Training Simulations in Manufacturing: Fixing the Skills Gap & Getting ROI

The US Manufacturing Industry is in an transformative period, “output is humming, capacity utilization is up, and many manufacturers are delivering solid performance results and shareholder returns” but is also “dealing with one of the tightest labor markets in history, exacerbated by high job-opening levels (more than 400,000 since January 2018) and historic low unemployment rates.” 1

Baby Boomers are aging out of the workforce and as they leave, their skills go with them. The situation is pretty dire. In fact, “it’s expected that nearly 4.6 million manufacturing jobs will become available over the next decade – and nearly 2.4 million are expected to go unfilled. Today, 6 out of 10 open skilled production positions are unfilled.” 2

The skills gap is very real:

Skills Gap - Manufacturing Training


Solving the skills gap is chief among top CEOs concerns. They understand that adopting new technologies – both on the manufacturing floor and in training – is essential, and worry they’re falling behind in this digital transformation age.

  • Nearly two-thirds say acting with agility is “the new currency of business; if we’re too slow, we will be bankrupt”
  • One in three agree their organization is struggling to keep pace with technological innovation. 3

How can manufacturers address these concerns? Let’s take a look.

Trends & Training
In 2018, manufacturers saw three major trends: 4

  1. Shifting focus from B2B to B2B2C
  2. Advanced technology with Big Data and Industry 4.0
  3. AR/VR collaboration

Training has always been expensive, limited in reach and hard to schedule, but today it’s also increasingly complex as the digital transformation age is upon us.

The use of augmented and virtual reality in manufacturing was a big trend this year. The collaboration between machine and human has made production times faster, workplaces safer and increased insight into potential errors and risks, which can be eliminated. . . 2018 saw an influx of AR/VR machines being installed and invested in; a sign that you can expect to hear more about it in 2019.

It makes sense, as technicians learn better by doing – that is abundantly clear. And retention is greatly enhanced.

Reimagining the way operators are trained, at scale, is easier said than done. “To stand out among competitors, [manufacturers] must apply innovation not only to existing and new operations but also to the products and services they develop.” 5  And employing simulation training (on iPad like devices and in VR) to a manufacturers’ most ubiquitous needs not only increases training efficacy and retention – it solves another industry challenge: material and labor costs.

Manufacturers Looking to Long-term ROI
Simulation based training is helping manufacturers meet the demands of tomorrow in many ways – from allowing workers to train in safe, realistic, virtual environments, offering ways to practice responses to dangerous scenarios that they’d only read about otherwise, to ensuring training can happen whenever and wherever workers need it – and as often as they need it too!

Better still, it’s tailored to each specific user, guiding each toward mastery and ensuring nothing is missed. This also helps recognize and challenge high potential candidates, allowing them to complete training to mastery at their own, faster, pace.

But also, surprisingly to some, simulation training is providing exceptional ROI to manufacturers.

It lowers training costs on multiple fronts, as traveling to specific training site is no longer necessary, and it frees up equipment and facility space used for trainings, while also streamlining an instructor’s role in the process.

They’re no longer exclusively speaking from a set of Powerpoint slides as technicians fall asleep, rather you’ll find these instructors demonstrating their expertise in simulated environments and showing (rather than telling) how things are done. And technicians then perform the same actions themselves – and they can do this from a cubicle on the other side of the world!

How does it look, in action? A timely application comes from Reynolds Consumer Products. The Hefty® brand has partnered with Heartwood to pilot the first phase of a 3D interactive training iPad app as a part of their digital transformation vision in the workplace.

Armed with 3D “training on demand”— line operators, technicians and engineers can engage with the iPad “Virtual Line” app, accessing visual and interactive information to learn tasks faster, with fewer errors, and with improved knowledge retention — without disrupting the line operations or productivity.  This new style of learning is anticipated to result in increased machine understanding, improved safety, less machine downtime, higher yields, and increased employee retention.

With the Virtual Line app, employees will familiarize themselves with equipment on iPads before entering the factory floor — preventing a costly loss of productivity. And instructors can explain complicated procedures using detailed interactive 3D simulations to make sure employees have the knowledge and confidence to succeed. After their initial training, employees will have ongoing access to Virtual Line training on iPad.

It’s the way all global manufacturers will be heading, if they haven’t already. It just makes sense.

Digital holds tremendous potential and is likely to be decisive in determining the fate of industrial manufacturing companies in the months and years to come.” 1 Interactive 3D Simulation and immersive VR training is the future – and we’re here to help you capture it!

Reach out and we can talk you through some possibilities specific to your concerns.


1 2019 Industrial Manufacturing Industry Outlook [source:]

2 Top 5 Challenges Facing the Manufacturing Industry (And What to Do About Them) [source:]

3 2018 Global Manufacturing Outlook [source:]

4 The State of Manufacturing: What to Look for in 2019 [source:]

5 Scale digital innovation like a Champion [source:]