A teaching method that was used for World War II-era civilian training might be the answer to manufacturing's persistent skills shortage and can help to promote standard work.
The U.S. government used Training Within Industries (TWI) during the war to quickly prepare untrained civilians to step into private-sector jobs vacated by soldiers. After the war, it became part of the Toyota Production System (TPS) but has received little attention during the past 25 years, even as concepts such as kaizen and lean manufacturing became part of manufacturing's modern culture.
A conference will be held June 5 and 6 on TWI in Orlando. Jim Huntzinger, one of the conference organizers, described TWI in the Fourth Issue 2006 of "Target" magazine, a publication of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence: "Training Within Industries, rooted in training programs going back at least 100 years, is a well-proven methodology that has long been a 'hidden part' of the Toyota Production System. Using TWI J-Programs, people skilled in describing work, instructing work, and sustaining worker relations can develop and hold standard work. Inability to hold standard work is one of the major reasons why lean initiatives stagnate instead of progressing on toward autonomous, daily improvement. TWI is being reborn in the United States, and a few companies are beginning to show remarkable results from it."
TWI consists of three programs that each uses a precisely scripted manual. Each of these J-Programs (J stands for job) is delivered in a standard and repeatable form. When they master the job via the J-Program instruction, trainees became trainers and repeat the process to other trainees. The three J-Programs include Job Instruction, Job Methods and Job Relations. The strict adherence to the standard training promotes standard work. Another significant aspect: The programs include elements of continuous improvement by allowing for questioning of current methods and development of new ones. They fit well into the culture created by TPS, which has "respect for people" as one of its pillars.
According to Huntzinger, the J-Programs fostered a work culture similar to Toyota's but without a lean focus. Toyota was exposed to TWI through post-war programs to rebuild Japan's industry. TWI was implemented with cards that listed steps for instruction and carried slogans such as "If the worker hasn't learned, the instructor hasn't taught." About 16,500 manufacturing plants used TWI during World War II, and about 1.75 million people were trained and certified with TWI.
Today in North America, a handful of companies have resurrected TWI, according to Huntzinger. One is Chittenango, N.Y.-based ESCO Turbine Technologies. The company attributes a 96% reduction in defects (over a two-year period) in one department to TWI. Also, training that used to take two months now takes two weeks.
Huntzinger says TWI's "magic" is in its ability to take the emotion out of training people to conform to standard work. It takes blame out of the equation and focuses on following steps repeatedly.
For more information on TWI or the TWI conference to be held June 5-6 in Orlando visit http://www.twisummit.com.
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