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Training Within Industry (TWI): The Missing Link In Lean Management

by Allan Ung

Training Within Industry (TWI) Programs

In September 1990, my colleague and I participated in a technical training program for instructors held at the Panasonic Overseas Training Center and the Production Engineering College in Osaka, Japan for a period of two months.

Allan Ung: The TWI Journey to Learn from Japan.

Waiting for the Shinkansen bound for Osaka.

During that time, we were newly hired technical training instructors at the Panasonic Regional Training Center located in Singapore. Our key roles were to educate and train the company's supervisors, engineers and technicians within the ASEAN region in shop-floor manufacturing excellence.

During the first week in Osaka, we attended the Introductory Training Course which was similar to an orientation program for new hires.

From the second week onwards, the training shifted to a more technical focus. The training program included the assembly of an electrical controller complete with wiring and final testing; fabrication work such as filing a metallic block to achieve a desired surface flatness; programming a Scara robot and Cartesian robot for assembly operations; delivering skills instruction, etc.

Allan Ung: Developing a Job Instruction for a Robot Programming Workshop.

Testing a program designed for a cartesian robot.

Although those technical training practice sessions could have easily been conducted in a local polytechnic or university, what impressed me was the very systematic coaching approaches and patience demonstrated by the Japanese instructors.

There was a very strong emphasis on getting the techniques and skills right - something that was missing from my secondary school technical education in Singapore. As students then, we could get the job done, or almost, to meet the drawing specifications, but how we all got there were lots of variability in the techniques and from student to student.

For instance, in the filing workshop practice, we were taught how to hold a file properly using both hands. The instructor explained that the wrist and elbow had to be parallel to the floor throughout the filing process. That was critical as the aim of the filing skills training was to achieve a certain surface flatness. In addition, our feet had to be positioned at an angle of some 17 degrees from the center of our body to facilitate the filing process. And that was not all, our upper body had to gently move back and forth in rhythm with the horizontal movement of the arms.

In contrast with my secondary school days, the workshop instructors simply glossed over those key points. We could hold the file any way we wanted - one hand or both hands. We could stand in any position we preferred. I recall someone even stood with one leg because he was feeling tired standing for half the day! What was foremost in our minds then were to get the work assignment completed as quickly as possible.

Initially, I did not quite appreciate the training until we learned about TWI - Training Within Industry after the workshop practice session. What the Japanese instructors taught us were all there in the TWI Job Instruction program. As summarized in the Job Instruction card below, there are four systematic steps on how to get ready to coach as well as how to deliver the coaching.

TWI Job Instruction (JI) Pocket Card

Job Instruction pocket card.

By simply following the four steps, supervisors can be better assured of a job that will be done correctly, safely and conscientiously by production operators. Hence, TWI is the foundation of Standard Work in the journey to achieving the vision of a Lean enterprise. As we all know, standard work is important in ensuring process stability and it also serves as a baseline for kaizen or continuous improvement.

One of my key takeaways was the Job Breakdown where the trainer identifies:

1. the important steps of a task or process,

2. the key points such as quality and safety aspects, and

3. reasons for the key points.

TWI Job Instruction: Job Breakdown Sheet

A Job Breakdown template.

A few of my clients have informed me that after completing a TWI workshop, one of their goals is to apply the Job Breakdown structure to enhance their company's Quality Manual. They realize that their company's ISO 9000-based document control is not necessarily based on the original intent of the TWI programs but was just developed for the sake of certification.

One advantage of the 'Important Steps' (or 'Major Steps') is that by organizing a coaching session around some key steps, it helps the trainees to focus on the significant areas of the job and facilitates them to learn quickly.

In the real world, operators often do not understand what they are doing. Doing work by simply following the what's and how's in many poorly written SOPs without understanding the why's is one of the reasons we have waste in our production processes and a lack of innovative ideas from employees. How often have you come across SOPs that were written from the user's perspective?

Another important area of TWI application is in Total Productive Maintenance (TPM). In the deployment of autonomous maintenance, operators have to perform the equipment cleaning, lubrication, inspection and bolt tightening in the right way. Just exactly how much lubrication is required when the SOP says "apply lightly", and how tight should a loose bolt be tightened without damaging the internal threads? TWI techniques will go a long way to eliminate these issues. In addition, one-point lessons can be made sharper with the understanding and application of the TWI system.

In fact, TWI is not new. TWI was established in 1940 in the United States by the National Defense Advisory Committee. Although the name is not as "sexy" as Lean Six Sigma, Toyota actually adopted it in 1951 and the rest is history.

Tactical Lean and Six Sigma lose its impact over time because people do not sustain the changes for various reasons. As Lean Six Sigma Green Belts or Black Belts, I am sure you know what I am talking about - implementing the Control plan in a DMAIC project is one thing, but sustaining it is quite another.

Today, as Lean practitioners revisit TWI, we begin to see that it is the answer to the missing link in Lean implementation – translating Lean Thinking into a positive and continuous improvement culture, standardized work and a safe workplace by providing a systematic approach to sustain changes and continuously improve by:

1. showing respect for people by treating each person as an individual

2. creating ownership for people to maintain standard work

3. indoctrinating people into an "improvement" frame of mind

4. teaching people how to identify opportunities for improving their jobs, and

5. showing people how to get these ideas into practice right away

TWI Job Instruction training in Vietnam.

Practice demonstration of a coaching session based on the four steps of Job Instruction.

Often referred to as the "Roots of Lean", TWI is a leadership development program designed to help the frontline supervisor and team leader provide proper training and assuring this training is effective in helping employees do their jobs correctly and efficiently.

The TWI program has three components:

Job Instruction Training (JI) - Teaches supervisors how to quickly train employees to do a job correctly, safely, and conscientiously.

Job Methods Training (JM) - Teaches supervisors how to continuously improve the way jobs are done.

Job Relations Training (JR) - Teaches supervisors how to develop and maintain positive employee relations to prevent problems from happening and how to effectively resolve conflicts that arise. Companies that have implemented TWI have reported improvements of 25% and more in increased production, reduced training time, reduced scrap and reduced labor-hours.

If you currently face issues trying to stabilize your processes, reduce defects, reduce safety incidents, improve autonomous maintenance skills, build capability of your coaches, improve training productivity, and tap into your employees' ideas, do give the TWI programs a thought.

Allan Ung

Article by Allan Ung, TWI Master Trainer and Principal Consultant at Operational Excellence Consulting, a distinguished management consultancy based in Singapore. Our firm specializes in maximizing customer value and minimizing waste through the strategic adoption of Design Thinking and Lean management practices. For further details, please visit 


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