We recently had folks from Virginia visit us in beautiful upstate New York. They were from a company in the early phases of TWI JI/JR deployment and wanted to benchmark with three exemplary Central New York companies. The companies we visited were a plastics injection and blow molding operation, a monofilament plant and a precision gear maker. All are very different from each other and different from our visitors’ operation which assembles heat exchangers among other precision products. Having said that, the companies also have many similarities as well. For example, all four are relatively small operations (less than 150 employees in the plant) and three are tied to multi-national parent companies.
As we traveled from one plant to the next, our benchmarkers expressed how impressed they were with the commitment shown at each location to weave TWI – JI into the fabric of day-to-day operations. It was clear that using TWI – JI is not an event that occurs each time an individual needs to be trained. Rather, it is an ongoing process of: codifying how tasks are to be done; developing job instruction breakdowns (JIBS); scheduling training; carrying out training; auditing operators; auditing training; and assembling metrics that will document the return on this investment. Wisely, our visitors didn’t see that commitment as a negative feature of TWI, instead, they saw it as a way to sustain standard work and improvements.
If there was a recurring theme in our discussions with our hosts it was: Our success depends on three things: 1) top down support, 2)bottom up buy in and 3) staff whose main job is to support TWI in the organization. In every case, our guests observed top down support. The CEO or plant manager was the driving force in keeping TWI on track. Management either brought TWI to the organization or bought in early and was actively involved. The bottom up buy in was evident at all three sites as well. Supervisors, team leaders and operators bought in when they were provided training and ongoing support and then started seeing the benefits. Finally, in all three exemplary companies, there were one or two TWI “champions” . The champions took the train the trainer course or courses and had the best understanding of TWI in the organization. They were responsible for all the TWI tasks listed above. Everyone agreed, without the champion, there is little probability of a sustained and successful deployment.
Our friends from Virginia said their benchmarking was very helpful. We thank our hosts for their generosity. I could write a book on all I learned, but Bob Wrona and Patrick Graupp beat me to it. Their book of case studies is due out in the summer of 2010. We enjoyed our opportunity to visit with our friends and colleagues to see the wonderful progress they are making. Someday soon, we hope to drop in on our visitors in Virginia and see the progress they’ve made.
Do you have a TWI benchmarking story? Tell us in a comment or send me an email.
Steve Grossman, TWI Institute Director