Concrete Pump Simulators Are a Game Changer for Training

Simulators have been used for years to train commercial and military fighter pilots. Yet only recently have they begun to be used in the construction industry as a way of increasing the safety and efficiency of employee onboarding. Concrete pumping companies have historically trained new employees on the job site; the industry has never had a separate training facility, despite the high-stakes nature of learning to pump concrete. That’s about to change with the commercial availability of concrete pumping simulators.

Made available by the American Concrete Pumping Association, the wireless boom simulator uses virtual reality (VR) on a dynamic physics platform to give trainees or prospective job candidates a realistic pump-operating experience. Users must position themselves in the simulator to access a good view of the pump truck and the area into which they’re pumping. With the remote box in operator mode, they walk over to the job foreman to get the job ticket signed, blow the horn, deploy outriggers and level the pump truck, unfold the boom, start the pump— everything they would do in a real-life pumping situation. When the pour is complete, the simulator requires the operator to fold up the pump boom, retract the outriggers and turn off the truck.

The simulator offers different levels of difficulty. The first of its four pumping scenarios is “ground level,” which offers a very simple pour and is ideal for new hires or recruitment efforts at job fairs. Pumping scenarios climb to higher degrees of difficulty, including a parking garage, the top of a building and a below-grade pour.

The simulator provides a no-pressure atmosphere for the user. Users don’t score points or have requirements in order to advance to the next level. Instead, critical safety and quality concerns are fully addressed. For example, training factors include concrete spills, “boom bounce” as the pump cycles, and unforeseen conditions such as damaged piping. Built-in evaluation and reporting help identify areas where proficiency has been achieved or deficiencies are present.

“For trainees to have the ability to become highly skilled before they get onto a real job site, where it’s stressful if something goes wrong, the simulator is a game changer,” said Dennis Andrews, owner, Andrews Equipment Co, Inc.

Using the simulator not only improves safety for companies but will result in cost savings. Operators arrive on the job site already proficient with pump remote box controls, resulting in fewer slowdowns and work stoppages. Workers can be released to operate equipment on their own earlier than is possible with most current training programs, a benefit that will also lead to increased revenues. Risks will be reduced because there will be fewer on-the-job incidents caused by operator inexperience. And customers now willingly allow simulator-trained operators on their site.

“Using the simulator, there is less chance of a job site accident, as well as less waste. The labor savings is enormous, too, because the need to double-man the pump reduces by 30 days,” said Andrews.


The ACPA has included simulators as part of its workforce development program for the past two years. “There was interest within the industry in investing in a new simulator, to take advantage of state-of-the-art technology and software,” said Andrews.

The ACPA worked with CM Labs, the construction industry’s leading supplier of simulation-based training and instruction tools, to develop the new simulator. In fall 2019, the simulators were shipped to ACPA members who pre-purchased units, following the official debut in the ACPA booth during World of Concrete.

“We’re delighted to be working with ACPA to provide this training solution. The result is a net benefit for the concrete pumping industry, as there are now simply better options for attracting and training a new generation of operators,” said David Clark, CM Labs’ product marketing manager.

Next-generation simulators are currently in development, and they will include recent advancements in VR graphics and avatars.

“This next simulator will be even more realistic,” said Andrews. “There’s new scenery, so when simulating a pour at the top of a skyscraper, you can actually experience vertigo looking ‘down’ to the ground.”

From this fall through WOC 2020, feedback from purchasers of the simulator will be used to inform ongoing product development, and free software updates will be given to the owners of the existing equipment.

Watch the product video as well as footage from the simulator’s WOC rollout to see the machine in action. Contact the ACPA at (614) 431-5618 or Dennis Andrews at (410) 799-4100 to learn more.