Using a forklift efficiently in a busy warehouse takes a skilled worker with steady hands, no fear of heights, and spatial awareness. These are not skills we have in abundance. They are won through practice. It’s not easy, nor is it safe, to take rolling stock into a live environment for training. Lifts are heavy and dangerous and can do a lot of damage if not operated with care. Three years ago, Raymond Corporation, a subsidiary of Toyota, the world’s largest supplier of such vehicles, started searching for a solution.
When Stacey Patch, Raymond’s Virtual Reality Simulator Business Manager, and her team began designing the Virtual Reality Simulator, they considered how VR technology had been used in several different industries. As the team studied flight simulations, crane simulations, welding, and medical training, the benefits became clear. “Looking at the way this technology has been used to enhance training in many industries, we realized the same benefits could seamlessly be carried over into the material handling industry,” said Patch. They settled on an exclusive partner, FreeRangeXR, of Sausalito, CA, and decided to use the HTC Vive because of its enterprise offering and extended support option.
Many studies produced consistent findings of enhanced confidence, learning retention and cost savings by enterprises using simulators to train workers. Iowa State University researchers studied VR training in welding simulations showed a 41.6% increase in certifications and a 23% decrease in overall training time.
We were blown away when we tried the Raymond simulator at SXSW in March. The physics are perfectly accurate. You can feel the power of the heavy machine and its momentum as you turn. When the forklift virtually ascends thirty feet in the air to retrieve a heavy load, there are pangs of real fear. Training and simulation of this kind are turning out to be the killer app for VR, and its use is expanding. VR is best used, in enterprise, and entertainment, for D.I.R.E (Dangerous, Impossible, Remote and/or Expensive) situations. And it’s fun. The gamification of work is becoming a trend.
“In developing the Raymond Virtual Reality Simulator, we saw an opportunity to help avoid potential product and warehouse damage while increasing overall productivity and efficiency,” said Michael Field, CEO of Raymond. “At the same time, we wanted to advance best practices in next-generation manufacturing as well as use technology to pique the interest of younger talent and use the simulator as a key tool for recruitment.”
Here’s the most amazing thing: the VR training is done with a REAL forklift. Just like pilots in million dollar simulators sit in actual cockpits, users operating in the simulation are standing where they will stand, and using the real Forklift controls. The Raymond VR Simulator can be added to virtually any Raymond forklift. The simulation system is the only of its kind to interface with an actual Raymond forklift using patent-pending “sPort (simulation Port)” technology. It works with both new and existing forklift models.
Raymond earned its place on Fast Company ‘s 2019 Most Innovative Companies list in the virtual and augmented reality category. Additionally, the product received an Edison Award and an International Intralogistics and Forklift Truck of the Year award.