, career reskilling and transition support, and a company-wide shortened work day once a month on “Wellness Friday”.

From the release:

HPE is investing in human capital because it wants to be a place where people can learn, develop skills and do career-defining work. HPE’s Executive Committee developed the “Work that Fits your Life” program in partnership with its Board of Directors, 54% of whom identify with one or more diverse groups. One of the key goals of the program was to drive inclusion in the workplace. And, the company began tying diversity metrics to executive compensation to further embed inclusion and diversity into the organization.

In 2019, HPE’s employee engagement score rose 10 percent and has risen an unprecedented 18 percent since 2017, and its team members clocked their one millionth hour of company-supported volunteer time since 2016. In addition, HPE offered opportunities to engage with more social impact activities through the inaugural HPE Accelerating Impact initiative.

This year’s Living Progress Report also, for the first time, details racial diversity statistics of its team member population, an important step in being transparent and addressing systemic bias and inequality in our society.

HPE announced that it would make its entire portfolio available as-a-service by 2022, a consumption model that can bring significant energy efficiency gains and cost savings to its customers by eliminating overprovisioning and allowing customers to pay for only what they use. In addition, service-based models allow HPE to maintain chain of custody over equipment to ensure recovery and refurbishment, reducing physical waste and the need to source substances of concern. In 2019, 88% of the nearly four million assets returned to HPE’s Technology Renewal Centers were given a new life, but shifting to more consumption-based solutions is predicted to dramatically reduce the consumption of unnecessary IT assets.

HPE remained on track to meet all of its 2025 climate targets, having reduced its carbon footprint by 47% in just four years. The company also introduced a new emissions reduction target for its transportation logistics footprint – aiming to reduce the footprint by 35% by 2025. It also continued to see opportunity to help customers thrive in a carbon constrained world – with efficient IT products and services representing nearly USD $7.7 billion in revenue in 2019.

HPE continued to hold suppliers to high environmental, social and ethical standards. In 2019, HPE’s supply chain audit and assurance improvement program touched over 133,000 workers and the company guided 51% of its suppliers on how to set their own science-based climate targets. In addition, HPE sought to promote inclusion and diversity through its supply chain by spending approximately USD $1 billion with small enterprises and minority, women and veteran-owned businesses in the United States.