Even before COVID-19, manufacturers were facing challenges on several fronts relative to hiring and retaining a high-performing workforce. In addition to the easily observed factors – lack of a qualified applicant pool, turnover and absenteeism, and under-performing KPIs – there are various hidden problems.
The list includes an aging workforce, poor morale, unclear objectives, lack of professionalism and inadequate training. The pandemic has accelerated the changes underway, forcing business owners to dig deep in order to overcome these obstacles.
What options do manufacturers have? Perhaps the best immediate solution is to focus on employee development. A method known as Training Within Industry (TWI) is particularly viable in today’s volatile business environment.
There are three components to the TWI methodology. The first, Job Instruction, helps companies quickly train employees to do their jobs correctly, safely and conscientiously. Lisa Rawcliffe, a certified TWI trainer, recently spoke at the California MEP Center, CMTC webinar about the features and benefits of the Job Instruction approach. The second component, Job Relations, is featured in a separate CMTC webinar by Rawcliffe. (CMTC is the MEP Center based in California. Southeast Wisconsin’s MEP center is WMEP Manufacturing Solutions.)
TWI Then and Now
The TWI approach was introduced during World War II so that companies could quickly train new employees to take on the work of co-workers who had been deployed overseas. Decades old, yet the core problem remains true today: an anemic employee pipeline and a workforce in need of upskilling to meet the pace of change. With COVID-19, workers are often unable or unwilling to come back to work.
Supervisors as a Front-Line Lifeline
The TWI methodology relies on front-line supervisors to handle on-the-job training. And this requires an additional set of skills for them to master. Not only must they have technical and industry know-how, but they also need to adopt scientific thinking as a tool for instructing employees as they learn new techniques and practices.
In terms of ensuring that training is effective and long-lasting, experts know that the best approach is to combine showing and telling techniques with illustration/demonstration. In preparation for the instruction, it is typically the supervisor who breaks down the job into its essential parts, itemizing and describing the reason for each step. This information is then documented in a job instruction breakdown sheet.
There are four steps to the TWI Job Instruction component. Each is as important as the others.
- Prepare the workers: This is about putting the workers at ease, while finding out what they already know. If done correctly, the employee is willing and interested in learning the job.
- Present the operation: Using the job instruction breakdown sheet, the supervisor presents each step at a time (using the tell-show-illustrate method), re-stating the key points and reasons for each step.
- Try out performance: The employee performs the job over and over, first correcting for errors with input from the supervisor, and then three more times, explaining key points and reasons. This continues until the employee fully understands and can perform flawlessly.
- Follow up: At first, the supervisor checks back frequently with the employee, encouraging questions and confirming the employee knows who can provide help if needed. The supervisor tapers off coaching when the employee can work independently.
Job Instruction Outcomes
The TWI methodology helps manufacturers develop a well-trained workforce. In turn, this results in less scrap, rework and rejects; less tool and equipment damage; and fewer accidents.