SIMULATION versus VIDEO as tools for training, planning and executing industrial procedures

Humans are good visual learners. And we are even better action learners.

We learn better by seeing how something is done rather than by reading it. Language, regardless of dialect, is complex and requires interpretation by the person doing the reading. The same words, when read by different individuals, could be interpreted in multiple different ways. When dealing with procedures, this increases the probability of inconsistency in how the task is executed. The journey from apprenticeship to mastership can only be accomplished through action: we really learn best by doing. Leading research confirms that the more interactive training is, the more information we retain, for longer.

Figure 1: The Learning Pyramid (adapted from National Training Laboratories Institute) (link)

Learning is not a spectator’s sport (link). Active learning methods are more effective than passive ones. Figure 1 shows retention rates of different types of learning methods: passive (Reading, Audio-Visual, Demonstration) and, active (Group discussion, Practice by Doing, Teaching others).

Learning by doing is one of the most effective learning methods and is the standard form of training across many sectors including the military, aviation, and medical. For example, pilots regularly train in simulators because it is extremely effective and an affordable, scalable alternative to flying a plane. Flight simulation is often the quickest route to learning to fly (link).

Although this article is looking at the effectiveness of simulation and video as learning methods, it is important to note that other factors also influence adoption rates:

  • Cost: the ROI
  • Production: effort and resources required
  • Updating: sustainable solution with ongoing updates to equipment and procedures
  • Consumption: the way in which the content is accessed and consumed

Despite the success in other industry and the data from research, neither simulation nor video have been adopted as the standard training method in the process/production industries. Let’s take a quick look at both.


Since the turn of the millennium, videos have become an everyday part of life. In our ‘YouTube’ culture we consume enormous amounts of video. It is also widely used in e-learning because video records reality with photographic realism and it is easy to consume. Every smart phone, tablet or PC has video recording capabilities and dominates our consumer and entertainment desires.

Video can be an effective training tool when used appropriately in industrial operations. For example, dismantling a piece of equipment could be captured on video and accessed by anyone who needs to review how that piece of equipment was dismantled. You can watch a clip as many times as you need, pause and review certain sections, or jump to the spot where you need more information. When you make recordings of people explaining concepts, you capture and transfer tribal knowledge from experienced employees allowing for better consistency and sustainability of work performance.

The downside with video is that we don’t retain much of what we just watched. Imagine watching a video showing how to execute a 100-step startup procedure; you would only remember part of it, because video is not interactive or immersive. Furthermore, if you needed to refresh your memory while in the field, it is unlikely you would be able to watch videos on the spot. Plants would not want their operators to be distracted and most sites don’t have the bandwidth to support video streaming.

Managing hundreds or thousands of video clips would be problematic, including updating. Updating a video typically requires reshooting the whole video. And let’s not forget that for video to be a useful training tool, you often need to produce quality videos. Although it is free to make amateur video clips (e.g. using cell phone), they will be low quality and are more likely to distract than help for certain training tasks. Producing good quality videos is expensive, because scripting and editing takes time: to produce 1–2 min of semi-professional video could run between $1500-$3000 and 1–2 min of professional could cost $5000 — $20,000 or more (link).

However, if used correctly, video can be a very effective training tool and plays an important role in standardizing training across organizations: the same training content is easily accessible and available.


Simulation is the most effective form of training for operations-related tasks. A good simulation (thanks to its immersion and interactivity) allows everyone to have access to any piece of equipment, at any time, as if they were in the field. It is not possible to train in the field on all tasks, so you need to rely on a ‘virtual’ environment to review, practice and execute tasks.

The key difference between simulation and passive types of learning, like video, is that the users run the show. They are active in doing tasks, hence they learn. Users play a primary role as they make their own decisions. Knowledge retention rates are dramatically higher than when watching a video or watching someone perform a task (shadowing).

Also, a good simulation allows the trainee and trainer to immediately assess the actions that have been taken and therefore make decisions (correct vs. wrong). Therefore, simulation reinforces the trial and error learning process.

Simulation reduces time to competency (link) and allows companies to scale their training activities by training more people with fewer resources, achieving a lower cost per person than training in the field. These savings are even more substantial with offshore assets. The ability to simulate on any device (desktop or tablet) makes simulation-based training accessible for everyone, anytime, and further reduces cost. And, like video, simulation helps standardize training across organizations.

A study from the Norwegian Oil & Gas sector shows that 90% of users evaluated the use of simulation as very successful or successful (link). “Over 80% of the participants estimate noticeable to remarkable improvement of operator effectiveness”, outlined in Figure 2 below. Furthermore, Figure 3 shows that plants can avoid multiple unplanned shutdowns per year if their operators are trained using simulation.

Figure 2: Improvement in Operator Effectiveness as a result of Simulation (link)
Figure 3: Number of unplanned shutdowns per year that can be avoided with simulation training (link)

Arguably the biggest inhibitor of industry-wide adoption of simulation for field operations is cost. It’s very expensive to simulate a plant and procedures in a realistic way using the technologies that the big players offer, such as CAD-based or virtual reality simulations. Insiders say that to produce a model of a process unit and procedures can cost in excess of $1 million (Link). Updating also presents huge time and cost implications, from new instrumentation or equipment installations to updating procedures in the simulated environment.

Affordable and accessible Simulation that can be complemented by Video

Voovio Technologies offers a set of simulation tools that have ‘democratized’ simulation. Now, industrial organizations can rely on simulation as a major component of their workforce competency building and sustainability, without the headaches of updating or high cost. Voovio’s simulation tools allow field operators to review, practice and execute operating, training or lock out procedures on any device as if they were in the field.

And let’s keep in mind that Video is widely used within Voovio’s simulation modules (in the form of ‘knowledge snippets’) as a way of capturing tribal knowledge, demonstrating how specific tasks are executed in the field and for safety, as well as many other important training related items.

All forms of learning methods can be effective in industrial operations, but it is the way in which one applies them that matters. They all have their time and place. Simulation is clearly the most effective form of training for operations-related tasks, which can be complemented by the use of video.

Enhanced Reality is the new technology for field operators. Boost productivity in executing procedures & eliminate risks/errors in operations + maintenance!

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store