Simulators Studied for Crane Training

Dec. 14, 2016

Can simulators, a key tool in training operators on earthmoving equipment such as excavators, dozers, and backhoe loaders, be just as valuable for crane operators?

Crane Industry Services (CIS), CM Labs Simulations, and West Georgia Technical College aim to find out. The three are part of an ongoing study seeking to determine what operational skill level can be achieved with the use of crane simulators. CIS has been conducting the skills assessments with its two partners since last summer.

The study will continue into this summer and/or after 500 operators have participated in the research.

“This study is a first for the crane industry,” says Debbie Dickinson, CEO of Crane Industry Services, Atlanta, Ga. CIS provides hands-on, classroom, and technology- based training for the crane and rigging industry, nationally accredited NCCER certifications, equipment inspections, expert witness services, and consulting to the lifting industry.

“While crane simulation tools are not new to the construction industry, there is little quantitative research that determines the value crane simulation offers as part of comprehensive training,” Dickinson says. “We anticipate that the validated study will be used to set specific goals for skill development.”

Crane Industry Services is familiar with the concept of blended learning. This currently combines online introductory training, instructor-led classroom training, hands-on instruction, and on-the-job training. CIS leaders were among the first in the industry to create interactive and broadcast-quality video learning for the industry.

“The addition of crane simulators into our curriculum is a natural fit and the industry welcomes this use of technology,” says Cliff Dickinson, president of CIS.

"We are extremely pleased to participate in this study," says Drew Carruthers, CM Labs' construction product manager. "It benefits the industry as a whole to understand how we can use simulator-based training to accelerate construction training programs." CM Labs, based in Montreal, Quebec, is the developer of Vortex training simulators.

Goals of the study include:

•            Determining what skills can be achieved when simulators are used as part of training

•            Yielding a comparative study of the time required for operators to reach certain skill levels

•            Estimating the level of proficiency that can be obtained using concentrated learning and practice

•            Testing performance evaluation options

•            Training entry-level operators safely

•            Refreshing experienced operator skills and practice new equipment or lift conditions.

The population being studied includes inexperienced, moderately experienced, and very experienced operators, who will be trained using a Vortex Rough-Terrain Mobile Crane Training Module.

The research partners continue to seek employers with operators who: 1) have no real experience (less than 99 hours operating time total) and who’ve only had classroom instruction on crane safety concepts; 2) have limited experience (up to 1,000 hours operating time in the previous five-year period), but whose crane operation exposure is no more than 20 percent of their on-the-job time per year; and 3) are considered full-time crane operators (over 1,000 hours operating time in the previous five-year period), but who have had little or no exposure to training simulators.

In most cases, these will be certified crane operators, but they don’t have to be. They may come from construction or general industry.

Powered by the Vortex Simulation Software engine, the simulation device simulates multi-body dynamics and captures real behavior of cranes, rigging, and loads. Simulations are based on actual crane models with real controls and functionality. The Vortex Training Module is based on a 40-ton rough-terrain crane with a full boom extension of 102 feet. Among its features is the ability for the operator to configure the LMI and set alarms and change the number of parts of line.

“We hope this research will be used to set industry standards for simulation training and to assist employers in measuring the value of simulation as part of training,” Cliff Dickinson says.

For information on participating in the study, email [email protected].

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