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

by Allan Ung

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.

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.

On-the-job training

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

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.