Training Simulators Boost Bottom Line

July 1, 2006
Practice makes perfect, the old adage goes. And when it comes to plant operator training, it’s a maxim that more process industries manufacturers these days are taking to heart.

As a way to boost plant effectiveness and reduce operator errors, a growing number of process manufacturers are deploying operator training simulation (OTS), says Jim Siemers, manager, educational services, for process automation control vendor Emerson Process Management, in Austin, Texas. Indeed, according to Siemers, Emerson’s DeltaV OTS solution introduced early this year “has been a really hot product line.”

By enabling operators to practice and learn in a simulator-based training environment prior to taking live control of a new or existing plant, OTS systems can help eliminate operator errors that can lead to accidents, product loss or costly plant shutdowns. Systems such as the DeltaV OTS training solution can also teach operators the skills needed to get the most value from process automation technology. This can produce a big bottom-line impact through better product quality, plant availability and throughput, Emerson says. The company cites a recent American Petroleum Institute study, for instance, that identified more than $350,000 per year in benefits in using OTS to upgrade the skills of an average operator.


Siemers notes that while the oil and gas industry has long been aware of the training benefits of OTS, other process industry segments—including pharmaceuticals and chemicals—are now stepping up use of the technology. Around 25 percent of all new Emerson installations at significant pharmaceutical startups now include OTS technology, Siemers estimates. “One of the real business drivers for those guys is if they have a new patent. That makes shorter-time-to-market critical,” he observes. By using simulation to model the process and train operators ahead of the fact, companies can avoid issues and problems that could delay production start-up, Siemers explains.

As a way to encourage wider use of OTS technology, Emerson recently introduced a low-cost, entry-level simulation system called DeltaV OTS Express. The Express package includes an operator training workstation, a process simulator configured for a specific process unit, and a detailed and customized course curriculum complete with tests and professional train-the-trainer instruction.

At $75,000, the DeltaV OTS Express package sells for less than half the price of a traditional OTS, according to Emerson. Siemers says the package so far has been popular, and in many cases, leads to upgrades. “Users may buy this initially, but once they see the value of it, they want to do more.”

See the main story that goes with this sidebar: Tackling the Training Challenge