ExxonMobil, in partnership with Louisiana Economic Development, is launching an initiative to bolster the Baton Rouge area tech sector by investing in virtual reality training for the company’s recently announced polyolefins plant expansion project.
The virtual reality initiative, along with ExxonMobil’s proposed small business resource center in north Baton Rouge, are two community investments tied to the company’s major plant expansion project, worth more than $500 million, announced in March.
ExxonMobil has partnered with LED FastStart and local IT vendors—including Baton Rouge-based Pixel Dash and King Crow Studios and Thibodaux-based 3D Media—to create virtual reality-based training modules to support the new expansion project. The company is also working with Baton Rouge Community College to create a virtual reality training lab, where students will be trained in process technology and industry-related scenarios.
“Our virtual reality training partnership with LED will strengthen collaboration between the petrochemical industry and the local IT sector,” ExxonMobil plant manager Steve Hamilton said at a recent event celebrating the expansion project as well as the company’s 110th anniversary in Baton Rouge.
The virtual reality training will allow ExxonMobil and other companies to simulate emergency situations and other scenarios to train employees, such as operators, without putting them at risk, said LED Deputy Secretary Brad Lambert. Another major benefit, he adds, is that manufacturers won’t have to shut down any units for training.
The initiative is also providing a boost to Baton Rouge’s tech industry. King Crow Studios founder Cody Louviere says the partnership with ExxonMobil and LED to create virtual reality training modules expanded his workforce with six new employees.
“This partnership means we’re able to keep our tech community here in Baton Rouge and fully employed,” Louviere says, adding the program opens opportunities for contracts with other companies wanting virtual reality training.
In the industrial sector, virtual reality is a growing tool for employee safety training, with ExxonMobil at the forefront. Keitt Wannamaker, manufacturing manager for the expansion project, says they were able to create modules of the new plant for training purposes before the expansion has even been built.
“Fortune 500 companies like ExxonMobil thrive on innovations and communities like East Baton Rouge thrive on retaining them,” Lambert says.
LED FastStart Executive Director Paul Helton adds his agency plans to expand virtual reality training to other industries as it is easily transferable, providing further opportunities for local IT firms.