Operator Training System Moves Toward Virtual Reality
By M. Gerard David, Auxilium Technologies
In its search for excellence, Hydro-Quebec mandated a group of operations personnel to make recommendations to meet the corporate objectives on quality customer service. The first step taken by that team was to analyze the incidents reports to extract the reasons for each incident. Then by grouping these reasons by categories, the team was able to highlight the main factors at the root of the reported incidents. Table 1 illustrates the findings of the incident reports.
The team made several recommendations to solve these problems. The recommendations to resolve the first two causes were:
design a software performance support system (PSS) to help the operator validate the complete switching plan before its execution, and
use the PSS at the central corporate training center for continuous on-the-job training.
The task to propose a solution to write the functional specifications and to design the system was given to the Automation Division of Hydro-Quàƒ©bec. The result was the design and supply of the PSS called “Operator +.” This system is now operational at the Hydro-Quàƒ©bec corporate center and in one of the four operational regions. It runs on a PC and Windows 3.1 platform.
Operator + was designed to simulate the behavior of any electrical power network and to guide and verify the actions taken by the operators. It reproduces, in a realistic fashion, any electrical power system either at the network or station levels. It also helps diminish operating incidents with serious consequences on personnel safety, service continuity and utility equipment.
The system helps the operator plan each maneuver accurately to reduce outages and point out overloads which could damage equipment during a maneuver. The operator will also be able to maximize the use of the power system flexibility to ensure continuity of service to customers.
The complexity of the tasks, performed by the operators, requires continuous training to keep up to date with new installed equipment and changes in operation procedures. The operator may use the Operator + system confirmation before executing a maneuver. These maneuvers include the opening and closing of circuit breakers and disconnect switches, to energizing or de-energizing power lines.
The system`s simulator interactively validates the execution of the operation and switching plans. It uses the information from the one-line diagram and the set of rules to validate each action.
The simulator supports several operator locations, including dispatching center, station control room and station outdoor site. To each of these locations correspond a subset of possible equipment controls, operations and verifications. The simulator forces the operator to move to the proper location to execute the desired action.
At each step of the operating plan, the simulator verifies for compliance with the company working procedures. If an action results in the violation of a working procedure, the simulator informs the operator with a brief message. If needed, the operator may request more detailed information.
With the system`s editor function, a user creates a graphical representation of single-line diagrams, defines all operational and electrical parameters, and establishes the electrical connections between the equipment. Single-line diagrams can be created by the user or automatically from existing schematics. The creation or modification of single-line diagrams with the editor is very useful for the design of case studies by the instructors. These case studies may be either a modified version of an operation single-line diagram or a fictitious station.
Utility personnel, not programmers or graphic artists, are the main users of the single-line diagram editor. Its terminology, symbols and features are utility-industry oriented. These are productivity tools not available in general purpose, off-the-shelf graphical packages. The editor includes a list of equipment and electrical standards symbols. The editor also offers the possibility to quickly distribute new or updated versions of single-line diagrams throughout the organization.
Training Session Example
Before the session, the instructor prepares several single-line diagram configurations. These configurations reproduce different situations encountered in the operation of power networks. The instructor may modify any equipment parameters and mandatory verification against the company`s operation rules to focus the training on the actions to be emphasized.
Each student may have a different single-line diagram configuration. With this feature, the instructor adapts the exercises to the experience of each operator. An expert operator will have a more complex problem to solve than a beginner.
At the beginning of the session, the operator-in-training selects the single-line diagram configuration prepared by the instructor. This selection is the starting point of the class room training course. During the execution of the exercises, the instructor may select and monitor any student`s workstation to visualize the work in progress. If necessary, the instructor may execute actions to demonstrate the correct procedure to the student experiencing difficulties.
At the end of the simulation, the Operator + system verifies that the network or station is left in stable electrical condition and in a safe state according to company`s rules. Each operator-in-training may print a log of the simulated operating maneuvers, actions and feedback from the training session.
PSS and Virtual Reality
During the design of the PSS, several members of the project proposed to evaluate the possibility to evaluate the impact of using virtual reality techniques to operator training. A research project was given to two universities (àƒâ€°cole Polytechnique and McGill University of Montreal, Canada) to design a virtual reality prototype based on Operator + technology. The results of that development were shown at the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers winter meeting in Baltimore, Md., in January 1996.
This experimental system creates a tri-dimensional representation of a station directly from a single-line diagram created on Operator +. The operator uses positioning gloves to move in the control room and within the switchyard. Actions taken by the operator are voice or manually actuated. Continued efforts will be made to improve response time, especially when textures are applied to the equipment and furniture.
This project will remain a research and development project until the cost for implementation drops to an acceptable level. Additional studies will have be conducted with operators to evaluate their reactions in addition to the requirements of system operation.
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Percentage of all Causes Identified main items
55.6 Disrespect for 1. No verification of alarms or
working procedures status of the station before execution of an operating plan.
2. The operation plans are incomplete due to a lack of information to plan the next actions.
3. The operators do not validate their actions before proceeding to the next action.
17.4 Training 1. Integration of the operators at their job sites is not structured. No adequate on-the-job training is available.
2. Formal training is perceived to be not directly related to the operational requirements.
22.0 Lack of attention 1. Operators are in a hurry to execute operations plan and forget recommended actions.
2. The operator is distracted by other personnel walking and talking in the control room.
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Figure 1. A computer-generated substation in 3D.
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Figure 2. This training panel shows data characteristics and readings for transformer control.