Manufacturing Skills Fund award for ‘mixed reality’ training

Ufi has awarded £90,000 to the Grimsby Institute Group’s Flavours of Reality project following its call for projects that support workforce skills in the UK manufacturing sector. Grimsby Institute is one of England’s largest providers of further and higher education and will use this funding to pilot novel use of Microsoft HoloLens technology to create a ‘mixed reality’ training environment for food safety training. Working with key industry partners to combine virtual and augmented reality with the real experience of a production line, will enable learners to ‘test and learn’ a wide range of skills within a safe environment.

Grimsby Institute’s partners in the project are Icelandic Seachill, a leading supplier of chilled fish to retail and commercial markets, and Seafish, an industry body working to raise standards across the UK seafood industry. Collectively, they will be able to test, evaluate and adapt the product through a series of trials and roll it out more widely.

The food and drink manufacturing sector represents over 16% of manufacturing turnover, employing around 400,000 people in the UK, according to the Food and Drink Federation. Many employees ‘fall’ into longer term employment through short term placements, and rely on training provided on the job to keep up to date with the latest industry processes and consumer demands. Training is costly, currently requiring employees to be taken out of the workplace and tricky to deliver without compromising health and safety, or impacting on quality assurance and productivity.

Grimsby Institute will look to meet industry and learner needs by trialling mixed reality technologies to teach essential manual dexterity, precision, information interpretation and spatial awareness skills. Their unique combination of real and virtual world experiences, based on 360° film and audio of Icelandic Seachill production lines, will form the basis for a virtual training environment, overlaid with additional holographic or 2D information to support multiple learning objectives. In time this can be applied to a wider range of skills and manufacturing environments.

Commenting on the partnership, Ufi Chief Executive Rebecca Garrod-Waters said:

“There is a clear need in the food and drink manufacturing sector to provide up to date, motivational training in ways that meets the needs of learners and of employers. This includes training for new entrants and enhancing the skills levels and increase vocational competences of existing staff. We believe that Grimsby Institute’s proposed use of mixed reality technologies will facilitate training for all levels within the industry.

Their partnership with employers and a key industry bodies is just the type of collaboration we were hoping to support with our Manufacturing Skills Fund. It makes the unique approach to combining virtual and real environments proposed by the Flavours of Reality project possible and gives real potential for rolling this out more widely.”

Claire Foster, Vice Principal, Grimsby Institute of Further & Higher Education said:

“Grimsby Institute is situated at the heart of the Seafood Industry, and we are delighted to have been selected to lead this ground-breaking project, which will transform food safety learning and vocational skills through cutting edge innovation. We are proud of our talented academic staff and students, who will be completing the design and development, which places the Institute at the forefront of mixed reality training for the benefit of the food manufacturing industry”

Nicola Ritchie, Learning and Development Advisor, Icelandic Seachill said:

“We are excited by this new initiative from the Grimsby Institute to train production operatives, technical and quality team and internal auditors using digital technology. We rely upon a significant highly trained workforce to maintain our position as market leader. An immersive journey through the food manufacturing process using “mixed reality” will provide high quality training, with real impact.”

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