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To Standardize or Not? There is no question!

Published by CME Manitoba on January 12, 2017

By Brett Hiscock, CIM, P. Mgr., LEAN Facilitator, Certified Training Within Industry Instructor (TWI) and Certified LEAN Master Blackbelt

Taiichi Ohno, creator of what is now known as the Toyota Production System (TPS), said “without standards, there can be no improvement”. What most organizations fail to understand is that, in most cases, the documented process or Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is the outcome of the standardization process, not the beginning.  

TWI – a history

So why do organizations struggle with standardizing processes? The Training Within Industry (TWI) program has the answer. Developed by the U.S Government War Production Board after the fall of France on June 22, 1940, TWI started when a national network of professionals was “drafted” from industry to develop techniques to quickly ramp up production of war materials.

The purpose for TWI was to help industry help itself to produce more materials than had ever been thought possible at a constantly accelerating rate to win the war. In the years following World War II, TWI made its way to Japan and helped form the roots for today’s TPS philosophy.  

Originally, TWI consisted of three “J” programs that worked together to impact all aspects of a manufacturing (and now service) organizations. The first – Job Instruction – teaches people how to quickly train workers to do a job safely, correctly and conscientiously. Job Relations teaches leaders how to evaluate and take proper actions to handle and to prevent people problems, while ensuring they can engage their workforce to get results.  Finally, Job Methods teaches people how to analyze jobs to make the best use of the people, machines and materials available.

Speed bumps

TWI has been effective for over 80 years, but why? To understand, we need to turn our attention to the human side of business. Inherently, people will always have some weakness that make standardization difficult. People believe that standardization is an organization’s way of turning them into robots; robbing them of creativity. In reality, standardization is a roadmap to success for our workforce. When followed, the standardized process will lead to the result the customer requires in the timeframe it is needed with the necessary level of quality at the cost that the organization needs to stay viable. The creativity comes in how we engage our workforce to problem solve and improve our current standards.

  1. The first challenge: not only do people need to understand why they’re asked to do something, but in fact they also need to believe in it’s purpose. It itself, this isn’t a weakness. Rather, the challenge lies in how ineffective we are at conveying the purpose. Experienced workers assume that new workers will just do what they’re told. Deviation happens when the new worker doesn’t understand the purpose behind a particular sequence of steps and changes the sequence or even skips some steps.  
  2. People find silence uncomfortable. In training this is a costly weakness. Instead of limiting the amount of information and making it concise and easy to understand, experienced workers tend to fill silence around key information with meaningless banter, which confuses the learner. Proper TWI instruction can help eliminate this challenge.
  3. The second challenge is a result of how much we can learn at one time and for how long we can remember what we learned if we are not allowed to do it repetitively. Commonly accepted theory is that humans can only remember seven things effectively. We won’t necessarily forget the first or last thing we’re told, but are more likely to forget the things we’re least attached to. Think of your job jar at home. There is almost certainly one job in there that you don’t want to do and conveniently forget;). In industry, the things that are ‘forgotten’ most often are safety hazards. We believe that we are safe workers. Accordingly, we focus more on the task being taught than on the safety hazards that exist in the process we are learning. As well, new tasks that are not done consistently right from the start tend to be forgotten or deviated from in as few as seven days after learning them.
  4. Finally, we believe that it hurts our credibility as mentors (trainers/leaders) if we reference prompts; when in fact, relying on our brain to remember everything that needs to be done, in the exact order that it has been done before, and using the same wording that has been used before is what really hurts our credibility.

The key to success

TWI is a structured program. Through a rigid and disciplined approach, TWI has proven over time that the challenges and weaknesses above can be offset. The program employs a reference card for each of the “J” programs that spells out everything needed to apply the methodology; removing the need for us to remember the process under duress as well as allowing us to consistently apply it in all aspects of our organization in the same way.  

TWI uses a one-on-one approach with a tell, show and illustrate process that uses repetition and learning by doing to ensure employees understand what, how and why we do things – not just what to do.

TWI uses tools like a Job Instruction Breakdown Sheet that identifies important steps (what we do), key points (how we do it) and reasons (why we do it).  It’s important not to confuse this tool with a standardized process. Remember the standardized process is the outcome while the Job Instruction Breakdown Sheet is used to concisely teach the current best practice, consistently.  Once we have proven sustainment through process audits, we can now document it and call it a standardized process.

CME has been working with companies to implement this tried, tested and true program across Canada since 2012. In that time, companies have seen reductions in training time of up to 80 per cent with 20 per cent higher productivity. Employee engagement survey scores have increased by up to 20 per cent.

If you want to find out if TWI is the answer to your problems, please contact Brett Hiscock, CME National TWI Champion at the co-ordinates below.

Brett Hiscock

Found in: LEAN Blackbelt Manitoba LEAN team TWI

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