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New Operations Training: Moving into Virtual Training and Mixed Reality

New Operator Training: Moving into Virtual Training and Mixed Reality

Thanks to workplace changes prompted by COVID-19, a number of new training challenges have accelerated digital transformation. While we’ve had to sacrifice a great deal of in-person contact, the mixed reality and video advancements have resulted in huge productivity gains.

Beyond sharing some of the latest advancements, Delta ModTech trainer John Schultz will explain why ongoing training is so critical to improving your operations, and how to overcome the most common learning challenges for operators.

The future is here: Operator training goes virtual

Delta ModTech’s previous training methodology included multi-day advanced training sessions at our facility, or conducting on-site customer training. COVID-19 changed all that.

As we slowly emerge from the pandemic, some aspects of that approach will remain. But significant changes have occurred including:

New training room and enhanced video capabilities: Prior to COVID-19, we were in the process of completing the move into our new, 230,000 square-foot facility in Ramsey, Minnesota. It includes a new training room for our advanced sessions, which included enhanced video capabilities. 

However, the rise in virtual meetings suspended those trainings. To compensate, we built a video cart, complete with camera, monitors and editing equipment. It’s like a full production station on wheels, and we can roll this out onto the shop floor to produce video demos and hold virtual meetings anywhere at the Delta ModTech facility.

New Operations Training: Moving into Virtual Training and Mixed Reality
Delta ModTech’s mobile production cart

We can still hold our advanced training sessions, as noted above. It has been retrofitted with a presenter camera, a crowd camera, and microphones for presenters and attendees. It also includes two (2) 100” video monitors. This allows us the option of allowing you to attend the classroom sessions in person or virtually.

Training Room
Delta ModTech’s Training Room

Virtual trainer-to-team meetings: An unexpected benefit from the virtual training is increased participation on the part of our clients, including more of the management team.

Previously, operations personnel were the only ones who were engaged in the training. We still conduct the operator training virtually, but now we can also invite the management team in for a demo and trainer-to-team Q&A session.

“After the group training, customers get an hour to ask us questions in private,” trainer John Schultz explains. “We never used to have all these people in the same room with a trainer at the same time.”

The access to our trainer allows management to get a first-hand understanding of how to get the most out of their machines and improve overall operational processes. 

Mixed-reality training with HoloLens Technology: Perhaps the most significant and cost-effective training advancements has been the use of Microsoft’s HoloLens technology.  HoloLens are mixed reality smart glasses, and they allow a wearer to superimpose a desktop environment over a real-world object. 

As we explained in this post, when a client wears the HoloLens, they can share with a Delta ModTech trainer or technician what they’re seeing in real time. The trainer can then annotate the view in real time — drawing circles, inserting arrows — to explain how to address the problem. Check out the video to see it in action. 

The approach has allowed for remote installations and one-on-one training, saving thousands of dollars in travel expenses and time.

Why advanced training: Going from 100 feet to 170 feet per minute 

The new training advances are critical to keep pace with a changing work environment, but they also allow us to improve operator training. That’s critical for enhanced performance, and no one has helped prove that point more than Delta ModTech trainer John Schultz.

 John Schultz, Delta ModTech
John Schultz, Delta ModTech

John has been with the company since 1991, and he thoroughly understands our machines inside and out. He knows what the equipment is capable of, and more importantly, he knows what can hinder their performance.

John recalls meeting with a customer on site to ensure their machine had been set up properly, and the line was running correctly. It was performing well but in observing how the operator was running the machine, he could see a few simple adjustments that could improve performance.

Even when things are working, training can make it work so much better.

“After a couple hours, we jumped from 100 feet to 170 feet per minute,” John recalls.  “I didn’t do anything but help them get more comfortable with the machine.”

Understand this was an isolated incident, and not indicative of the results generated from every on-site visit. But even though the training does include a fee, John is always surprised how many owners don’t pursue it.

“Many operators are just afraid of the machine,” he said. And that fear could be affecting your bottom line. 

Key areas where operators need additional help

Keeping a team of operators well-trained and performing at peak efficiency is no easy task.  In terms of operating Delta ModTech machinery, John finds there are usually two common areas in which training can help:

1. Operators don’t understand rotary converting

These tend to be the operators who come from working on other non-rotary machines. They don’t understand the basics, such as:

  • Gear ratios
  • Basic principles of tension
  • Steering
  • Laminating principles
  • Re-registration setup

The lack of fundamental knowledge becomes an issue when it comes to getting the most out of the machine. “A lot of the operators hit the start button and it works, because it was set up correctly,” John said. “But they wouldn’t know what to do beyond that.” 

2. Operators don’t understand how to make changes on the machine

Making adjustments to the job on site doesn’t come intuitively. It requires experience. John equates it to taking a commuter and putting them in a race car at the Indy 500. You know how to drive a car, but not something like a Delta ModTech.

That’s where advanced training comes into play. In cases like the example above, a little training can yield some significant improvements — and payback for the company. 

Tips for improving operator performance

An operator with limited experience in rotary converting can take six months to a year to get comfortable setting up and dialing in new processes on a servo driven press. Their own personal learning curve can be via user manuals, training videos, phone calls to support, and their own self-induced school of hard knocks.

Operator performance can be improved by following these ideas.

John had some ideas for improving performance:

Focus on one key area first. There’s a tendency to get things going fast, but John stresses the need to take things one after another. “Don’t worry about all your stations right away. You need to focus on one area at a time,” he said.

Set gear ratios correctly. If you’re setting up a new recipe (program), make sure you have a gear ratio of one, so that everything has the same starting point. Make changes to tension and registration from there.

Use re-registration. The number of operators we talk to that are just getting by using die-to-die sync is shocking. Delta ModTech machines have the most advanced re-registration control available. Setup is fairly easy and once complete, it will automatically make adjustments to your die cuts without constant interaction.

Training after learning the machine allows operators to get more out of the session.

One-on-one is ideal advanced training

When Delta ModTechs are delivered, they are accompanied by detailed manuals and initial machine training. But for many operators, learning one-on-one with John after getting comfortable on the machine is much more efficient.

“Being able to show them how things work on their machine, using their materials, is much more effective than going through a manual,” John says.

The latest advancements in technology and training are allowing us to conduct more one-on-one training, and the results have been amazing. Training expenses and travel times have been dramatically reduced and more one-on-one interaction has occurred.

These improvements bode well for enhanced performance down the road. We’ll continue to push the envelope on operator training, and keep you updated on the latest developments.

For more information on our Advanced Training options:

Training Resources for Delta ModTech owners can also be found on our ModTech Talk training blog: