Omega Simulation Co., Ltd. (OSC) has developed OmegaLand OTS Enterprise, an operator training system (OTS), as a major attractive component of the OmegaLand integrated dynamic simulation environment. It helps provide company-wide or plant-wide occasional training and regular skill upgrading for plant operators and other employees, and can efficiently monitor their training status and understanding. Instructors and trainees can remotely access the training system. Instructors demonstrate operations and provide instructions as in conventional group training, and can also check the operations of respective trainees. Trainees can share information among themselves by learning best practices, drawing lessons from inappropriate operations and so on. Trainees can access the system from their PC at anytime in preparation for group training or for self-learning for follow-up. The OmegaLand OTS Enterprise provides participants and evaluators with various benefits such as an objective evaluation of the training. This system can be set up with only a single web server on the intranet of the company's or training center's domain. The OmegaLand OTS Enterprise has the advantage of lowering management and operation costs.
|Figure 1 Typical operator training system (OTS)|
In recent years in the chemical and petrochemical industries, the contexts of fewer start-up and shut-down operations and the changes of cohorts of plant operators have made it difficult to satisfy requirements for safe plant operations, including responding to problems in equipment caused by the aging of plants, and coping with malfunctions. Thus, education, general training and operations training are becoming more and more important.
The education and general training above involve training to learn and acquire fundamental knowledge and skills: for example, understanding the principles and operations of equipment in plants, and the principles of control with PID control units. Training facilities usually have equipment for practice based on actual equipment. Many facilities are equipped with an operator training system (OTS)1. The OTS provides an environment where the dynamic behavior of a plant is simulated by its dynamic simulator, and trainees can understand different phenomena of the plant and learn its operation using instrumentation equipment or arithmetic simulators.
When a usual OTS is used, multiple operators learn operations equivalent to those for an actual system, and practice working together as a team and responding to troubles in equipment and emergencies in a plant. This training, however, requires dedicated facilities, and instructors and trainees need to have spare time to meet together for the training. Thus, due to insufficient time, the number of training sessions may decrease or the content of the training may become only partial. In addition, time-limited group training is insufficient for all of the participants to acquire the skills. The OmegaLand OTS Enterprise (OTS-E) compensates for such shortcomings of existing OTSs, helping trainees to easily enhance the effectiveness of training, and can provide attentive training corresponding to each trainee's abilities, with low load for system operation and management.
|Figure 2 Self-training and
automatic evaluation mode (OTS-E)
Figure 1 shows a typical OTS connecting with an actual distributed control system (DCS). In contrast, the OTS-E is often used in such configurations so as to emulate DCS control logic and its screen. Figures 2 and 3 show typical examples.
The features common to examples shown in Figure 2 and 3 are that an added server function allows for the centralized management of training contents, user assignment, and operation results, and that trainees can receive training any time on any personal computers (PC) as long as they are connected to the server via intranet. This intranet is a network where PCs and users are mutually authenticated in a domain environment. Even if the network is physically wide, training can be carried out in a multiple user environment. That is, the OTS-E can be used on the usual network environment of companies or education facilities.
Major configuration examples of self-training and automatic evaluation shown in Figure 2 and instructor's leading shown in Figure 3 are described below.
Self-training and automatic evaluation
Figure 2 shows a configuration where trainees who want training can start a training program, practice operations corresponding to their training purposes, and be evaluated only by selecting a training scenario through a web browser on their own PC.
This configuration offers that trainees can receive training at any time on any PC, including their own, at their own convenience. Trainees can practice a variety of operations through trial and error and experience better operations. This configuration can be used to objectively evaluate the learning results of the trainees and their degree of understanding of a plant, its operations, and so on.
The automatic evaluation is achieved by the evaluation function of the OmegaLand/ITK module for training instructors, and the system can be easily configured so that it delivers training scenarios to trainees and starts objective evaluation at the same time of the system start-up. Scenarios include those of equipment failure, feed changes and applying disturbance. Evaluation criteria include the capability of maintaining the process state including a pressure and flow- rate within the range; operating with safety valves closed; and preparing required equipment and starting the system with the correct procedure within an appropriate time.
The system scores trainees' assessment criteria and judges the extent of their training. Through the standard interface of the E-learning system, evaluation information can be sent to the learning management system initiated at the companies or educational facilities.
Figure 3 shows another configuration, where an instructor and multiple trainees share a single training session over the network, and virtual training can be remotely conducted as if they were in the same room. For example, instructor A delivers a wide scope training session shared with trainees B, C and D for responding to malfunctions in the plant, or instructs each trainee over the network to learn basic operations of individually assigned equipment.
In addition to providing a virtually shared training environment, the OTS-E has the following additional functions to enhance effectiveness of training:
|Figure 3 Instructor's leading mode (OTS-E)|
The message exchange function is used to provide information on the preparation, start, and end of training, and to exchange information among trainees as well. For example, trainees responsible for field operations use this function to report on-site information to trainees working in the instrumentation room, trainees responsible for field operations use this function to confirm each other's training progress. Messages are saved as a training history, so that instructors and trainees can review them later.
Requested task management manages a series of tasks; the instructor requests trainees to perform operations in accordance with a scenario, and trainees acknowledge it and report the completion to the instructor after the operation.
Sharing model operation helps the instructor organize a virtual group for training and visibly explains a model or basic operations on-screen to the group members.
Trainee operation reference enables an instructor to reproduce operations of any trainee on his PC in order to verify these operations. Operations to process all of the users who are participating in the training group can be verified using a chronological list.
Operation reproduction and sharing enables the instructor to choose an operation from each trainee from among the list described above and reproduce and replay it on a screen showing it to all trainees in the group. They can share a better operation and/or an undesirable one to improve their operating skills and process understandings.
In addition, if a scenario which an instructor has assigned for training is practiced on some PCs on the network in the self-learning and automatic evaluation mode, the instructor can verify those training status by the ITK and a dedicated graphic module. Through the contact with the instructor for judging the validity of the operation or process status, trainees can obtain instructor's remote assistance and guidance using this function. All parties can thereby use their time efficiently.
The followings are major server service functions:
As shown in Figure 3, the server stores the master information on training models and initial conditions required for training, in addition to software. When a trainee tries to open the service site of the OTS-E (web browser top site for training) through a logged on PC for training onto which the software has not been installed, messages prompting its program installation appear, and a trainee can easily install it. Once the program is installed, training models according to selected training scenarios are automatically downloaded and the program will run automatically. On the second or later execution requests, the program starts immediately owing to the internal cache.
User and privilege management has the function of allowing the system administrator to register users who can access the OTS-E system. At the same time, the permission is assigned according to each user, e.g. an engineer who can modify a scenario, a training instructor, a trainee and so on.
The scenario management function allows users with the permission of an engineer to update models or change initial conditions through a web browser. The training history management function enables users to review training results depending on their permission. The training results include training evaluation scores, acceptance results, training dates, training scenarios, operation logs and other information.
|Figure 4 OTS-E messenger screen|
The features of the OTS-E are as follows:
|Figure 5 Instructor's screen and training operation|
In this example, an instructor invites two trainees for training and they carry out the training following the instructor. Through a web browser, the system administrator registers these three people and their permission, one for instructor and two for trainees, in advance, and training scenarios are assigned.
The OmegaLand OTS Enterprise, which compensates for the shortcomings of existing OTSs, is an easy to use system for training system staff, instructors, and trainees. The system increases the availability of education, general training and operations training, and brings effective training results to a variety of users in enterprises and education facilities. The administrator can easily understand the progress of the training. The OmegaLand OTS Enterprise is setting a new trend in operations training and education systems.