The PMU Branch of URALCHEM1 has implemented a virtual reality simulator to train electricians, thus enabling a completely safe practice in routine switching of electrical installations and accelerating training of qualified electricians, as well as streamlining certification training for seasoned staff. This new training system was developed by CROC Immersive Technologies2, a standalone business unit of IT company CROC.

The simulator is used in the URALCHEM Perm Branch training class and based on hardware powered by HTC Vive Pro virtual reality system and software developed by CROC experts. The new system supports two scenarios. Scenario #1: Shutdown of the first bus section of 6 kV switchgear for repair at power distribution substation #15. Scenario #2: Bringing it back into operation.

Operating electrical installations like switchgears requires high qualifications and experience. Any incorrect operation might lead to dire consequences at an enterprise scale, from downtime and financial losses to occupational accidents. Before being allowed to perform routine switching of electrical installations, an electrician must study a wide range of theoretical material, while real practice is available only once a year during scheduled downtime repairs. The VR simulator helps trainees become familiar with operations and master their skills almost every day, thus directly improving learning speed and quality, as well as reducing the Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate.

The training of a shift electrician can take up to three years. Mastering skills when 6 kV equipment is running puts electrician’s life, health, and entire production process at risk. In reality, such mastering is only possible during scheduled downtime once a year. By this time, shift electricians are supposed to have comprehensive knowledge of all switch cards and perform their work flawlessly. The new virtual simulator will help to train them.

Ilya Karandashov
Head of Electric Shop, URALCHEM Perm Branch

The simulator’s scenarios include 14 chapters, each focusing on certain organizational and routine operations (e.g. «preparations for equipment switch for repair and start of parallel operation»). It takes four to six hours for an electrician to pass the test (all chapters) on the virtual simulator.

Training and testing results are automatically emailed to a manager as an Excel report, along with training session records, allowing for training and appraisal debriefing. The report focuses on a number of aspects, from PPE selection to the sequence of actions taken to perform routine operations. The simulator is managed from the administrator panel where you can select scenarios and particular chapters, assign training to a certain electrician, grant access, and download statistics for any time period.

When implementing a VR simulator, our branch faced a number of challenges due to COVID-19, like zero face-to-face meetings with developers and restricted access to the site. Against all odds, these challenges actually helped us create techniques to manage remote development, which we are going to use for production digitalization projects in the future.

Vyacheslav Grishkin
Head of Digital Transformation, Department of Digitalization and Technology Development, URALCHEM Holding PLC

Our task was to deliver more than just instagrammable VR visuals, but a full-fledged training solution enabling virtually hands-on practice in 6 kV switchgear operation. One of the most crucial points in projects of such caliber is design and analysis since it is key to ensure that a to-be solution fully satisfies every single customer requirement. This requires profound understanding of a customer’s core business from the contractor, as well as expertise in occupational health and safety and electrical equipment. The best-case scenario is contractor’s in-house electric power competence, which has proven to be of great help to us.

Stanislav Yakush
Head of Account Management and Business Development, CROC Immersive Technologies

The system is to be further developed and expanded with new scenarios in 2021.

1 URALCHEM Holding PLC is one of the largest producers of nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers in Russia and the CIS. The company has facilities capable of producing over 3 million tons of ammonia, 3 million tons of ammonium nitrate, 1.2 million tons of urea, and 1 million tons of phosphate and compound fertilizers per year. The holding is the leading producer of ammonium nitrate and one of the top three ammonia, urea and nitrogen fertilizer producers in Russia. URALCHEM’s key assets include PMU Branch in Perm, Perm Territory; Azot Branch in Berezniki, Perm Territory; KCKK Branch in Kirovo-Chepetsk, Kirov Region; and Voskresensk Mineral Fertilizers in Voskresensk, Moscow Region.

2 CROC Immersive Technologies, a business unit of IT company CROC, specializes in virtual simulators to ensure safe performance at hazardous industrial facilities and helps companies reduce the risk of downtime and occupational injuries by improving the quality of personnel training and promoting safety culture at work. CROC Immersive Technologies has a successful track record of serving large industrial Russian and international companies.