TWI is one of the tools of lean manufacturing developed in the United States during World War II to recruit new workers for the defense industry. It introduced many workers with no experience into operational work.
Today, TWI has proven to be a method for developing the skills of supervisors at many levels – leaders, foremen or team leaders. Their skills help increase employee engagement. The TWI program consists of four levels of training. The first is employee instruction, the next is work methods, then labor relations, and finally occupational safety.
How is TWI implemented?
The introduction of TWI is a strategic decision that should not only be preceded by a company analysis or a quality audit, but it must above all be a response to training needs and fit into the company’s development and improvement plans.
Before developing the plan, it’s a good idea to conduct interviews or surveys of employees – not only will you gain insight into what can be improved, but you’ll also engage them in the planning process at this stage and convince them to work on such a program.
The next step should be to plan a training cycle and thus determine how the process will work, who you will involve, and how you will measure its effectiveness. While the program is primarily intended for managers, it should be attended especially by leaders or foremen who work in smaller or larger teams on a daily basis too. For them, TWI skills unleash the greatest benefit, as they are responsible for both onboarding employees as well as for the appropriate performing of directed tasks in a given workplace.
If there is a training program but its effectiveness is not satisfactory and you want to introduce TWI, it is a good practice to select a pilot area for which you will change the methodology of knowledge transfer. Based on historical data on effectiveness and quality, you will have the opportunity to review the effectiveness of training using the TWI method.
Instruction of the employees
It is a long known fact that we learn best by repeating tasks that someone has explained and shown us. And that, in a nutshell, is what this method is all about. Preparation for this type of learning is extremely important in TWI. First of all, the „learner” should be prepared for the work: Creating a friendly atmosphere, detailed description of the activities he/she will perform step by step, motivating and arousing interest in the task area and its importance, e.g. for the general functioning of production or the warehouse.
When instructing workers, the instructor does the work by discussing the main steps, tips and reasons. It is important to answer all the questions that may arise during the instruction.
After the presentation has been prepared in this way, the employee should be given the opportunity to prove himself. At this stage, he performs all the tasks independently, but under the watchful eye of the instructor, who corrects mistakes or gives additional instructions. This „test” should be repeated several times – so that eventually the learner is able to tell you himself what he is doing step by step, why he is performing a certain activity in this way, and – of course – so that he does not make any more mistakes.
The last step of the instruction-phase is supervision. The employee already performs the tasks assigned to him. He bears full responsibility for their correct and error-free execution, but may ask questions or for help. Therefore, an instructor is needed to supervise the work, answer questions, be a frequent „companion” to the work, but be present less and less each day in the place of his protégé and only monitor his progress.
Improving the way of working
Work improvement is the next stage of the TWI method. Its goal is the simplification of activities, which leads to an easier work and is therefore extremely important – not only for the employer, who demands efficiency, but also for the employee, who wants to do his work easier and faster.
At the beginning, we describe every action, even micro actions, that an employee performs. Then we consider whether each element of it is necessary and whether something is dispensable or how it can be done best and fastest. Analysis is crucial here because it allows us to find a new solution or improve the existing one. If we already have a list of improvements, we should develop a new method step by step, test it and describe it in detail. We can do this in the form of a workplace manual or a handbook – with a description or with photos or drawings. The final element is the implementation of the method – of course, after obtaining all approvals and the consent of superiors.
Relations with employees
Relationships with employees and within teams are not forgotten in TWI. At this stage, there is no framework for what needs to be done. It is a constant work and effort that practically everyone must put in to maintain the atmosphere. Good relationships in the team avoid problems. However, it is in problem- or conflict-situations that the TWI method is most effective, because it allows you to break down the problem into its component parts, consider what the causes are, and what possible solutions can be implemented now and in the future. It’s not just about talking, but more importantly about taking concrete action and checking that it has had the desired effect.
Safety at work
Improving workplace safety according to the TWI method is not just a buzzword. For conditions to be right in the workplace, in production or in the warehouse, it is crucial that the working environment is designed so that employees feel safe and cared for. That they know their health and lives are the top priority for managers. In this method, we need to identify dangerous places or areas and figure out how to eliminate them. Even at this stage, we involve all the employees who will later be responsible for implementing the changes and will be involved in the process. The final element is the audit, i.e. checking that everything is working as it should.
When should you choose TWI
Companies or business units that are considering using the TWI method are asking themselves when is the right time to implement it. The answer is simple: anytime, because there is no wrong time. TWI – regardless of the industry in which a company operates and the tasks it has to perform – makes work more streamlined, effective and therefore more efficient.
However, TWI is most useful when you urgently need to improve processes, reduce waste, or increase the effectiveness of specific tasks. It’s also important when you find that managers lack training skills and don’t know how to improve their teams. Or, if training or instruction is taking a long time or not producing results. The last moment to consider working with the TWI method is when conflicts or problems arise in a team. Building relationships with employees, motivating them and finding solutions is at the heart of TWI.
Why is it worth it
Lean manufacturing involves process improvements at many stages and in many areas. TWI is an integral part of this philosophy. It improves management skills, enables the standardization of processes and thus increases efficiency, and helps employees understand their role, the importance of their position and the meaning of their work.
TWI is not only one of the most important methods of lean management, for increasing the effectiveness of processes, for increasing the commitment of teams – it is an important element on the way to building a lean culture, which will also have a long-term impact on building competitive advantage.