time skill graph finalPreviously we’ve blogged about how virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) is starting to be used for off-line training prior to full scale production, and also the benefits of using Standard Procedures in training. Both methods allow people to reach a higher level of skill more quickly.

I’m sure you will agree, being able to collapse the learning curve is becoming increasingly important. Every sector is under pressure to reduce costs as well as facing a shortage of skilled workers.

The use of VR raised some interesting questions, so we set off to find out if it realistically mimics work conditions. Along the way we also found out how some companies are making best use of Standard Procedures for training.


The reality of VR and AR training

At the recent Automechanika show we went to try our hands at VR training. Under the expert tuition of Jack, from S&B Automotive Academy, we sprayed our first car door.

We asked Nathan, a Level 3 apprentice, how he found training using the VR equipment. “It’s easy” he replied instantly, of course he is of the gaming generation!

He did stress though how this technology really paid off when it came time to try the real thing.

VR Spray paint


The trainees get to learn and practise transferable techniques while building muscle memory on holding the gun at the correct angle and the speed of movement. The detailed on-screen feedback and opportunity to watch others practise, both add to the learning experience.

Jack added, “The VR gun is a replica of a real spray gun, it vibrates when the trigger is pulled to simulate paint leaving the gun. The user sets the air pressure when they set the system up… [and] can pick the type of paint, colour, finish and body part.” The user can also change the fan setting controlling the spray width and thickness of the applied paint.

S&B also do AR training in welding. The screen and sensors are incorporated into a real welding mask and links with a real welding head via QR codes at the tip. Jack promises that, “The welder is possibly the most realistic, just minus the heat”.

And the benefits of VR training continue. Not only do trainees get to have more attempts at each skill, it costs much less. Their figures show the initial outlay, around £25,000, is paid back in little over a year. Significant and ongoing cost savings are made in materials, energy, preparation time and teaching time.


Training in “the knack”

Incorporated on best practise Job Detail Sheets is the “ease” point. This is the clever tip. It explains the hidden knack that experts on the job use.

Ease point


While many of us have used this key point option, a large Tier 1 automotive supplier has taken it a step further. They run specific training sessions for employees who write these documents.

Using a piece of custom kit, they demonstrate how important using an ease point is to reduce training times and improve quality, cost and delivery performance. The ease point also helps reduces variation in time between employees conducting the same task.


A blended approach?

We think that either of these methods present excellent opportunities to improve our skills training outcomes. Or for the bold, why not try a combination of both?

Thanks to S&B Academy, Bristol; especially Jack Andrews (Sales Consultant), Aaron Lang (Senior Lecturer) and Nathan Mardani (on the S&B Bespoke Apprenticeship Programme specialising in Paint).