DSC tests virtual reality training technology for forklift operators

In a tightening job market, DSC has taken an innovative approach to recruiting by evolving its hiring criteria and testing virtual reality training technology. DSC is expanding hiring of operational roles based on criteria that fit DSC values and culture rather than hiring operators primarily on the basis of forklift driving experience, as the majority of companies in the supply chain industry do.

Because DSC’s hiring process creates new opportunities for a broader group of candidates who have limited or no forklift operating experience, it requires the company to provide a contained training environment to allow employees to learn in a safe, controlled space.

To provide this training environment, DSC recently became one of the first 3PL companies to invest in a virtual reality system for training employees on material handling equipment. The system is currently being piloted at the Champaign, Illinois, logistics center and will be expanded regionally if the pilot is successful.

The new virtual reality system, a reach truck simulator, gives employees the opportunity to learn the controls and handling of standup forklifts in a controlled setting, with extensive hands-on task-oriented training. The simulator can detect and document operator opportunities for improvement not typically caught by the human eye, creating a coaching tool for safe and effective equipment use. To illustrate the consequences of mistakes made in the virtual training environment, costs of damages to customer product, racking, walls, or other forklifts are added into simulator exercises.

Tabatha Helm, Supply Chain Leader, Champaign, sees the potential in the focus on learning from the ground up – hiring employees with a good work history and establishing the “DSC way,” a solid foundation of best practices. “I can teach somebody how to drive a forklift,” she said. “And that is much easier than teaching someone how to be a dedicated, motivated employee.” Another upside to this approach, Tabatha points out, is that it opens up job opportunities for a diverse applicant pool, including women, that has been untapped up to this point.

For DSC, with a strong safety culture, the safe environment for learning provided by the simulator is a major advantage of this type of training, as are the potential cost savings gained by reducing repair maintenance of forklifts. “New employees can learn forklift operation without the distractions of a busy warehouse floor,” said Joe Smiesko, Director of Safety, Security and Compliance. “They can safely gain experience in handling problems without making costly mistakes.”

DSC’s innovative use of virtual reality forklift simulation in training new operators was featured in Transport Topics, March 1, 2018. Read the article here.