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What Is Training Within Industry?

Posted by admin on June 24, 2015


Many people think that current manufacturing improvement theory and practice started after World War II, resulting in the rise and dominance of Japanese manufacturing in the 1980s.  But we were surprised to learn that many of the Japanese methods were adaptations of an often-overlooked approach called Training Within Industry (TWI).

TWI was a service created during World War II by the U.S. Department of War to produce materiel more quickly.  The result was four 10-hour programs offered to companies during the war and four additional programs in the years afterwards.  The thinking behind TWI directly impacted the creation of Standard Work at Toyota, Kaizen, and Deming’s PDCA model.  While most people assume TWI is dead, the concept seems to be having a bit of a rebirth with a group called the TWI Institute and a TWI Summit that was held in Jacksonville, Fl last month.

While there are many things to like about TWI, we’ll focus here on standard work, capturing workers’ thinking, he train-the-trainer concept, problem solving and on-job application.

Standard Work – At the heart of TWI was the concept that if you improved how you trained manufacturing workers, especially new workers, in everyday work you could improve the output of the plant.  The program was not looking for silver bullets to make a revolutionary change in a plant or company.  Rather it focused on the incremental changes that, when taken in total, can add up to a substantial improvement in quality and productivity.  It is something to keep in mind as we see many companies lurch from one management idea to the next hoping that something makes a big improvement.  Often it is the small improvements that add up to make a real difference.

Capturing Workers’ Thinking – One of the four original programs, called Job Methods, taught workers how to evaluate their own jobs and make suggestions on how their jobs could be changed to improve efficiency and quality.  While this sounds pretty logical today, it was a revolutionary idea in the 1940s when common belief was that managers and supervisors knew best and would tell workers what to do and when to do it.

Train-the-Trainer – While we don’t think TWI invented the idea of Train-the Trainer, it certainly put a lot of rigor into the practice.  We have found Train-the-Trainer and the training of internal facilitators as two of the best ways to teach and apply new concepts in a plant.  It creates internal resources that the company can rely on without calling a consultant every time there is a need.

Problem Solving – The problem-solving programs that were added to TWI in 1946 and 1955 were meant to take a comprehensive view of problem solving.  The problem solving programs focused on using the four original programs for problem solving.  This meant that problem solving was not seen a something separate from standard work but an integral part of it.

On-Job Application – An important part of the Job Instruction program was watching the student attempt the work under close coaching and eventually weaning the student from the coaching.  We apply a similar approach in our training by having participants work on real job issues in the program.  We can evaluate how well they are applying the process they are learning and we can coach them to improve their application. In some clients, we train Process Coaches, who can continue the coaching after the initial training to assure workers are applying the process correctly for the longer term. 

We think we can all learn a lot from the TWI approach and there are still many nuggets that can be applied to help manufacturers improve.