Introduction to TWI (Training Within Industry) - Succeed with LEAN

Below you can read a article written by Lars Bjørn Helgestad from P360, it was published in - the 03.04.14

Link to article

Why LEGO, Novo Nordisk and Danske Bank get better results and more out of LEAN with TWI 

LEGO reduces onboarding from 12 to 3 months and adjusts production capacity with flexible skills. Danske Bank uses it in a centralization strategy. Process learning based on TWI works, but requires active and engaging leadership!

When processes are to be learned, repeated, changed and continuously optimized, it is necessary to understand, describe and talk about what those involved in each process do in their roles and tasks.

What key actions and features create the most value for all involved? How much does the energy input of the organization vary and with how much and how constant focus is the energy targeted to the agreed areas of action in each process? How steadily can the organization repeat its processes?

Without stability, there are practically no standards. And without standards, it is difficult to increase the flexibility, innovation capabilities and overall collaborative climate of the organization. Because what are you improving if everyone are in fact doing completely different things?

No LEAN without TWI

According to John Vellema from, the American learning system TWI (Training Within Industry) is one of the main reasons why Danish companies such as LEGO, Novo Nordisk, Danske Bank and abroad, including BMW and Albany International, get more out of their Lean and learning activities than many other companies.

Their ability to drive continuous improvements, Kaizen, is to a large extent based on the standards that TWI offers tools to establish. Tools that require solid management to use if you really want to reap the benefits!

"We usually say forget about Lean, at least until you have introduced TWI into your organization. You may chuckle at it, but the fact is that giving the employees on the floor an effective and motivating training is a prerequisite for success with Lean. And frankly with everything in the production. With TWI, we create a situation where the employees train each other and where it becomes legitimate to provide feedback and come up with suggestions for changes. It increases motivation and also creates innovation based directly on production, so it's a win-win situation for all parties," says John Vellema.

From the United States to Japan and to Lean

The TWI training system was founded by the US Department of War during World War II. The combination of labor recruitment to the military service and the need for significantly increased production capacity in industry created an urgent need for effective training of many new workers.

Since the need was urgent and the resources scarce in relation to the education task, the working party realized that the most efficient and fastest way to implement a change was to provide the industry with tools to implement the changes themselves. And thus a training program was created with a unique train-the-trainer focus. Later, TWI laid the foundation for Kaizen in Lean, as Toyota used TWI in the establishment of the Toyota Production System, but that story and why TWI seems to have been forgotten in the United States during the post-war years is explained in more detail elsewhere.

Module-based, leadership-driven creation of results

The TWI program consists of five modules, each designed as a 10-hour course. The last two modules have emerged after the war.

No side-by-side learning

Not only as a management concept, but also in its systematics, TWI differs from other learning concepts and specifically side-by-side learning, which some mistakenly assume it is. Side-by-side learning easily becomes more unstructured and "local", while TWI with its modular setup and its tool nature works more standardized and "globally". The JI (Job Instruction) module provides a standard for training. In this way you avoid, for instance, overtraining, which there may be a tendency for in side-by-side training. TWI also includes systematic follow-up, which side-by-side learning does not focus on.

John Vellema also believes that TWI's focus on educating good supervisors and creating good work relations is one of the most important but also most demanding aspects of the implementation and for success in the work with TWI.

More than anything, the success is evident in the form of increased safety, better quality, increased delivery capacity, lower costs, improved flexibility and increased employee satisfaction. The demanding thing is that it is necessary for the management to formulate and ensure that process management and design are based on those who perform the processes. Otherwise, there will be a "do as I say" system with poor results as a consequence.

"Many have several times attempted standardization from the top down. 'Issuing' Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) in relation to processes that are not well-defined and without involvement and recognition of people participating in them. Starting a 5S initiative as a way of kick-starting a project that will lead to continuous improvements and increased innovation. Sole focus on the CPI without involvement and recognition of the organization's participants. They fail and then they fail again. However, when the organization has a certain process maturity and competent leadership, it can understand this and act on it. Include, involve, coach - have the primary goal of a larger part of the organization to make colleagues succeed and employees develop. You need to get out and talk to people if you want to understand what they are doing. Therefore, TWI places special demands on management quality and culture in order to succeed - in return, TWI provides tools for those management who dare to take on the task," John Vellema explains.

Learn from LEGO, Novo Nordisk, BMW and international gurus

John Vellema works through his company BusinessThroughPeople (BTP) in Kolding on introducing TWI not only in Denmark, where LEGO has had great success with the method, but also in Europe and especially in Germany, where BMW among others has embraced their learning processes.

Together with the association, BTP now organizes the annual Danish TWI conference - read more here.

Statements by LEGO, Novo Nordisk, BMW, Gemalto and Albany International, as well as TWI gurus Jim Huntzinger and Patrick Graupp, give the conference an international average. At the same time, conference participants get a unique insight into experiences from the US healthcare, giving inspiration to how to increase production at multiple levels and in several areas of society, with less waste of resources and without losing job satisfaction or motivation.

Lack of stability and well-being in healthcare?

"It is very interesting and inspiring that Training Within Industry has also spread widely abroad in the hospital sector, where there are many examples over many years on how to maintain the effective treatment of patients on a busy working day. This is a great example of public and private businesses finding a common denominator that can give us a boost both in relation to business and our welfare. Therefore, the conference is also an invitation to the public sector," says John Vellema.

Results at LEGO and Danske Bank

The use of TWI creates results at Danske Bank, which, in conjunction with the centralization of certain skills, transfers certain knowledge and standardizes knowledge elsewhere.

At LEGO, Vice President of LEGO Hungary, Jens Peter Clausen, reports on excellent results, as the increased training awareness makes it easier to match the expectations between management and employees which gives significantly greater stability in production.

LEGO also tells about the reduced time consumption at the production shifts from nearly 200 minutes to about 60 minutes, that the time it took to teach a coworker his tasks has fallen from one year to three months in some places and that the organization has generally found it more easy to learn new things that help increase production capacity.

Customization as seen from the employee?

Since TWI is so focused on training and so specific, one may get the idea that it is interesting from the employer's point of view but less interesting for employees than traditional further education that may increase labor market mobility and improve living wages for the staff. John Vellema considers this a theoretical opinion on competence building:

"You can customize a process. You start with learning the least complex. You remove obstacles. The more you practice learning, the better you will be at learning. Everyone can be involved, unlike more theoretical studies. But those who become job trainers often become so good that they develop into team leaders and take more responsibility for their own work and the organization's purpose and value - they become cultural bearers. Therefore, in my view, there is much to suggest that it is an advantage for both management and employees, as the many reports of generally increased job satisfaction in TWI organizations also indicate," John Vellema concludes. From the look of things, there are good reasons to take a closer look at TWI.



About the author

John Vellema is Partner and Senior Enabler in Business Through People ApS.