Virtual reality improves production efficiency, reduces raw material use and cuts training costs


VR training at Freudenberg Medical gives trainees an interactive experience that allows them to physically walk through the process of producing catheters before they start work on the production line. (Credit: Paul Lehane)

Freudenberg Medical, a global CDMO for finished medical devices, components, and minimally invasive solutions, has implemented virtual reality training for employees working in catheter production at operations in Ireland and the United States. The VR training program ensures employees have the necessary skills to meet the high-quality standards in catheter manufacturing for customers worldwide.

Conventional training meant production lines would be disrupted to provide new operators with adequate training. Today, trainees are doing 100 plus repetitions in a virtual environment prior to working on the line – at their own pace, meeting individual training needs. “Introducing new colleagues to the shop floor is challenging,” said Séamus Maguire, VP of Lean Systems at Freudenberg Medical. “We have many highly specialized tasks that need to be accomplished under magnification. Training previously required a dedicated trainer for each trainee which was costly.”

VR training builds muscle memory for trainees and educates on materials and equipment terminology. Prior to integrating VR training it took three to four weeks for operators to gain the rhythm of the production lines and hit takt time. Takt time is a key concept in lean manufacturing defined by the rate needed to complete a product. Now after three days of VR training operators are able to hit takt time which increases manufacturing efficiency by a multiple.

Previously, new employees trained on the production line using raw materials. Now that they initially learn through VR training, scrap is significantly reduced. “This is in line with Freudenberg’s commitment to sustainability,” said Lars Gerding, Vice President GBU Silicone & Vice President of Technology at Freudenberg Medical. “Against the backdrop of global supply chain disruptions in recent years, implementing the VR training was particularly beneficial.”

After a successful rollout in Ireland, Freudenberg Medical is currently implementing the program at a catheter production site in the U.S. According to Lars Gerding, the plan is to implement VR training at other sites where highly precise steps are done under magnification, and long-term to introduce the training company-wide.

Source: Company Press Release