Christina Kunze, Senior Project Manager – Digital Engineering, and Gerald Müller, DB Schenker’s Vice President Process and Efficiency, developed, in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics, a special training course. It is digital game, that will complement DB Schenker’s employee training and, at the same time, bring more fun and success to the learning of packing and picking processes.
Right from the start, Leipzig was selected as a concrete field of application. There, DB Schenker stores for the customer BMW parts and delivers them to BMW plants worldwide. Since May 2018, the educational game for training in small packaging is used in Leipzig.
Gerald Müller was responsible for the general planning and organization of the new training concept at DB Schenker, Christina Kunze for the technical planning and implementation. We had the chance to talk to both.
Video on Virtual Reality and Serious Gaming at DB Schenker:
logistik aktuell: How did you come to develop a serious game for packaging?
Gerald Müller: We had planned to supplement the existing employee training with a new training concept. The challenge was to convey the sometimes complex procedures involved in the packing of BMW parts as sustainably as possible, even before employees started training in the real warehouse.
What were the trainings like so far?
Müller: At DB Schenker, the typical employee training sessions in the area of warehousing consist of two parts: First, the employees get to know the process in a frontal presentation – with a video and / or lecture. Subsequently, they receive training on-the-job in a training center within the warehouse. However, the first part, meaning the video presentation, can be made much more interactive with modern tools. The general idea was that any learning content is easier to memorize when used interactively and with feedback. Watching an educational film, on the other hand, is very passive. So when we design the first part as a virtual and interactive training, the employees retain more learning content and are better prepared for specific situations in the warehouse. They ultimately need less training in the actual training center in the warehouse, because they have previously experienced and learned all the movements virtually on the computer.
“We were able to reduce the real on-the-job training in the training center from three to two days simply because the new employees already knew what to do.”
How would you describe the virtual training to an outsider?
Christina Kunze: We tried to map the workplace in Leipzig as realistically as possible on the PC. This includes, of course, the warehouse, but above all the packing station with its direct working environment including all tools, such as scanners, tape scrapers, safety knives, gloves and all packaging material. You can also see the corresponding SAP screen on the virtual monitor for each packing job. The participants learn with the help of the training game, in addition to the packaging activities, the handling of the SAP system relevant to them in Leipzig.
And did it work out? Are the new employees now better prepared for the real training situation through the previous virtual training?
Müller: Yes, certainly. The statistics for the training, which has been used in small packaging since May, clearly shows this. Here, we were able to shorten the real training-on-the-job in the training center from three to two days. Simply because the new employees already knew very well which tasks to carry out. Because of these positive experiences, we now want to successively transfer virtual training to other training situations. All jobs which are recurrent and which have to be carried out precisely are suitable for virtual training, that is to say all picking and packing, and also maintenance.
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But does not a participant of this virtual training course need training for the training in order to know what to do when suddenly standing at a virtual packing table?
Kunze: No, in principle, he needs no instruction, because the training starts simple and guides the user through the application in small steps. Also the control of the game is self-explanatory. But, of course, there is always an instructor in the room to provide support and assistance. All in all, there are six tutorial levels to master with the following topics: the game begins with getting to know the workplace and learning how to control the game. It goes on with order, cleanliness and ergonomics in the workplace, logging in and operating the SAP system, control and identification of the material. Then the actual packaging begins, whereby the packaging processes can be relatively complex and the instructions for this have to be implemented on the simulated PC over multi-page image sequences. In the last tutorial, the packing order in SAP is finally completed and the corresponding labels are printed out. In two different packing order quests, the employee can then apply, review and deepen their newly acquired knowledge.
“Overall, there are six tutorial levels to master. […] In two different packing order quests, the employee can then apply, review and deepen their newly acquired knowledge.”
Is it all done via VR equipment or on the computer monitor?
Kunze: In the current training session in Leipzig, it is still played in the traditional manner by PC monitor and mouse. But a VR version is currently in process and a tablet version is being planned.
Why do you not you use the VR version in Leipzig?
Müller: The idea was to design the first training pilot in Leipzig economically. For this reason, we chose a PC game version for which we already had hardware in sufficient number. With the success of this pilot, we now want to expand the already existing VR version of our packing game, which we previously used only for sales purposes, to the full VR training version. Our main task now is to optimize the controls and the gameplay so that the employees feel comfortable in the virtual world. This is absolutely essential for achieving the optimal training effects.
Kunze: What is easy for most people in a rather static training situation (eg working at a packing workplace), can be more difficult in dynamic training situations. Here is a concrete example from our everyday life VR: If you drive virtually with a forklift, but it really does not move, the situation can cause discomfort in sensitive people, comparable to seasickness. This phenomenon even has a name: VR sickness. But just as sailors get used to the swell, so do most people experience a habituation effect in VR. Just that most people haven’t had any VR experience yet. Our approach is to respond to this situation by designing mobile equipment, for example, a forklift simulator. New provider tests will give us more information on this.
Müller: As you can see, we have all kinds of innovative employee training in mind and can respond to the needs of our customers and design an optimal, cost-effective solution.
What do the employees think about the new training method and how do employees without PC knowledge manage?
Kunze: In the case of employees who until then had little or no PC experience, it is noticeable that they practice using PC and mouse in the virtual training and, thus, have considerably less fear to do something wrong during the subsequent real training, for example when dealing with the SAP system.
Müller: We generally receive positive feedback from the participants, because they are simply better prepared for the actual training center. It is easier there to complete the real training. We also get very positive feedback from the coaches, who notice a considerable improvement compared to the teaching material used before. This is further suggested by the average reduction of the training time from three to two days.
Thanks for the interview and this special insight into the Schenker Enterprise Lab.
Senior Project Manager – Digital Engineering