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Harry Daglas

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The value of simulation in employee training pt1


Harry Daglas tells the community about how the energy industry is pushing forward with 3D and simulation in training.
Companies in the global energy industry are under intense pressure from all directions. The exponential growth of power demand must always be met. Compliance with increasingly stringent health, safety and environmental regulations is mandatory. New facilities must be brought online quickly, an ageing infrastructure must be upgraded and modernised and a retiring workforce with the potential loss of know-how and experience must be replaced — all with minimal service interruptions. All the while, companies with trillions of dollars of assets in the field need new solutions to keep a lid on staggering operations and maintenance costs. According to the 2004 National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) report, nearly $16bn is lost annually in the industry due to interoperability challenges. No segment of the energy industry is exempt.
The oil and gas segment in particular has significant challenges. Refineries, offshore rigs and other processing plants are some of the world's largest, most complex facilities, operating around the clock at peak capacity under some of the harshest conditions on the planet. Many upgrade, refurbishment and maintenance projects involve hundreds of workers who must be thoroughly trained – especially in safety-related operations such as handling fires, toxic chemicals, high-pressure leaks and other emergency incidents. Scheduling requires precise choreography to ensure each step occurs on time and in proper sequence.
"Conducting training exercises on-site using actual equipment presents a higher risk of damage to valuable equipment and the safety of the crew, especially subcontractors and new personnel who are unfamiliar with the site."
Many companies typically have mandatory training for their workers and subcontractors a few weeks a year. Challenges to meet training requirements are compounded at offshore oil and gas rigs accessible only by helicopter or boat, which drives up transportation costs for personnel and equipment. Teams of crews generally are replaced every six weeks on offshore drilling platforms, where on-site training is hugely expensive and highly disruptive to routine work. Conducting training exercises on-site using actual equipment presents a higher risk of damage to valuable equipment and the safety of the crew, especially subcontractors and new personnel who are unfamiliar with the site. On the other hand, off-site mock-ups are expensive to construct and often do not realistically replicate real-world scenarios.
The industry needs capabilities that allow owner/operators to execute programs safely, on time and on budget, ensuring both continuing supply for an energy-hungry world and a fair margin for those who meet the demand.

3D virtual simulation technologies address critical issues

A growing number of companies in the pipeline and gas industry are addressing these challenges through the use of innovative 3D virtual planning, simulation and visualisation technologies. Such systems allow people to plan and schedule operational procedures, train workers and meet health and safety requirements by interacting with a computer-simulated 3D environment, including cranes, plant assets and workers to determine the best process to minimise costly project delays and mitigate project execution risk.
By studying procedures in this virtual world, engineers, planners, safety experts and workers can identify problems, explore options and determine the best remedy without disrupting actual plant operations. With lifelike 3D models, simulations and visualisations, planners can test their project plans virtually, and workers can see precisely what they need to do before they attempt it on the job. In this manner, optimal procedures and scheduling of operations can be worked out before projects are started in the plant or along the pipeline and workers can be safely trained off-site.
Typically, digital models are created from a combination of plant drawings, CAD geometry, 3D master models of the plant and laser scans of the facilities. Such digital models are highly detailed and significantly more accurate than physical mock-ups which, in most cases, are no more than rough approximations. Digital models also can be enhanced to incorporate representations of equipment such as cranes and the movement of such equipment in relation to interaction with the human workers and surrounding environment. In addition, the inclusion of physics representations can be used to simulate the realistic action of equipment such as the resistive force workers would encounter in turning a valve. All of this contributes to a virtual environment that looks and behaves realistically.

Leverage virtual ergonomics to eliminate the need for physical mockups

These simulations also can include lifelike models of humans or mannequins for a wide range of virtual ergonomics or human factors studies. These 3D mannequins are more sophisticated than the commonly known human avatars used in Virtual Reality (VR) or gaming systems. These mannequins are built using anthropometric specifications for male and female (name, gender, weight, height, etc.). Mannequins possess fully articulated hand, spine, shoulder, and neck models to accurately reproduce natural movement such as reaching, grasping, walking, and lifting. This allows the choreography of multiple workers working in tight spaces as biomechanics tools can be used to examine worker posture, comfort, safety, strength, fatigue and efficiency in performing required tasks.
Virtual ergonomics simulations can be validated against ergonomic requirements for compliance with US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Quality Health and Safety Environment (QHSE). In this manner, operations and maintenance procedures can be thoroughly analysed to ensure they are safe for workers, protect the public from potential hazards and lower the risks of damaging expensive equipment. Human factor studies are also useful in evaluating equipment layouts and accessibility, plant workflow, lifting requirements and more.

Increase productivity and lower costs by better planning operations

Planning for operations and maintenance procedures in the pipeline and gas industry encompasses a wide range of diverse tasks. Major pieces of heavy equipment (several tons) such as generators, coolers, valves and piping must be installed, replaced, inspected and repaired. Operational tasks such as crane operation and valve actuation must be performed. Complex sequences of actions must be completed quickly and flawlessly. The traditional ways of planning rely on the experience of the workers and subcontractors to execute the required maintenance tasks. But supporting 2D drawings and historical information are often inaccurate and outdated leading to miscommunications between the various project teams during the actual execution, resulting in expensive delays to the project, unsafe working conditions and costly project rework.
"3D simulation-based systems for planning scheduled maintenance or new operational procedures provide an effective way for engineers to develop precise and detailed plans to execute work 'right the first time'."
3D simulation-based systems for planning scheduled maintenance or new operational procedures provide an effective way for engineers to develop precise and detailed plans to execute work 'right the first time' by studying various scenarios and performing what-if evaluations well before tasks are attempted with actual equipment. Digitally planning and optimising processes lowers the risk of mistakes and increases overall performance for operations and maintenance procedures.
For example, simulations can be performed to determine optimal paths for removing or installing equipment, minimising interferences and identify areas where structures or piping must be removed to clear the path of obstacles. Software developed specifically for such studies provides visual alert notices during the simulation and detailed clash reports listing all interferences. Engineers use this information to study and modify motion paths until a feasible plan is determined. Likewise, the kinematic motion of cranes, robotics or other equipment can be accurately simulated to check that the devices can perform the required operations. In addition, a company's valuable know-how and intellectual property (IP) can then be captured and retained in the 3D environment for future project planning.

Dassault Systèmes, the 3D Experience Company, provides business and people with virtual universes to imagine sustainable innovations. Its world-leading solutions transform the way products are designed, produced, and supported. The group brings value to over 150,000 customers of all sizes, in all industries, in more than 80 countries


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