TWI: harness the power of collaborative standard work to boost lean effectiveness

Training Within Industry (TWI) is a crucial element in lean, continuous improvement and Toyota Production System (TPS) success. Companies can achieve high level competitiveness by consistently embedding TWI throughout operations.

By Paul Kuchuris, AME September 26, 2014

The road to successful lean implementation can be rocky: the lack of standardized work practices, miscommunication and patchy results weaken or sink many initiatives. Thanks to the powerful structure and positive, collaborative work environment created through Training Within Industry (TWI) programs, organizations can create a solid foundation for today’s continuing lean improvements and capabilities for future progress. Simply put, TWI is a crucial element in lean, continuous improvement and Toyota Production System (TPS) success.

A brief recap for lean practitioners who may not be aware of TWI’s solid, proven track record in the United States: introduced during World War II as a suite of programs supporting efficient production (later largely ignored in this country for several decades), TWI is now gaining broader acceptance in U.S. manufacturing. TWI practitioners learn how to effectively and rapidly train employees about establishing and maintaining standardized work practices, develop improved methods, solve and prevent problems, nurture positive work relations and implement/maintain a safe work environment.

Competitive advantage ranks high on the list of benefits your company will achieve by consistently embedding TWI throughout operations. Your employees will learn to leverage lean learning through cooperative, standardized practices, gaining day-by-day cost, quality and service improvements.

TWI Elements Include:

– Job Instruction (JI): Train supervisors how to rapidly give people the skills needed for successfully doing their job – safely, correctly and consistently. Create a standard "best way" for performing needed tasks, replacing the various methods employed by different workers in a typical plant. As you strengthen performance capabilities through stabilized practices, you are also building a foundation for future continuous improvement. Manufacturing processes benefit from this approach, also adapted for offices, hospitals and other environments.

– Job Methods (JM): Improve how jobs are done, as operators and first-line supervisors enhance their skills. They learn to objectively evaluate the efficiency of their job performance, reviewing each step to determine whether it is the best way. Process steps can be modified, added, rearranged or eliminated. Criteria for these modifications include quality, safety, cost etc.

– Job Relations (JR): A key TWI element, JR provides information about developing fair and positive work relations. Related skills enable supervisors to encourage cooperative teaming, effective problem solving and conflict resolution. JR practitioners learn how to get the facts, evaluate options, take needed action and gauge results. The TWI Institute, which offers detailed information about TWI practices, suggests that introducing JR concepts is an effective way to handle many issues arising during a continuous improvement transition. "Job Relations training teaches supervisors how to handle problems, how to prevent them from occurring, and, most importantly, it aids in developing a logical, commonsense approach to handling issues with a people-centric view," according to the TWI Institute. Union job relations are addressed in a complementary program that builds positive relationships between union leadership and employees.

– Job Safety: Train supervisors how to engage employees in environmental, health and safety best practices. This program, created in Japan after the original TWI launch in the United States, is now a key element in industry improvement practices.

– Problem Solving: Equip supervisors to take initiative for solving problems through a process using all of the TWI "J" programs instead of wasting time/effort by asking others to take action. Gain more value from supervisors as they develop greater capabilities for handling day-to-day issues.

More Benefits

Your company can decrease training time, build employee engagement/retention and pave the way for new products/services as employees boost their performance through TWI practices. As you’re helping your organization’s lean system sustainably thrive, you’re creating market leadership by delivering more of what your customers want.

Paul Kuchuris is the president of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME).

The Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) mission is to inspire commitment to enterprise excellence through experiential learning by bringing people together to share, learn and grow. Its "Strategic Success through People-powered Excellence" annual conference, featuring sessions on lean implementation, TWI, innovation, leadership and other timely topics, will be held in Jacksonville, FL November 10-14. AME is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Joy Chang, digital project manager, CFE Media, jchang(at)