Training: your workforce resource

By Hugh Alley   

Business Operations Industry Operations Manufacturing Leadership training

Lessons learned from the TWI summit.

People learn more when they're dealing with a real business problem. PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

People learn more when they’re dealing with a real business problem. PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

In early May about 200 people gathered in Nashville for the TWI Summit. This conference focused on how to use the modules created in the early 1940s by the Training Within Industry service to address the challenge of producing war goods with a rapidly expanding workforce that had relatively little industrial experience. The three modules (Job Instruction, Job Relations and Job Methods) involve key skills needed by every supervisor. And with so much talk about a skills shortage, the TWI model is still very relevant.

Here are seven takeaways from the summit:
We underestimate the improvement that is possible. Bourgault makes air seeders in northeast Saskatchewan. In a two-week event, the company reduced the assembly time for its biggest seeder by 50%. Operators were involved in establishing standard work and spent little capital. Defining the current best way resulted in most of the gains, which at 50% exceeded expectations.

We underestimate the impact of soft skills related to leadership. Several companies reported a significant reduction in error rates when they used Job Relations. It shifted the discussion from “who is to blame?” to “what are the facts of the situation?” which led to better decisions.

People learn best from real business problems. Setting out a problem that actually matters to the company (rather than by example from a book) is an important part of making training effective.


Standard work is critical; the Job Instruction breakdown helps. It’s a simple structured way to capture the current best way. People are instructed quickly and efficiently on how to do the task.

Improvement ideas from employees create sustainable competitive advantage. Two presenters observed that when companies treat this as a core competence, constant improvements become a unique competitive advantage. Ideas are so specific to the business they can’t be copied.

The Toyota Kata is a powerful model for continuous improvement. Improvement and coaching routines are an excellent daily complement to TWI methods. They help move an organization from event-focused improvement to continuous improvement.

The TWI model works in any setting. Presenters represented manufacturers, retailers, hospitals, investment fund managers, dairy operations and hospitality.

Hugh Alley is president of First Line Training Inc. in Burnaby, BC, which focuses on increasing productivity by improving the skills of front line managers and supervisors.

This article appears in the October 2014 issue of PLANT.


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