The Hérault mail sorting platform of La Poste relies on virtual reality for the training of its agents

The Hérault mail sorting platform of La Poste relies on virtual reality for the training of its agents

Des gestes virtuels qui permettent de s'ancrer dans le réel de la plateforme de tri. Midi Libre – MICHAEL ESDOURRUBAILH

Les agents de la plateforme industrielle où transite le courrier de l’ex-Languedoc-Roussillon, sont désormais formés au fonctionnements des machines de tri à l’aide de casque VR.

It is here that, every day, all the mail from the former Languedoc-Roussillon – and from Vaucluse passes. Whether he enters, leaves… or stays in the region, even in the same town or the same street. "We sort 1.2 million items daily, 24 hours a day", summarizes Johan Sanna, director of the Industrial Mail Platform (Pic) de Mauguio, located a stone's throw from the airport.

In the large production hall of 24,000 m², the equivalent of four football fields, the thirty machines are running at full speed. The letters arriving in the morning parade, are classified by municipality in boxes at the impressive rate of 14 per second (i.e. 4,200 per hour), circulate in the hall thanks to the 2.4 km of belts, are for some again sorted by rounds, before being distributed to their next destination, one of the 115 distribution platforms or an industrial mail platform from another region. "Technology even makes it possible to classify mail in the order of delivery by the postman if the route has been entered electronically", shows Johan Sanna. Recently, artificial intelligence has also been able to decipher unreadable addresses, although human sorting is still sometimes required.

The Hérault mail sorting platform of La Poste relies on virtual reality for the training of its agents

The mail sorting hall, covering 24,000 m², the equivalent of four football fields. Midi Libre – MICHAEL ESDOURRUBAILH

Mauguio, pioneer site

Digitalization has truly disrupted the work of postal workers within the industrial platform, but a number of pilots and operators are obviously still needed to operate the machines. 390 precisely, on the Mauguio site. Agents who have recently experienced another digital revolution, this time for their training. "We were a pilot, with the Pic de Toulon, Lille and Bordeaux, for the use of virtual reality. Mauguio is even the first site in France to have designed a dedicated room", relates Florence Ruaux, training manager within the postal group.

This Tuesday, five postal workers who operate on the GF machine, that is to say large format mail, are wearing helmets and, joysticks in hand, make gestures … in the void. "Virtual reality allows them to be placed in a situation, in the environment of the Pic, as if they were in front of the machine, either to place the mail there, or to control it. They can thus reproduce the operations at their own pace and, along the way, they benefit from explanations on how each tool works", describes Florence Ruaux.

Only advantages…

The trainer sees several advantages: "this means that a machine, and therefore production, is not blocked for training. Agents can also repeat each gesture as much as necessary, without fear of making a mistake. And then, the program alternating theory and practice, this brings a fun aspect and therefore another dynamic which, undeniably, allows you to better retain the lessons", she summarizes.< /p>

The Hérault mail sorting platform of La Poste relies on virtual reality for the training of its agents

The trainer and her five students of the day. Midi Libre – MICHAEL ESDOURRUBAILH

Davy, who is completing his last operation confirms. "Each step to operate the machine is well explained, all parameters are perfectly detailed, including in the event of an incident. And the virtual aspect helps avoid making mistakes on the production line", he says. Next door, Willy, present here since 2014, is particularly impressed by the perfectly recreated environment. Even with experience, we have a new perspective on the machine".

"La Poste is modernizing"

Johan Sanna is enthusiastic. Concerned about the safety and well-being at work of its employees, to the point of having received the "Careful Leader" 2023 awarded by Préventica, the director of Pic de Mauguio hopes to very quickly develop new training modules, in particular to raise awareness among postal workers on safety issues. "There is still this image of a somewhat old-fashioned institution. But La Poste is modernizing, it has often even been at the forefront", he smiles, inexhaustible. And this, despite the decline in its mail activity, going from 18 billion letters distributed each year in France to 7 billion at the end of 2023. A reality far from being virtual which requires reinventing oneself.

The Hérault mail sorting platform of La Poste relies on virtual reality for the training of its agents

The machine sorts 4,200 letters per hour… and requires dexterity when piloting. Midi Libre – MICHAEL ESDOURRUBAILH

VR takes a step forward in business

Large groups, such as SNCF, Alstom or Airbus in the region, have already taken the plunge into virtual reality for the training of their employees. A technology, expensive until now, which is tending towards democratization thanks to the development of tools. A boon for the Toulouse company Nimbus which offers solutions adapted to more than twenty industrial professions (welding, painting, electricity, maintenance, etc.) and which is now banking on the metaverse to establish itself in the logistics sector. By 2025, the company plans to pass the 10 million euro milestone.

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