An engineer teaching an apprentice how to use a milling machine. PHOTO: THINKSTOCK
Asking a supervisor or manager who has no background in training can lead to expensive mistakes. Many institutions will take your money to “train the trainer,” or provide other credentials, but the Training Within Industry (TWI) module called Job Instruction is my “go-to.”
Best of all, TWI programs are in the public domain, so they can be used freely, without charge.
The TWI approach works. In a study of more than 600 firms that used Job Instruction, every one of them found instruction dropped by at least 25%, and for some it was much more. Toyota uses its own version of this method to achieve its legendary repeatability and I’ve used it successfully for tasks as varied as teaching an intricate aluminum weld, introducing a new computer program to staff, cleaning a floor and inspection methods.
There are many reasons why it works: it’s geared to the supervisor for whom instruction is just one of many tasks; it doesn’t require weeks or months of training; and there’s no jargon.
Despite being around for more than 70 years, it reflects the best of what we know about learning: it works better in the context of real work when there’s repetition and immediate feedback.
The basic course takes only 10 hours – enough time for most supervisors to use effectively.
But here’s the catch: there isn’t, to my knowledge, one definitive resource you can turn to. The original manuals from 1941 and 1942 are available on the internet, but can’t be used as is.
The TWI Institute in Liverpool NY (twi-institute.com) offers courses and some resources and the Lean Enterprise Institute (www.lean.org) offers TWI training. There is a loose community of users across North America. But your best bet is to find someone near you who is using it. If you’re interested I’ll do my best (coordinates below) to put you in touch with someone in your area.
Hugh Alley is a senior industrial engineer with Stantec Consulting Ltd., in Vancouver.