Boehringer Ingelheim has become among the first pharmaceutical companies to announce the adoption of cloud-based virtual reality (VR) training for aseptic manufacturing operatives. The Virtuosi® VR training package has finished rollout at three aseptic manufacturing sites, two in Germany and one in France.

The announcement comes after more than a year of test deployment at an initial pilot site in Germany.

“Pharmaceutical companies are usually careful with deploying new technology, and this is no exception,” says Robin Mersh, senior vp of sales at Quality Executive Partners (QxP), who developed Virtuosi. “The deployment has been  carefully done, with structured corporate governance around it, and the roll-out is planned to be corporation-wide, which is significant. We have a lot of customers and are delighted Boehringer Ingelheim is talking about their own deployment.”

The company spoke about the deployment at Aseptikon in Mannheim, Germany, last month.

Virtuosi offers 56 courses and 26 VR “immersive experiences” with over 100 hours of educational content ranging from sterile manufacturing to microbiology, the company claims. According to Mersh, the aseptic training for a staffer new to the industry would involve five mandatory episodes covering the basics of GMP, aseptic behavior, and gowning. Each episode includes a two-dimensional instructional video, and most episodes also include a VR environment for practicing skills.

“The VR monitors people’s movement and body position, so we can automatically check if they obey the rules of the process they’ve been taught by, for example, moving slowly enough, keeping their hands in the right place, and following a set process,” he explains, adding that the training is more interactive than traditional instruction, which often consists of instruction from a subject matter expert followed by a “tick box” or multiple-choice exercise.

The goal is to ensure that people understand the concepts they’ve been taught. The result, he says, is Virtuosi can reduce rates of repeat human error by an estimated 10–25%, although he thinks it’s possibly more than that.

“We don’t want to promise the Earth,” he says. “[The product is] only effective if companies take their deployment seriously and work out how to build it into their existing training. They need to be quite involved and deliberate.”