Gamification – the use of game mechanics, strategies and visual elements in a non-gaming context –– has been around in some form for many years. It was in the 2010s, however, that it really started to be embraced by industry, and analysts now forecast the global market to value US$37bn by 2027, up from $6.33bn in 2019.
In the industrial sector,use of gamification is currently being driven by an ageing workforce and the need to pass expertise and know-how onto a new generation of workers that are digital natives.
Having grown up playing video games with where they can interact, explore, make mistakes and try again, these employees are more likely to engage with training that makes use of gamification, bringing to life learning in a way they understand and embrace.
Industrial uses of gamification
Many of the problems faced in an industrial setting are similar to those players must tackle in a game, and so the pleasure we get from playing a game can be harnessed in sectors as varied as nuclear and automotive to great effect.
Scientists have shown that the chemical reaction gaming provides can improve motivation, promote cooperation and enhance learning and knowledge retention, and so tools have been developed to take advantage of this.
One study found that 85 percent of employees are willing to spend more time on training programs with gamified dynamics, and that gamification doesn’t just appeal to younger workers – 97 percent of employees over 45-years-old said they believe it would help improve their work.
Tools can make use of a wide variety of gameplay elements from points and leader-boards through to teammates, missions and time limits to achieve its goals. These can go beyond just training staff, also enabling the simplification of complex tasks or improving on-site productivity through the use tablets that offer augmented reality views of machines.
Augmented, extended and virtual reality (AR, XR and VR) tools have been used for many years in industrial settings, with operator training simulators (OTS) creating a realistic virtual copy of a control room where trainees can safely learn how to use equipment.
But just as large, unwieldy mobile phones have evolved into compact touchscreen computers, simulators have become high fidelity systems that combine dynamic process simulations, virtual control systems and replicated interfaces to match the look, feel and behavior of an actual plant. Even before a plant is built.
From training, to learning by doing
This is thanks to the use of artificial intelligence (AI), which takes gamification to the next level. When AI is combined with these gamified processes, organizations can leverage the principles of gamification in real time, moving from training, to learning by doing.
Known as immersive training, AI connects the simulator with a virtual copy of the work environment called a digital twin, enabling trainees to learn how to use the plants systems virtually before moving into the real-world environment.
Immersive training systems (ITS) are already being used by many organizations, including the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), which is training its field and control room operators through a high fidelity process simulation, coupled with a virtual walkthrough plant environment.
“It’s very important that we prepare our professionals before they go into the real-world working environment,” says Manna’a Ali Al-Farhoud, TL. Operations Technical Personal Development Support Services Group (S&EK) at KOC. “This ensures operational safety as we make sure they’re efficient and safe operators before they’re permitted to work in the plant.”
Furthermore, with an ITS, any action within a virtual environment can be set to trigger the correct reaction at the plant in real-time. It’s now possible to pull together all the data from a plant – or indeed, from several plants – into a digital representation on a handheld tablet, and then activate a specific process at a single plant, perhaps after consulting in real-time with a colleague on the other side of the world.
Enabling the connected worker
The all-encompassing solution links together teams across the value chain – from control room operators and field workers through to maintenance crew and other critical members of staff – teams can collaborate remotely across geographies and time zones to surface new solutions at unprecedented speed.
Put another way, there’s no time lag or pausing industrial processes while waiting for an email response – each person can consult a range of AI-generated scenarios presented in a simplified, interactive format on their own device and act accordingly.
Benefits of AI-led gamification in industry
In industrial settings, AI-powered immersive training systems (ITS) have been proven to improve cost efficiencies and optimize return on investment (ROI). They offer the opportunity to cut costs by 30-40 percent, trim maintenance budgets by 1-3 percent, reduce the impact of human error by 20-40 percent and shutdown recovery times by 15-20 percent.
When paired with a learning management system (LMS) there are further benefits, as employees’ development can be managed and tracked. This enables the development of personalized learning paths, something Shell is currently exploring.
The use of gamification continues to evolve as we uncover new and engaging ways to improve the quality of training and in turn provide tangible benefits to business.Yet there’s still so much more potential to tap.
As we move towards a future where humans and machines work more closely together, it will be exciting to see what new use cases appear, and watch gamification fast become the norm in industrial settings.
(The author is Chief Technology Officer at Aveva and the views expressed in the article are his own)