Ahead of its expansion of its Baton Rouge polyolefins plant, ExxonMobil has launched a new training initiative in cooperation with local IT firms and Louisiana Economic Development. As part of this, a virtual reality module has been developed to prepare crane operators before moving on to the real thing.
As part of the expansion project, crane operators will need to install three reactors weighing a total of 500 tonnes, with the largest two being about 45 meters tall. Moving large structures like this requires considerable preparations and safety considerations, such as ensuring everyone is within safe zones and the rigging is correctly installed.
ExxonMobil, which also makes the lubricants for Mobil stockists, plans to use this and other virtual reality modules to train its employees in important safety standards and processes.
ExxonMobil project lead for the polypropylene plant, Keitt Wannamaker, said:
“We’re hiring a lot of people, so it’s imperative we increase competency quickly—one way is through virtual reality. It’s time consuming and difficult to train out in the field. With virtual reality, it takes 20 minutes. If we train in the field, it can take all day.”
Officials at ExxonMobil also say that in addition to saving time, a superior training experience can be delivered through virtual reality, because the immersive experience allows operators to be tested under conditions that would be unfeasible to create in the real world. For example, the crane module allows the testing of how an operator reacts to misaligned rigging.