What is TWITWI?

What is TWI and what does it have to do with lean?

Hey there! I’m pretty passionate about lean.
My guess is… you are too!

Throw out any lean term and I’ll define it, describe it, and explain its place in the lean toolbox. Confession though… It wasn’t until last year that I finally learned what TWI was. Sure, I knew it stood for “training within industry,” but I had no idea what it was or what its connection was to lean. So I decided to ask some lean thought leaders to help get TWI into the lean lexicon. So, read on. This isn’t comprehensive, but it will establish a baseline for you to learn more.

The Beginning:
The Best Place to Start

To better understand TWI, it’s best to start with some history.
Seriously?! Don’t tune me out just yet... it’s actually pretty cool.

During WWII the United States shipped our skilled workforce overseas to fight the war. Left behind (to build the war machine no less) was a green, inexperienced workforce. The government hired industry experts to create a training program to support a workforce of “Rosie the Riveters.”

Addressing the
Skills-Gap Crisis

These industry experts identified five needs of a supervisor – two were knowledge-related and three were skills-based needs. A series of 10-hour training classes were created for workplace supervisors, each aimed to close the most glaring skills gaps. The best known of these classes are JI, JM, and JR…

Industrial historians cite TWI as part of the reason the Allies won the war… we simply out-produced the enemy.

Enter Japan and Toyota

After the war the U.S. occupied Japan. During the occupation the U.S. introduced their best business practices to help rebuild Japanese Industry. TWI was part of that.

It was then that Toyota’s Taiichi Ohno recognized that TWI could address some of the production and workforce problems he was facing.

As the Toyota Production System was developed, TWI was there, underpinning its development and evolution. It’s only in recent years that TWI’s influence on TPS was recognized, hidden in a complex system that evolved over decades.

Enter Lean

So why have so few companies achieved Toyota-like success? A growing number of lean champions recognize their own struggles with lean may rest in TWI’s absence from most lean initiatives. As you see on the right, TWI’s influence can impact stability, standard work, a culture of improvement, sustainability and respect for people.

Audio Clip: "TWI is the Starting Point of Becoming Lean."


Masaaki Imai (Kaizen Institute founder) had this to say about TWI's relation to Lean during his keynote speech at the TWI Summit.

Establish job standards and train to those standards with JI skills. Standards are maintained through JI’s built-in observation. Future improvements on those standards are adopted, taught, and maintained.

Teach frontline workers to breakdown jobs and relentlessly drive out waste. The systematic JM approach creates an improvement mindset across the organization and leads to a culture of continuous improvement.

Create a positive, no-blame environment where front-line workers are empowered to solve problems. Skills gained through JR training help shape a culture of “respect for people” as it unleashes worker creativity.

Where do I LEARN TWI?

Successful implemention of TWI involves several elements including foundational knowledge, onsite coaching, and a larger vision of how TWI connects with the larger lean enterprise. The following organizations provide learning and support that, when combined together, create a solid TWI framework. Read the full TWI Framework white paper.

Make Your Mark

Take part in this initiative to add TWI to the lean lexicon.

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