The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported nearly 2.8 million non-fatal workplace-related injuries and illnesses occurred in 2017. Within the manufacturing industry, 40 percent of those workplace injuries happen in the first year of employment — with over 60 percent within the first three months of employment.
The lack of proper on-the-job training — and the resulting loss of a friend — drew entrepreneur Daryl Roy to this issue.
Roy built his career in operations in Louisiana’s growing manufacturing industry. In 2007, he met co-worker Zachary Green, and they stayed friends as they left for separate companies. In 2013, Green went out with one of his supervisors to work on an oil rig.
“They didn’t know about the changes that were made by engineering and weren’t properly trained on them. Three minutes after they opened up one of the valves to collect steam, the component exploded and the explosion killed Zach and his supervisor, plus injured about 165 employees in the facility,” says Roy.
“From that point on, I made it my personal mission to figure out how we can avoid these types of situations.”
Most manufacturing companies currently lead training using PowerPoint slides and on-the-job training that comes with inherent risk. The majority of workplace injuries in an industrial environment happen during the initial phase of training, says Roy.
Details of manufacturing components are important, says Roy, to understand how components work and how to identify and react correctly when faced with a potentially-catastrophic failure.
He saw the capabilities of virtual reality and laser scanning technology as potential solutions.
Roy founded 3D Media, a virtual reality simulator for manufacturing companies in the oil, gas, power, and petro-chemical industries. The simulator creates exact digital environments of the facilities where employees work to walk them through how to manage and overcome real life challenges.
“I thought to myself, there’s got to be a way to combine the accuracy of laser scanning with the immersiveness of virtual reality to create training environments that feel real,” he says. “It would allow individuals training to experience real situations and see what decisions they make.”
“We want to create that muscle memory to be able to act the proper way and know what’s a good reaction from your system,” says Roy.
The team deploys the VR-powered simulator solution in companies’ training facilities. The software can also be used on-site to train employees on a specific focus area and to refresh knowledge of infrequently-performed tasks.
“We can build out simulators to practice a task so that when you go out into the field, that risk level is brought down significantly and the employee feels more comfortable performing that test,” says Roy.
3D Media offers different packages for companies based on what the simulations need to achieve and what data needs to be captured. They license their proprietary software, as well as charge a one-time fee for a ‘digital twin’, a digital replica of the facility that can be used throughout the organization.
The startup is enrolled in The Idea Village‘s IDEAx accelerator program in New Orleans and has paid pilots underway with Shell and Chevron.
They have remained bootstrapped up to this point, but now plan to raise funding to push product development forward, including additional machine learning and biometric inputs.
“We’re trying to measure application within the workplace and compare retention of training information with the simulator versus other methods. We want to build up the data to show that this actually makes a difference and it can help people work safer.”
“If we can mitigate that job risk and eliminate just a single person from getting hurt out there with the work that we do — it’s all worth it,” says Roy.