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Training Within Industry

Training Within Industry Has Its Roots in WWII, But Translates Well Today

May 25, 2021
Quick changes in production and new hires benefit from this type of program.

Training Within Industry, or TWI, is a proven job training methodology that has been implemented successfully by  manufacturers for decades (not to be confused with Urban Dictionary’s definition of “texting while intoxicated”). Basically, TWI was developed during World War II as part of the War  Manpower Commission as a way to ready plants with skilled personnel in high-demand industries. More than 1.6 million people working in 16,500 plants received certification, with TWI later becoming the foundation for the Toyota Production System.

What prompts a manufacturer to employ TWI? It is often used when shifting production to a different product to meet customer needs or reassigning team members to other jobs in the face of workforce reduction. As we’ve seen with pandemic response, the Defense Production Act may require a company to shift production to a different product and therefore need to rapidly train team members. Some companies are hiring so rapidly that they interview a person, hire them on the spot, and the person is working  on the job the same day. These new team members require training on everything from safety and time–keeping to actual  daily tasks.

While there are different steps to TWI, understanding the  why behind whatever we are doing greatly improves retention. Author John C. Maxwell  puts it this way: “Find your why and you’ll find your way.” 

Job instruction method, a TWI method, allows a person to quickly remember to do a job correctly, safely, and conscientiously. Job instruction allows you to achieve rapid learning by following four steps to training preparation. Then, once you are ready, you follow another four steps to transfer the knowledge to the trainee.

Four Steps to Prepare to Train:

Have a training timetable. Basically, this means you need a plan on who is going to be trained, on what task, and by when. This may seem simple, but consider a new hire, or someone who  is moved to a different job. Do you know exactly what tasks they will be trained on, and in which order? Or do they just “shadow” another employee and learn to do what “they” do?

Break down the job. Once you know what tasks someone  is going to be trained on, you need to define the best way to perform the task. Do you have standard operating procedures, work instructions, visual aids, etc.? The task should be broken into three areas: essential steps of the job, key points to the job, and the reason why we do it a certain way.

Have everything ready. Again, this may seem simple. However, if the trainer is not prepared to train, then training can become confusing and more difficult for the new hire  to quickly learn. Consider creating checklists, a frequently asked questions handout, and checking trainer availability.

Arrange the worksite. For the trainee to quickly learn and complete their tasks, the training should be conducted in the actual working environment when possible.

Once you have completed the four steps in preparation to train, you are now ready to transfer the information to the new hires or trainees.

Four-Step Job Instruction Method for Training:

Prepare the worker. The trainer should put the employee at ease. The new hire may be nervous or worried about learning  a new task. The trainer should clearly explain the task and find out the experience level of the employee. This will help ensure the task they are about to learn is within his or her capabilities. Next, explain why the task is important, and its impact on the rest of the organization or the final product. 

Present the operation three times. First demonstrate the task and explain the important steps. The second time, demonstrate again, review the important steps, and add the key points. Lastly, demonstrate, review the important steps, key points, and reasons it is being done that specific way.

Have the employee perform the task at least four times. The first time, just have the worker complete the task and correct any errors. The second time, have them complete the task while telling you what the important steps are. The third time, the worker should complete the task, tell you the important steps, and key points. The fourth time, the employee completes the task and explains the important steps, key points, and reasons why it’s important to the company or product.

Follow-up. Once the trainer is convinced the employee knows  how to complete the task, the worker will need a few more directions from the trainer, like who to go to for help, when to expect check-ins from the trainer, and when coaching will be completed. Trainers should encourage trainees to ask questions throughout the coaching process.

Now, more than ever, with the quick changes in our work, we need a method to quickly train our team members so they can quickly learn to complete a task correctly, safety, and understand why they are doing it.

David Boulay is president of the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center, IMEC, a member of the MEP National Network, a public-private partnership that connects manufacturers with resources that foster growth and innovation. Boulay specializes in the intersection between economic development, workforce development, and manufacturing competitiveness.

This article is excerpted from Made in Illinois: A Modern Playbook for Manufacturers to Compete and Win, published by IMEC.

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