thiltgenBy Jerry Thiltgen, Senior Manufacturing Specialist, WMEP

What’s old is new when it comes to fortifying the basic concepts of lean manufacturing.

Training Within Industry (TWI), which was developed to support industrial firms for the United States war effort during World War II, is widely considered to be genesis of modern manufacturing philosophies, such as lean manufacturing and kaizen.

More than 1 million people were trained in TWI methods during World War II. TWI also helped rebuild Japan’s infrastructure after the war and the program remains especially relevant today as manufacturers rebuild their businesses in the United States after the economic recession.

Part of the issue is that we sometimes don’t do a good enough job of getting the shop floor people involved. You’ve got to get down to the working person and make sure he or she buys into it.

TWI can go hand-in-hand with lean manufacturing initiatives, which came into vogue in the 1980s and remain an important factor in keeping manufacturers competitive and efficient. But in many instances, lean manufacturing efforts don’t stick, even when there is initial success.

Part of the issue is that we sometimes don’t do a good enough job of getting the shop floor people involved. You’ve got to get down to the working person and make sure he or she buys into it. That’s the job relations piece of TWI. Another issue is that employees don’t have standardized work. Without standardized work, you have no baseline.

These issues and others can be addressed through TWI.

The basic concepts are the exact same as the ones used in the World War II era and mainly are designed to improve a process, such as making good parts efficiently, as quickly as possible.

TWI, a first step in employee development, offers four programs: job relations; job instructions; job methods; and job safety. All are designed to build supervisor and employee skills.

Skills are developed through four simple steps: preparation, presentation, application and testing. Modules based on resolving current issues are shown, told, practiced, and reinforced by supervisors.

This process generates significant skill advancement that can be immediately implemented on the job.

The structure consists of four to five half-day classroom sessions where concepts are developed and applied.

By following the core of TWI’s robust method of training and adhering to a precisely scripted training manual for each program thoroughly tested in actual manufacturing plants for more than 60 years, each program can be delivered in a standard and repeatable form, maintaining quality even when trainers have varying levels of experience.

When trainers give the TWI courses they deliver the same instruction, using the same examples and the same wording as previous trainers. The programs emphasize a learn-by-doing approach.

Although many people may think of TWI as a training program, the results go far beyond that. It does, in fact, improve quality, safety, productivity and cost. At the same time, the culture changing results can be seen as even more important. When used properly, TWI programs improve communication, teamwork and morale and form a strong basis of a learning organization, which is a major characteristic of all successful businesses.

The application of TWI isn’t limited to the manufacturing sector. The health care industry is latching on to it, like it is with many other lean initiatives.

After years of being forgotten, TWI is making a comeback in the United States due to a drive to learn lean fundamentals.

If you’re interested in learning more about TWI, contact Jerry at [email protected] or give him a call at 608.770.9012