Crane drivers turn to gaming technology for training

A US company that is using game-based VR technology to transform training for crane and plant operators is stepping up its presence in the UK.

Zack Parnell, CEO of Seattle-based Industrial Training International (ITI), has formed a new UK subsidiary, ITI UK and is set to announce major UK manufacturing and construction companies have signed up in the first half of the year. “Two of them are top 100 worldwide brands,” said Parnell, who runs the second-generation training business started by his father in 1986.

ITI is one of the firms showcased by Oracle in its Partner Industries Innovation Lab in Chicago.

Parnell has pioneered the development of VR for training, which is based on a different model to other simulation-type training and uses much more sophisticated gaming platforms. Also, the finance model is based on selling the hardware – including Oculus headsets – at cost price and then renting the software as a service. He says so far they have 50 subscribers to the service.

So far ITI has developed programmes that simulate the operation of eight crane systems. It works directly with the manufacturers so that simulations are authentic. The company has also developed a construction hazard awareness training programme with Bechtel which is being trialled in the US.

Parnell says: “Using our system provides a number of benefits. It is much more cost efficient and safer. The simulation can introduce you to many challenges and conditions in an hour, and also means companies are not tying up a piece of equipment.”

The company has also developed the VR Construction Hazard Awareness Assessment programme with Bechtel which it is trialling in the US. This covers: hand tools; lifting & rigging; electrical safety & lock-out/tag-out; environmental & industrial hygiene; confined space & hot work; mobile equipment and personnel interface (MEPI); excavation & trenching; dropped objects; fall prevention; scaffolding; silica.

The simulation training been certified by the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCO) and is in discussions with another certifying body as well.

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