The role of immersive learning within industry 4.0

How PSA and Alstom are using immersive learning to drive their digital transformation

According to Wikipedia, Industry 4.0 is all about “augmenting machines with sensors and connecting them to a system that can visualize the entire production and make decisions on its own”. 

Technology is getting pretty mature in terms of robotics, sensors, communication and algorithms. What is holding most companies back is workforce transformation. Industry 4.0 can only work when the workforce is ready to adopt emerging technologies.

I was listening to PSA’s (a large car manufacturer) and Alstom’s (a rail transportation player) best practices on scaling Immersive Learning at a global level. It became clear to me that Virtual Reality had a great role to play to prepare companies to the Industry 4.0 revolution by filling the skill gap but also by accelerating skill digitalization.

(You can find here the interview of Karen Thomas, Learning & Development Business Partner, PSA and here the interview of Franck Gaillard, Global Learning Director, Alstom)


According to a 2018 Deloitte Study, there will be 50% open positions in the manufacturing industry in the next 10 years due to skills shortage. This situation comes from:

  • Aging experts exiting the workforce via retirement (av. 55 yo)
  • New jobs creations due to automation (+4M in the US by 2030)
  • Lack of education and training offer (85% of jobs in 2030 do not exist yet)

Immersive Learning is a great solution to skill shortage for many reasons:

1- Quicker and better onboarding

People remember 80% of what they do versus 10% of what they read. Learning by doing is by far a better pedagogical technique. Today’s common learning approach is instruction and observation-based. But this approach is expensive:

  • It lacks scalability: Alstom has developed six learning centers to train new hires. But only 10% of them can get the training due to space constraints. With Immersive Learning, they can now ensure that every new hire gets practices before starting work.
  • It causes interruption of people and machines:  PSA wanted to get new operators accustomed to noise and speed of the production line to be more productive from day one. What was impossible (using a production line for training purposes) became possible thanks to immersive learning. As a result, new hires feel more prepared and call less often their supervisor on their first day of job.
  • There is low tolerance for mistakes. The best way to learn is to make mistakes. But when you are providing safety training in real life, you might want to avoid dangerous situations. With Virtual Reality, you can now simulate them! In one of their training for railroad maintenance, Alstom’s technicians can end up overthrown by a train! A great way to avoid the situation from happening in real life!

2-Attracting millennials with new technologies

Virtual Reality remains highly attractive and natural to most millennials. By providing it as a training tool, companies give an image of an evolving and fun industry. Alstom used it as a promotional tool to improve brand awareness towards millennials. PSA used Uptale during their family days. For the first time in their life employees working in the forge could show exactly to their kids and teenagers their highly technical work. 

3-Boosting technology adoption

Being immersed in a 3D environment is natural for our brains. As a result, Virtual Reality tends to get instant adoption even by technology- adverse people. It can be a smooth way to drive employees to other technologies such as robotics, or Artificial Intelligence. Both PSA and Alstom received instant adoption around immersive learning. PSA was astonished to see that in a year over 300 people started creating and sharing their training on the platform.

As a conclusion, Virtual Reality is a great tool to fill the skill gap and facilitate digital transformation. But if we go one step further, we can see how empowering experts to create their own Virtual Reality experience is a wonderful way to digitize and share skills assets at a company level.


Uptale’s VR authoring tool is a great way to shorten the cycle between the training needs identification and the distribution of a learning experience to hundreds of learners. In a natural way where you can ask a colleague to show you how he is doing a difficult task, now you can ask an expert to digitize in 360 his know-how and share it with hundreds of coworkers in various locations at the same time. They no longer need a high level of abstraction to convert their skills into a 2D e-learning or PowerPoint support.

By reducing the number of intermediaries (from internal team to external agencies), the trainings are more grounded in the actual practice as they are developed by the experts themselves and this is what seduced Alstom in the first place.

In the same way Industry 4.0 wants to create a parallel digitized world to understand how machines are interacting with each other, Virtual Reality training is a way to foster skills digitalization  to improve business performance. 

For all these reasons, Virtual Reality Training should be among the first projects performed by manufacturers like PSA or Alstom that want to improve their performance. What said Archilocus in 700 bc is still valid today:

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”

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