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VR Training Finding Its Niche in Supply Chains

Because it provides a safe, yet highly realistic, environment in which to train employees, virtual reality training is increasingly being embraced within supply chains.

* By Morgan Pettrone *

Because it provides a safe yet highly realistic environment in which to train employees—particularly those learning to safely execute potentially dangerous tasks—virtual reality (VR) training is increasingly being embraced within specific areas of supply chains. The technology, which encompasses a headset, controllers and tracking systems, immerses the wearer into a virtual world where experience can be gained without risk to personnel, product or facility.

In 2018, VR software and service revenues in enterprise training exceeded $200 million, according to Khin Sandi Lynn, industry analyst at tech advisory firm ABI Research. The author of the firm’s “VR in Enterprise Training” report, Khin predicts a rapid uptick in growth to $6.3 billion in 2022.

“Most people think of VR in terms of entertainment or gaming applications,” she said. “But increasingly we’re seeing it applied to training in heavy equipment industries, including mining and gas, where the machinery is specialized and mission critical.”

Within supply chains, Khin noted that Walmart has been using VR training to give more than 150,000 retail employees experience in responding to a variety of customer service scenarios, while Lowes is using VR both for employee training and to develop modules for customers to follow when assembling and installing products purchased from the retailer.

“In addition to enabling the trainee to experience and learn from simulated situations, VR training also minimizes travel costs. That’s because it allows trainers to reduce the number of trips they might need to make to different locations to ensure all employees receive consistent instruction,” she added. “Further, VR training programs share feedback on each trainee’s progress, allowing them to monitor and track student progress, or to identify areas that need more review.”

Khin’s projections on market growth are based on the increasing affordability of the VR devices and the back-end computing power required to generate the simulations. Further, advances in the devices themselves—such as lighter weight, more comfortable headsets that communicate wirelessly without being tethered to a computer by a cable—will also improve adoption rates, she said. “As awareness of VR training and its benefits to companies increases, deployments will definitely grow.”

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There is no silver bullet to building a workforce that can thrive in this new digital environment. It takes leadership, collaboration, innovative talent sourcing, continuous training and improvement. This issue of MHI Solutions focuses on this important topic from the technologies driving changing skill sets to industry-academia collaboration to how to hire, retain and develop the digital supply chain workforce.

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