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machines for training on earthworks machinery, which meant that we needed to adapt our exercises to fit with the CPCS (Construction Plant Competence Scheme) standard. Operators can practice on the simulator all the way to the final test, but it’s important to stress that Tenstar is a blended learning platform intended to complement exercises on the actual machinery – it isn’t a replacement for that.”

And how is are the exercises structured on the simulator?

“Most follow a similar route, where students first learn about the terminology of a machine, its functions and the pre-start checks required, then they follow a program of basic manoeuvres. The recent introduction of VR is particularly useful for the pre-start checks, as users can pick up a virtual clipboard that lists the exercises, then they move around the machine carrying the checks out. We’re also testing to see if they know where to look in the first place.

“A recent addition is our ‘Multi Machine Environment’, where we might have several students working in the same virtual jobsite. This might include a dump truck, a tracked excavator and a dozer, all working together building a highway. Linking simulators up enables that, and we can even integrate a user wearing a VR headset who works as the banksman. This also helps everybody appreciate the visual constraints of operating a machine and the dangers of standing too close to it.”

There have been some major advances in terms of improving safety in and around construction vehicles. Does the Tenstar system simulate any specific machines or brands?

Tenstar Simulation - Profile

their test area, they can change many different parameters to make it all feel and sound as realistic as possible.”

With Tenstar providing such a convincing and focused experience, does using the system also enhance or increase the speed of learning?

“The best way to illustrate this is to look at what the CITB/NOCN have produced. – they recently launched a level 1 certificate for simulated plant that takes users through the first stages of training. If someone then turns up with that certificate, employers can be pretty sure they’ll know how to lift

and lower the boom, slew the machine and understand how the controls work.”

“For us to have an accurate simulator we need to ensure that we have well-modelled machinery,” says Simon. “We have worked with Engcon, JCB and all the 2D/3D machine control manufacturers. Typically, a customer might have a new machine or piece of equipment, and they need to give operators the experience of using it. We’ll usually get CAD files, hydraulic and mechanical data to model the machine and its performance. The simulators also have moving bases, so when students perform certain tasks they can feel the engine intensity, the sensation of the tracks on the ground and the see-saw effect of a fully extended boom.

“Another interesting area is sound. For example, on the tower crane when operators are trolleying out they hear a clunk when they brake and they’ll then know to counteract the hook movement with the lever to stop the swing. All settings are adjustable by the user – if they’re driving a particular machine, or they have specific machine in

Scores on the doors Students using Tenstar equipment as

part of their training are rated on specific criteria. 300 points are possible in this test of a tracked excavator, with criteria broken into three main categories: measuring quality, safety and economy, in terms of the number of loads or dig cycles, the fuel used and machine wear. This example is from an experienced operator. Meanwhile, your author’s score was nothing to write home about…

With regard to training on the system, do users receive a ‘score’ once they have completed a learning module?

“That’s precisely how the system works. We’ll often take the data from an experienced operator and we’ll use that as a benchmark for novices to work towards. The time-served operator might have a score of 275 out of 300 while the novice might only score 130. This is where the education starts, as students begin to explore and understand the reasons for the differences in their scores.”

You mention earlier that the Tenstar system has changed much over the years. What can we expect next?

“We’re looking at our digital soil,” says Simon. “A good operator would recognise changes in the soil structure, so we want to elevate the training to levels where we can introduce different strata or materials such as clays and loose sand.

“We’re also looking at more analysis in terms of outputs from the simulator, while making it simpler and easier for trainers to use in the classroom environment. And there will be further development of our Multi Machine Environment, certainly with more use of VR and eye-tracking technology.

“Ultimately, we need provide a clearer path into construction. There should be more college courses for plant operators and we need find new ways to entice youngsters into the sector and plug the skills gap. The simulator achieves that enticement perfectly.” n

August 2021 - Executive Hire News 21

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