Interview Part III - Case Studies in the Training Within Industry (TWI)
It’s gratifying to see how people improve how they think and act after learning the TWI methods. Some people do not have a high opinion of themselves and these programs show them that they have a lot to offer their organization. Other people who are more confident in their abilities learn that there is a different way to think about ideas. The programs are always the same, but the people are always different.
Please share a success story of how TWI helps companies master the concept of standard work?
The owner of a shipyard read my book and learned how the TWI Programs helped the ship building industry during the 1940’s. He believes that if TWI could be such a benefit back then, there should be no reason it cannot be duplicated now.
Correctly, the owner wanted to start with a pilot program to see its effect on the shipyard and he chose the paint department for that purpose. The paint department serves three main functions. It first power washes an area, then it sandblasts it, and finally, it paints it. The area considered could be any part of the ship and sometimes all three operations are not performed. The hull, however, usually receives all three steps because of its prolonged contact with seawater. We started with JIT and trained about twenty employees in the paint department.
Job Breakdown Sheets (JBS’s) were written for all three disciplines and people were either trained or “re-trained” in their operation. When writing a JBS, we watch an ‘expert’ since he performs the job in a way that results in the highest quality and productivity, but we also get consensus on the best way to do the job. It was noted that before the use of JIT, people proceeded at different rates and with different quality levels because they were using different techniques. Once everyone was shown a standard way, productivity and quality both improved. This could be measured in the time each job took and the lack of rework, but it was also visible. Several workers would be power washing one side of a hull at one time and by standing by the stern, one could see all operators using the same motions, almost synchronously. This made it easier to predict the required time for the job and to identify and correct any mistakes. Training was done not only for the main operations, but also for setting up the operations. Here too there were advantages because each set up was done correctly the first time in a set amount of time.
Power washing, sandblasting and spray painting all require similar motions, which consists of a sweeping motion next to the workpiece. Because the training went quickly, more people could be trained in all three disciplines, which resulted in much cross-training. A situation occurred where a ship was going to miss its schedule because of weather (everything is done outside) and other scheduling problems. The schedule could be met if the sandblasting could be done in 1/3 the time. Ordinarily that would not be possible, but because of the cross-training, they were able to assemble three times the number of sandblasters they usually use. They rented additional equipment and the ship met its schedule. This would not have happened without the use of JIT and standard work.
Once standard work becomes part of operational excellence, will TWI help companies learn the skill of continuous improvement? How so?
JIT leads to standard work because all training for a given job is done with the same Job Breakdown Sheet and by using the JIT method, which is standardized. The same steps are used, the same Key Points are used and the same words are used in describing them. All instructors deliver the material in the same way with no additions or deletions. There is no irrelevant material in the JBS and all necessary information is included. Once everyone is doing a given job the same way, it is easier and more effective to make improvements. As mentioned, everyone has ideas, but not everyone knows how to vet, sell and implement their ideas. The person who knows the job the best is the person who is doing it and these are the people who can become involved with the Continual Improvement Program. Once people have received Job Methods Training, a true CI Program can start. There should be a coordinator to act as a clearinghouse and people should be given time to act on their ideas. Note that the Job Methods Program is designed so that a person must sell the idea to himself before he attempts to sell anyone else. This can be done with the help of the coordinator or a supervisor, but as a result all implemented ideas will be beneficial.
Going back to the shipyard company, the painters often must tape off sections of the ship that are not to be painted. A painter came up with an idea to reduce the taping time and made it safer. The taping is done on a manlift and the painter must operate the manlift and apply the plastic covering at the same time. Without JMT, it would have been more difficult to have his idea accepted and implemented.
How does TWI help build teamwork?
All three “J” Programs help to build teamwork. In JIT, a JBS must be written for each job. The person writing it watches an ‘expert’ to get the best ideas. However, the expert is not the only one with ideas about this job, so the writer must get consensus from all personnel who would have any input to how this job is done. That would include other operators, supervisors, quality, engineering, maintenance (for equipment), HR (for ergonomics, e.g.), and even finance or sales if applicable. Everyone must agree that this is the way this job will be done. Sometimes this is the most difficult part of JIT, but it builds teamwork because everyone is adding input to benefit the company. The discussions do not get ‘heated’ because it is about a job and not about personnel. Furthermore, as more JBS’s are written, more conversations occur and people get to know each other better. Some people, especially those with much seniority, believe they know “everything” there is to know about a job. These discussions show them in a subtle way that other people, even new comers, have ideas that are worthy to contribute. This leads to a broader sharing of information.
The Job Methods Program requires that people vet their idea before they attempt to sell it. This means that they have to speak with support departments and other production departments. The question usually asked is ‘Why?’ and usually results in a discussion where both parties learn something. Vetting, selling and implementing an idea results in a person expanding his or her visibility throughout an area. The interlinking of people creates associations and the common goal of CI creates teamwork. After one JMT session, a woman said to me that although she had been with the company for over ten years, this was the first time that “management” had asked for her ideas.
Job Relations Training creates a standard way of dealing with personnel and personnel problems. By using JRT, everyone knows how situations will be handled; there will not be any “favorites.” People learn to know what is expected of them and what to expect when a variation occurs. These are some of the characteristics of a strong team.
Please share any parting thoughts about why business leaders should invest in learning about TWI and how might spreading TWI affect the future of the U.S.?
Let me first explain that it is not necessary to use the TWI Programs. As W. Edwards Deming said, “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” The TWI Programs are not a “silver bullet” that will solve all ills but they do teach foundational skills that enable all people and organizations to become better than they were before they started using them. An illiterate person does not know how to read or write and yet there are adults in the USA who are illiterate yet they do survive. They do not need to be able to read or write, yet knowing how to would be beneficial to them and would make their life better.
The TWI Programs are beneficial on two main levels. First, as mentioned, they improve the operation of any organization in which they are used. Quality, safety, productivity and cost are all improved to some extent. Those were the main objectives and because their results can be quantified, that is what is commonly used when people talk about TWI benefits. Second, when using these programs, other, less quantifiable qualities are improved. Because all the programs require communication about non-sensitive topics (jobs) while using a standard format, communication skills are improved. Because this communication is required both within and among areas, teamwork improves. Because of improved teamwork and because the programs satisfy basic human needs (Self-Determination Theory), morale improves. Thus, higher-level qualities/skills, which many people find difficult to teach or implement are developed or improved usually without any direct intention.
In addition, although the TWI Programs are not difficult they are important for developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills. I put the “J” Programs just above reading, writing, and arithmetic as being essential for everyday activities. They should be taught in middle school and people should know them and use them every day. I believe one skill lacking in many Americans today is critical thinking. We do not question and/or reason enough. People have not changed significantly since 1940; but because of technology, our society has. We have more access to more information at a faster rate than ever before. As a result, people have less time to spend on each bit of information. When reacting to a situation, many people seize on what they see initially without questioning whether it makes sense or contradicts other information.
One of the most important ideas I learned as an engineer is that once you arrive at a solution to a problem, you should always ‘step back’ and see if it makes sense. Each of the “J” Programs involves questioning, but it is most obvious in JMT where we always must ask “Why?” before we proceed. JRT closely follows the Scientific Method where we must first gather all the facts and then weigh them and decide possible actions, since there is always more than one action we could take. Envision a world where adolescents learn with adult encouragement to question and reason so that these skills are habits by the time they enter the workforce. How many problems would be solved or avoided if even 80% of people would question and reason before acting? This is critical thinking and the TWI “J” Programs are a great asset in developing and supporting critical thinking.