Forklift drivers get their training Academy in Dalmine

Charterer and service supplier La Cisa launched the facility with state-of-the-art simulator for coaching operators of yard handling trucks

Dalmine, Bergamo – “It is the cherry on the cake. It is long since the market reckoned we are true pioneers but now, with this new product and service, our repute has even greatly improved”, proudly opens Paolo Provenzi, the owner (together with his brother Roberto) and CEO of La Cisa Trasporti Industriali Srl, a company established by their father almost 50 years ago, in 1969, as a standard transport company though through time the family gradually refocusing operations on industrial handling, thus morphing it into a provider of logistic solutions.

Now, La Cisa’s last novelty is by no means a mean feat: indeed, its La Cisa Academy is meant to be a kind of vocational master course for workers assigned to equipment for handling and hoisting, who are given not only standard classroom teaching but also, and most importantly, practical training thanks to a state-of-the-art forklift’s real scale driving cabin simulator based on a platform derived from Air Force concept and reproducing realistic driving sensations while featuring 3D high definition graphics to cast the driver into a virtual environment faithfully reproducing actual conditions at work.

“Here we mostly invested in the time necessary for developing the application, which can be gauged at 300,000 man/hours of our technicians” adds Provenzi.

The handling school is located at the cluster for technological innovation of Bergamo’s Province (named Point and close to the University and to iron & steel mill Tenaris Dalmine) set up by the local administration in order to find out new technologies and spread them across the territory.

Indeed, two years ago La Cisa moved to these old warehouses now retrofitted all its white-collar departments, leaving only its workshops at the Dalmine mill’s location. The idea of an Academy first sprang out from the company technicians’ minds as they were looking at how to best and more effectively transmit their expertise during the training stages they were holding.

“The Academy was actually set up in 2015 with this mission and the simulator is a state-of-the-art solution as to flexibility, involvement and effectiveness of the training process” remarks the CEO. “We have studied the machine by taking into account the needs of our customers and of the international market. We were looking forward to new functions and to exporting a new training concept that had already brought us big rewards on an in-house scale. Now, it is some months that we are promoting it on the market and are pleased to note it is welcomed as an excellent training tool. For instance, it aroused clear interest in the global human resources managers of our long-term customer Tenaris; as they expressed the wish to have a unit in each of their plants, we started thinking about a new, ‘light’ version for the purpose. Albeit at the moment we are exclusively dealing with companies already our partners, obviously our final goal is to train people at their own premises. In the end you sell a methodology, a training format targeting the standardisation of procedures among operators while showing customers the diverse opportunities our equipment offers. In practice, trainers translate into professional skills the money you have invested in innovation, thus improving the company’s overall financial return”, he explains.

The simulator’s integration between a hi-def rendering system and electromechanical handling while affording personalisation of the virtual experience, was born out of a cooperation between La Cisa’s staff with the academic researchers of Sant’Anna University in Pisa.

“In tune with a market increasingly on the move and forward-looking, our simulator is able to run several environments different as to layout, equipment, vehicles, and goods to be handled. The cabin is a 1:1 replica of a real one and the driver in training sees all around himself what is going on”, joins Fabio Roncalli, a member of La Cisa’s professional training team composed of two more colleagues and 7 teachers not in the company’s payroll.

“The reality feeling is strengthened by a motion tracking system of the driver’s head (through a helmet) and body, further enhancing the awareness of the ‘real’ spaces and obstacles around the vehicle. Moreover, the avionics-derived platform which the cabin is resting on reproduces the driving effects of an actual heavy vehicle, from speeding-up, breaking, turning, and rolling to tip-ups and collisions arising from improper operation”, specifies Roncalli.

The overall training environment is software controlled by just a technician of La Cisa Academy who, according to the specs of the training module being run and the skills required, manages the operative conditions like the weather (sunny or rainy), the traffic (high or low density), and possible mechanical failures (like a tyre going burst).

The system is able to reproduce whatever industrial or seaport scenery. For the purpose some real-life locations of La Cisa’s customers have been put to use, like iron & steel producers’ Marcegaglia in Ravenna, ABS Acciaierie Bertoli Safau – Gruppo Danieli in Udine, and above-mentioned Tenaris in Dalmine.

Different virtual environments with diverse goods to handle provide the ideal training grounds for virtual forklifts with various types of attachments, like electromagnets for steel rods and plain forks for slabs at warehouses, turning hooks on reach stackers for coils at relevant yards, and clamps for hoisting trucks at tube warehouses.

“The simulator is also useful in the design of new plants or premises in order to optimise project timing and space allotment. In fact, we are able to model forthcoming structures so as to test the vehicles’ performances well before anything is actually built”, note the company’s technicians.

The simulator’s hardware cabin is the real one installed on Hyster forklifts from 16 to 48 tons complete in all its details. (Incidentally, the brand plays almost no role, as functions are the same for all such hoisting trucks.) So, the system is able to manage a full driving experience identical to the real ones, whereas occurring in a warehouse, in a seaport, or at an iron & steel plant.

The 3D visualisation system complete with eyewear and displays at the windows and on the fascia shrouds the user in a total virtual world and is further enhanced by an audio system reproducing the sounds and noises of a working environment, while the tracker on the overhead guard provides the trainee with an interactive experience according to his point of view.

La Cisa, which employs 150 people directly and 50 more through subcontractors, has 10 premises in Italy and is present with own equipment at 14 among iron & steel plants and seaports (the latter being Ravenna, Piombino (Leghorn), Trieste, Leghorn, Marghera (Venice), and San Giorgio di Nogaro (Udine)).

Besides providing handling services, La Cisa group – also through controlled company LC Project Srl, established in 2007 in Ravenna and specialising in research & development – also designs and manufactures handling equipment and solutions tailored to special needs.

The company’s core business is the full service internal logistics, split between ‘hot’ rental (with operator) and ‘cold’ rental (just the equipment). This sector was worth 24 million euro in turnover in 2015, and is expected to grow to 28 million in 2016 on an uptrend of 10% to 40% per year.

“The rental service really took off a few years ago; companies wanted their own vehicles, that we supply them customised, thus adding the value of innovation. Now we are trying to set standards as some vehicles meet more favour than others. We have about 350 yard trucks and 300 industrial trailers scattered among several factories in Italy (more than 80% of our business arises from the iron & steel sector), plus forklifts manufactured by brands like Kalmar, OTO, Mafi, CVS, Hyster, and Terberg, with capacity raging from 2 to 52 tons”, resumes Provenzi. “Training is an integral part of the rental service we provide and our courses range from the operation of non-invasive magnetic controls forklifts on, including 2-3 day full immersion courses for either expert drivers or beginners. We do training in order to avoid accidents and to allow the entrepreneurs to show they did their best to avoid them”, concludes La Cisa’s co-owner.