On its own, technology is not a complete solution to the mining industry’s needs in the area of training, but ThoroughTec’s executive vice president and director of global business development Greg Lew said it was a vehicle for establishing a “robust pedagogical framework”.
“With this as a foundation we explored methods and possible implementations of the classroom of tomorrow – a true virtual integrated learning environment,” he said.
“By aligning our technology with best practices in learning and training we can use technology appropriately.”
The core components of this customisable solution are the Cybermine Computer Based Trainer (CBT) and Operator Familiarisation Trainer (OFT), which separately complement the high fidelity, Cybermine Full Mission Simulator, now in its fourth generation.
However, the company’s EVP of operations Richard Bellengere added that despite these new innovations, the FMS (full mission simulators) were still its flagship – it has sold hundreds of them around the world and there continued to be a demand for them as mines realised the many benefits of hi-fidelity simulation.
ThoroughTec believes the FMS is a highly effective tool for practical training.
The trainee operator’s experience is enhanced by combining visual, auditory and tactile feedback in advanced training scenarios, better preparing operators for the conditions they will experience in the real world.
They can learn the basics from equipment start-up to more advanced operating techniques used to increase efficiency, reduce equipment wear and tear, fuel consumption and handle emergency procedures.
According to ThoroughTec, mines are definitely seeing the benefits of investing in high-fidelity simulation.
One of South Africa’s biggest coal mines has seen shuttle car loading times come down by nearly 30% since their continuous miner operators started training on a Cybermine continuous miner simulator.
This mine also has simulators for a shuttle car, LHD (load haul dump) and utility vehicle and, at time of writing, was due to soon be receiving simulators for a soft rock bolter, personnel carrier and heavy duty hauler.
Supplementing their high-fidelity simulators, the mine has also ordered a complementary suite of CBTs and OFTs, which will soon be integrated into their Cybermine training system.
“We wanted to go a step further and offer fully customisable training programmes for mine sites,” Bellengere said.
Lew added that after years of research and analysis, the company found there was a definite need for systems operating at levels below that of the high-fidelity simulators, systems that would help trainee operators learn everything they need to know about their mine site, equipment and safety before they jump on the simulator and then the real equipment.
The CBT is an introductory level tool developed to interactively lead novice recruits through a particular vehicle’s basic theory of controls and operation, as well as orienting them in the mine environment, site operating procedures and safety checks.
“This is standardised, objective learning and assessment delivered interactively via computer,” Lew said.
“Trainee operators are then evaluated before proceeding to the next stage in their training program.
“This visual and auditory training means more effective retention of information, further aided by the language localisation of all CBTs to help trainees retain what they’re seeing and hearing.”
The CBT makes use of 2D and 3D computer animations, video, audio and still photographs to engage the student and all users as well as their results can be recorded on a central database.
“We’re seeing a rise in popularity with the CBT,” Lew said.
“We’ve developed or are in the process of developing customised CBTs for mines in Australia (underground copper and gold), Mexico (underground zinc), Peru (underground zinc-silver) and South Africa (underground coal and surface iron ore).”
Once the trainee has mastered the theory on the CBT, the Cybermine Operator Familiarisation Trainer (OFT) is used to increase the depth of their knowledge.
The OFT operates as a simplified, low-cost base-unit, accommodating those Cybermine high-fidelity interchangeable vehicle cabs not actively engaged in FMS training operations.
It was designed to better familiarise operators with the identification and operation of the instruments and controls of a specific vehicle. Students interface with the OFT system via touch-screen display and through the various instruments and controls of the replicated cab.
Three different modes – Exploration, Training and Evaluation – allow for a complete familiarisation, learning and evaluation process, while all users and results can be recorded and tracked on a central database.
“Everything can be tracked on a learning management system, which handles all aspects of the learning process, from trainee to experienced operator,” Bellengere said.
“It’s a flexible, scalable solution that allows employers to utilise competency-based learning to identify skills gaps and guide training material selection.”
Another upside of this solution, Lew said, was that it optimised operator performance.
“Operators not meeting pre-defined performance levels re-enter the training program to restore safety and efficiency levels,” Lew said.
“Following remedial training the operator is then re-deployed into the production cycle as a safe and efficient employee.
“Both the OFT and the FMS can utilise any of the current Cybermine surface and underground vehicle cabs, allowing the customer to effectively double their utilisation of simulator cabs to maximise their return on investment.”