MAN Energy Solutions’ PrimeServ Academy in Augsburg is piloting remote technical training in June and July, explains Dr Holger Gehring of PrimeServ Academy, Augsburg.
While the disruption to international travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic since February 2020 has affected many areas of crewing and ship operation, it has also led to an acceleration in the delivery of online products and services.
MAN Energy Solutions’ PrimeServ Academy has recently launched a series of online e-learning training courses for customers accessible in their eAcademy covering several topics like engine fluids and SCR technology. Of course, these elearning trainings are theoretical only.
But until now the need for direct contact between tutors and engineers, and the requirement for shared access to machinery during technical training courses, has meant that hands-on technical training courses have not been suitable for remote delivery.
“We wanted to deliver technical training courses remotely that offer students the same quality of education that they would receive here in Augsburg,” said Dr Holger Gehring, Senior Manager of PrimeServ Academy, Augsburg.
While real-time video communication between sites halfway around the world is well established, there has not been any substitute for hands-on demonstrations for practical elements of courses. The challenge was ensuring engineers were looking at the same part of a new TCT turbocharger unit, or a SaCoSone engine control system, Gehring noted.
A common perspective
One of the solutions to the problem of perspective is already being offered by PrimeServ. By using an augmented reality (AR) headset or Hololens, students can “see” what the lecturer is pointing at, or the lecturer can “see” what the student is pointing at. The streaming option can also be accessed via a smartphone or tablet to maximise the flexibility of the system.
This PrimeServ Eye Tech has already been integrated into MAN ES’ PrimeServ solutions. MAN has experience collaborating with the product’s developer and has been developing virtual reality solutions since 2018.
The innovative aspect of the solution is to combine the PrimeServ Eye Tech with practical elements of technical training covering components.
Combining the PrimeServ Eye Tech with practical training for transportable units, or equipment available at a customer’s site, is relatively straightforward. The crew members simply need to be allocated a secluded area of a workshop with space to move around a unit, and for projection screens and a webcam to be set up. This will allow images and instruction from an identical unit in Augsburg to be displayed on screen remotely.
“Combining a projection screen and primary webcam with the PrimeServ Eye Tech allows us to show close up detail or the back side of the equipment,” Gehring said, while the small size of the group would be similar to a physical training course at the academy. Students would be able to interact naturally with the lecturers.
However, the impracticability of moving other units into a demonstration space forced Dr Gehring’s colleagues to develop a new solution.
“Turning an engine room into a quiet space is impractical, and conducting training sessions aboard a vessel remotely is too challenging. The background noise from gensets is an issue when we deliver training in person.”
The solution was the development of a series of demonstration units for specific training modules that can be shipped around the world to allow crew members to receive a training programme as if they were attending a PrimeServ Academy.
One of the first such demonstration units to be developed is a SaCoSone simulator. The simulator is being is used for engine automation training.
“This is a new solution that allows us to come to our customers when they cannot come to us,” Gehring said.
A new remote approach
The remote approach builds on the in-house remote training that has already been successfully delivered to service engineers who could not reach a PrimeServ Academy during the coronavirus lockdown.
“We needed to deliver training as part of our training account contract, and in some cases training was required for commissioning activity,” Gehring noted.
The experience showed that real-time online delivery worked well for both theoretical and practical elements, and that classes of between 8-10 participants could be managed with direct access to the lecturer hosted on a web meeting application, such as MS Teams.
Trials in June
The remote training solution is being introduced in June, when a first trial is being conducted with Korean PrimeServ engineers receiving training on maintenance of the new TCT turbocharger. A trial with a European customer receiving a remote SaCoSone training is set to follow in July.
The solution looks likely to attract customer interest over the longer term, Gehring noted. Up to one-third of PrimeServ Academy’s modules may eventually be suitable for conversion to remote learning, he concluded.