Process Industry: costs vs benefits in Virtual Reality Training

If you still have doubts in making investments on VR because it looks too expensive, this article will wipe out any reserve. VR solutions can be a source of saving, in short/medium-time terms and well suit for at least 4 main fields in Process Industry, such as Resources (Training, Updating), HSE policies and Risks Management, Maintenance Repair Operations (MRO) and in the improvement of both operator’s performances and processes by the prevention of outages as well as the a faster issues recognition…

Before going through the matter, it is necessary to specify that we are talking about a HIGH QUALITY VIRTUAL REALITY system, because this makes the difference.

When you make training in your company, you are making an investment, as in terms of money as in terms of time; a VR platform can guarantee a real shortening of the needed time of training and get a reduction of budget that can also achieve the 33%.

In a projection (confirmed by data we measured with our customers) on 24 months training program duration, the reduction time can reach about 8 months, creating a cost saving around 33%


Calculation done using information and data from source “Performance comparison of different training methods”

Moreover, it increases the levels of operators’ knowledge and can be used in updating and redeploying the senior personnel.

The chapter regardingthe HSE policies takes a wide consideration as the one where VR systems almost get the most useful and successful application and is strictly connected to the Safety and Risk Management, if considering that human errors are still the primary causes of accidents, as much as 32% – Polytechnic of Milan (2013).

Relying on the data search of the Energy Safety Institute at the University of Houston¹, which realized a study putting in comparison the main causes of accidents in Process Industry (see the table below), 4 out of 5 major offshore accidents are caused by human errors; tools provided by a Virtual Reality platform can generate a diminishing trend of accidents that can decrease of about -12%2.


The significant money saving coming from VR technology introduction in HSE policies is determined by several aspects, as well a diminishing trend of human life losses and injuries, a lower cost for accidents, a consequent reduction of criminal charges and a lower costs for liabilities and insurances.

Making a data cross-checking, we can gather that, although at first sight it seems a dimension too far away from the direct practice, in a Virtual Reality environment operators can effectively experience the real tasks, follow-up skills and learn how to react correctly in emergency situations, in an extremely involving and out of risks context.

Then, we know that higher the professionalism of operators means,in a sense, to gamble on increasing responsibilities and knowledge of human resources and this is possible only if you invest in reviewing and, as we said, in an efficient initial training. Virtual Reality can be an answer also in MRO, providing high-performing tools through which operators will perform maintenance, repair interventions and operations more efficiently and effectively; in this scenario, time and mistakes decreasing is a generous source of saving on budgets, as showed in the following Business Case simulation3

Supposing an Operators’ cost on total MR expense = 10%

and an average cost of $2,6 Mio 4for 1 Outage

A VR platform can provide a performance improvement of 60,7%

so the total saving on MRO can be around 4-5%


Finally, in Operators’ performances improvement the faster and more precise execution will have important repercussions on budgets, especially when dealing with complex and important operations, where VR Systems can avoid and prevent relevant errors. In a case study we can advance a cost savings of about 13% if consider an average number of 30 outages per year in 1 refinery (50% caused by human error), with an average cost of 2,6 Mio$ 4 for 1 Outage.


Said that, even we are not suggesting to cancel the classic training made with hours of classroom and on-the-job activity (very often made on physical mock-up of real part of the plant) we strongly suggest to introduce VR solutions in the middle. This way companies can reduce classroom time, money spent to bring people on facilities-copy and redirect investment on Virtual tools achieving better perfomances in a shorter time. People will learn by doing procedures often impossible to be reproduced in reality and the ROI will be immediate (sometimes in the same year).

1 Source – Ocean Energy Safety Institute at the University of Houston – May2014

2 Internal data and calculation subject to authorized disclosure. More details can be disclosed to third parties on request and if covered by NDA agreement            

3 Internal data and calculation subject to authorized disclosure . More details can be disclosed to third parties on request and if covered by NDA agreement

4 “Creating a Reliability Culture” – Case Study CLG – www.clg.com