Notes on the TWI Summit 2008

Today we have a guest posting by Donald A. Dinero, author of Training Within Industry: The Foundation of Lean. He was active in the TWI Summit held last week, and offers his impressions of that event.

The second annual TWI Summit was a worthwhile week for all who attended. Like any masterpiece, the TWI programs and principles are inspiring by their power and simplicity and thereby promote continual study.

Alan Robinson captured the essence of TWI in his Keynote speech. Dr. Robinson captured our attention when he said that the TWI programs are not as relevant today as they were during the 1940’s – they’re MORE relevant. His point was that the real engine of an organization’s improvements lies in the ideas and creativity of its employees.

In today’s successful companies, 80 percent of improvements come from front line people. Many managers do not realize this or do not know how to effectively tap this rich resource. Although the TWI programs provide many benefits to organizations, two general positive effects are that they change the way employees think about their jobs, and they tie standardization together with ideas. These two effects alone can be responsible for bringing an organization to the next level.

As with last year’s Summit, participants came from around the country and around the world. This year’s winner of the distance prize came from Singapore. Most were not coming to learn about TWI for itself, but rather to investigate how it would help them in their lean journey. The message to them is to believe Ockham’s Razor: The simplest solutions are usually the best. There are many tools to use in operating as a lean organization, but to capture the substance of what it means to be lean one must start with the TWI programs.

This year’s Summit was a full week and started with a day of workshops giving an overview of TWI and also telling how to deploy it. The next day and a half was filled with three keynote speeches – from David Meier, Art Smalley and Dr. Alan Robinson – and 18 presentations. By including a ‘town hall’ meeting and a reception, the Summit’s organizers gave everyone an opportunity to meet with the presenters and keynote speakers and ask specific questions.

This Summit was better than last year’s and next year’s will be even better. The organizers strongly believe in continual improvement and they strive to stay on that path.

Although the TWI Programs were developed in the United States during WWII, no one really knows why they faded from use here. From 1970 on, there is little note about TWI in the US. The TWI Summit is helping us bring back these fundamental learning disciplines so that everyone can learn and practice their skills in order to be more successful in whatever they do.

Last year there were about 100 participants at the Summit. This year there were almost 200. Next year I’m sure there will be even more. My goal is to spread the word of TWI to the extent that it is so much a part of our culture that Summits will not be necessary; but until that time, I’m looking forward to next year.

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