What Are Operator Training Simulators ?

An operator training simulator (OTS) is a computer-based system designed to simulate the operation of a particular machine or process. It is used to train operators how to operate the equipment or process safely and effectively and can include both physical and virtual components.

OTS has proven to be the most effective method to train operators, and they are typically used in industries, such as manufacturing, power generation, petrochemical, and transportation, where the operation of complex equipment is critical to the safety and efficiency of the overall system.. Operator training for abnormal situations in high consequence processes can improve operating efficiency, shorten startups, or rate changes, allow operators the experience to deal with highly dangerous situations like core meltdowns of nuclear plants, or managing complex chemical reactions, or managing safe operations of process equipment like pumps, compressors, or fired heaters.

OTS products may include hardware, software, and services for the training simulator itself, but not including the control room or training building. A simulator could be a complete hardware replica of the control system and control panels, connected to a process simulator, an arrangement common in the past. In this arrangement the control system communicates with the process Operator Training Simulatorssimulator using the control system I/O for analog and discrete signals for all measurements and outputs. 

The nuclear industry often builds a complete mockup control room, with so-called glass panels (often a touch screen display) to replicate the lights, buttons, and switches of control panels. The entire operational staff can train at the same time in this full-scale control room, which may be a separate training building that contains the OTS system. 

In most other industrial sectors, it is more likely the control system and the process simulator are virtual software that can run on one or more PC’s and servers using operating consoles, desktop PC’s, or laptops. Some OTS systems can include special hardware to match the control system, such as touchscreens or monitors of a particular size, resolution and layout, keyboards, annunciator panels, pointing devices or control panels to mimic auxiliary buttons and switches. This equipment can be arranged in cabinets to mimic the console used in control rooms.

One of the primary goals of operator training simulators is to improve safety by allowing operators to learn and practice new skills in a controlled environment without the risk of accidents or injuries. Operator training simulators can help operators retain knowledge and skills over time, by allowing them to practice and refresh their skills on a regular basis.

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