Training new employees in a manufacturing environment typically disrupts normal operations. Moreover, for a company like Freudenberg Medical, where specialized tasks are often performed under magnification, a dedicated trainer is required for each trainee, which is costly. The contract developer and manufacturer has found a better way to efficiently train employees without disrupting production through the adoption of virtual reality (VR). The VR training program ensures employees have the necessary skills to meet the quality standards in catheter manufacturing for customers worldwide, said Freudenberg Medical.
The VR training program was piloted in Ireland, and is currently being implemented at a US catheter production site. (The company operates five facilities in the United States.) Freudenberg Medical plans to implement VR training at other sites where highly precise steps are done under magnification; a long-term goal is to introduce the training at all 11 of its global manufacturing facilities.
Through the VR program, trainees are able to practice more than 100 actions in a virtual environment prior to working on the line. VR training builds muscle memory for trainees while educating them on materials and equipment terminology, said Freudenberg Medical. Prior to integrating VR training, it took three to four weeks for operators to achieve takt time — the rate needed to complete a product — on the production line. After three days of VR training, operators are able to hit takt time, according to Freudenberg Medical, exponentially increasing manufacturing efficiency.
Another advantage of VR-based training is that employees don’t need to train on the production line using raw materials, thus reducing scrap. It’s not just a cost saving, but also advances sustainability, noted the company.
In addition to developing and manufacturing complex catheters, Freudenberg Medical supplies hypotubes, needles, balloons, and coating solutions for minimally invasive products; precision molded components; and medical and biopharmaceutical tubing.