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Virtually Unlimited: A Skeptic’s Embrace of New Technology Transformed His Career

Virtually Unlimited: A Skeptic’s Embrace of New Technology Transformed His Career

Published 07-27-23

Submitted by Koch Industries

Five years ago, Robert Ray thought using virtual reality (VR) to train specialized technicians on nylon spinning machines would be a waste of time.

“This isn’t going to work,” he thought.

But these days, Robert’s career is focused on implementing and finding valuable new applications for VR training and other extended reality (XR) technologies, such as augmented reality, inside Koch companies' manufacturing facilities.

Robert was introduced to VR training when he was a spinning technician trainer for Koch subsidiary INVISTA, one of the world’s major nylon producers.

To Robert, going from actual to virtual seemed unrealistic. He believed the technology was too complicated for people to learn — much less the spinning equipment — in a timely manner. He also thought that not having the opportunity to work directly with the machines would mean new hires would struggle to grasp the nuances of spinning.

But that was all before he had a chance to experience the technology himself.

“The first time they showed us what it’s like, I was just blown away,” he says. “I thought, ‘This literally feels like I’m on the floor running a spinning machine.’”

Robert Ray

Robert was excited by the immersive experience of the VR training program and recognized its potential benefits for himself and his colleagues, including shorter training times, less waste and safer training conditions inside a training room versus on the manufacturing floor. With his expertise as a technician and trainer, he soon began not just using the new VR training regimen, but helping to develop it.

Robert was transforming his career right along with the training program. He now works as an innovation specialist and has become XR’s biggest advocate inside INVISTA Camden — looking for ways to integrate new technologies so that training can occur anywhere there’s a mobile device. 

His natural aptitude for problem-solving helps him teach others to enhance and build their skills while overcoming challenges. He works to help his fellow employees turn fear of new technology into opportunities to evolve their own roles.

“Change is difficult. It’s scary!” Robert says. “But change is a part of growth. If you stay the same, you’re going to stagnate and you’re going to get left behind.”     

Robert’s “aha” moment with VR led to other revelations about what the new technology could do outside the spinning room, across INVISTA and for other Koch companies. Robert says it has started a domino effect of other INVISTA employees exploring how virtual technology can help them transform their own jobs in valuable ways. He predicts that soon, more XR tools will be used by technical and process engineers, as well as in capital projects.

“People wonder, ‘How do I make a change? How do I also implement transformation or how do I innovate?’” he says. “I try to help and then it starts a ripple effect.”

Robert advises coworkers to stop holding themselves back.

“Stop thinking, ‘I may not be the right person to do this,’” he says. “Who better knows that process than you, the person doing that process?”

He also urges colleagues to embrace new technologies, to see them as “tools in our toolbox” that will help them be more effective and efficient in their jobs. Having once been reluctant to step into the unknown, Robert understands his coworkers’ hesitation. But while the journey to self-actualize will often be challenging, it will always be worth the trip, he says.    

Robert happily credits his colleagues, like his supervisor Daphne Fulmer, for encouraging and supporting his transformation.

He says through this process they’ve built a strong relationship. She played a key role in his transformation by taking the time to talk with him and change his mentality from focusing on what his tasks as a trainer currently were, to helping him open his mind to what they could be.

“We need to have hard conversations, but we also need to have conversations about what really excites us,” Daphne says. “It all boils down to, 'Do my employees know me and do I know them?’”

From someone who once wondered how he could make real change in his role, Robert has evolved to a leader in applying technology to discover new ways to do things. Rather than turn away from the unknown, he now leans into new challenges. His willingness to be open about his fears also has made him a champion for others, helping them, too, discover how to not only survive but thrive in a constantly changing environment.

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Koch Industries

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