Training Within Industry (TWI) pt.2

Today a bio of my journey into lean manufacturing was published on Evolving Excellence which was great because I got to catch up with some acquaintances who found me after reading it. Specifically the people who are archiving the TWI (Training Within Industry) program updated me with the status of their project and new links to their site and a new blog. The big news for those interested, is they’ve uploaded the original problem solving manuals (pdf) that were used in Japan. If you’re relatively new to Fashion-Incubator, you’re probably not familiar with TWI which I wrote about before. Here’s a brief explanation:

So what is Training Within Industry? The TWI Service was a program created by the United States Department of War during World War II. The purpose was to train factory workers during the crisis. Consider that era’s reality; most of the factory workers of America were going off to war -depleting labor from factories at precisely the time of greatest need. Who was going to “man” the factories? Why, who else but women? And most of them young ladies and homemakers at that. Production for the war effort was deemed a crisis of unimagined magnitude. Just how could the factories of America be run by women, few of whom had held so much as a screwdriver in the past, much less operated a welder? The solution was the TWI service.

So why should you care? TWI is a training program of utter simplicity. Using the tools of the program, you can literally train anyone to do anything -quickly and efficiently. Although lamentably abandoned for more than 50 years in the US, TWI continues to represent the greatest hope for training and increasing productivity within our own industry -or any other. If the war department was able to train homemakers who’s previous construction skills were limited to sewing and baking, just imagine what it could do for you.

In simplest terms, if you wanted to recreate the “Japanese miracle” for yourselves, all the tools to do that are on the TWI site. And it’s free. It’s a manufacturing training program for people who are presumed to have little experience themselves. As such, all of the material is free of jargon and low entry knowledge-wise. To back up a bit, the “Japanese miracle” was engineered by a man named Deming and then Juran who ran around the US telling anyone who’d listen that they’d come up with a nifty plan to make manufacturing easier, kinder and more cost effective. In those days, energy and materials were relatively low cost -and who cared about workers- so no one paid much attention. In the end and failing to make headway in the United States, the US government hired these guys to rebuild the Japanese manufacturing base -after all, they couldn’t muck things up any worse than it was (great book). Fifty years later, the quality and low cost of Japanese production speaks for itself. It’s kind of ironic that so many US companies are now chasing a Japanese solution that was gestated in the United States but nobody bothered to listen. I’m a big fan of Deming. Here’s a bit of what I wrote about him before:

Deming always said that you don’t have to motivate or otherwise intimidate the help. He said you didn’t need to watch them to make sure they’re working. He said you needed to listen to them and respect them enough to follow their advice. He said you could be a good clean business, making things without harming a community or the environment, you could be a good corporate citizen and get involved in worthwhile activities that benefit the community and he said you could pay your employees fairly and honestly and for it all, you’d make more money, not less. And don’t get the idea he was the touchy-feely type; although he was also a composer, his first degree was in Electrical Engineering and both his MS and PhD were in mathematics and mathematical physics. He considered himself a statistician, the numbers -not humanitarianism- led him to develop his 14 points of management.

In summary, it is undeniable that Deming was the first person to be interested in sustainable and fair trade practices although he gets no credit for it. The thing I like best about what he did is that he used quantifiable arguments to demonstrate social activism is not at odds with profit. I suppose it’s because it annoys me that fair trade activists operate from a diffident position in that their presumption is that industry is the antithesis of humanity. Rather than summarize, again I quote me from this other entry.

When people think of the garment industry, they often think of sweatshops and the subjugation of peoples. What people seem to forget is that the struggles for worker’s rights was birthed in the garment industry. In other words, not only was the garment industry the foci of labor abuses within a newly industrialized society, it was also the gestation of the labor movement. Accordingly, there is a historical dichotomy of progressive action within our industry. It has not been one way. There has always been leadership within the industry mindful of their responsibilities of social stewardship. Less known are errants who have mended their ways with acts of contrition in attempts of redemption.

The above quote comes from an entry I wrote that mentions the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the anniversary of which is coming up next week on March 25th. A day we would all do well to meditate our collective consciousnesses. I think it’s part of the collective responsibility one assumes when joining the industry. No, these problems were not of our making but we are doomed to repeat them if we’re not mindful of our history.

Anyway, what I’d intended to do with this entry was to pull some citations from the TWI training manual (from the announcement in the opening paragraph) to show you how these concepts can be applied today. I’d actually made good progress toward that but then ~poof~ my entry disappeared! Rewriting from memory subjected you to side jaunts of some of my favorite topics to nag you with. Sorry. Kind of. Okay, not really. I’ll get to that tomorrow, I think I’ll call it “how to sew faster” or something like that.

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  1. April Femrite says:

    Thank you for sharing such a great summary of what we can all only hope to be one day. Articles like this really inspire me to keep doing better, and when he writes that:

    “you could be a good clean business, making things without harming a community or the environment, you could be a good corporate citizen and get involved in worthwhile activities that benefit the community and he said you could pay your employees fairly and honestly and for it all, you’d make more money, not less”

    It gives me hope and strength to keep moving forward with my mission…..

  2. shelly says:

    Many thanks for the history; it inspired me.

    I have known about lean manufacturing since the 90’s, around the birth of NAFTA which created a surge of offshore apparel production. I was working at that time as a “up and coming” designer (very small producer) in NYC. Up until the 90’s a designer needed only NYC (sometimes Brooklyn) to source and deliver an entire line. There were many small suppliers with an array of skilled workers. My contemporaries and I saw the garment industry shrink very quickly and the loss of those sources was uninspiring to say the least.

    Now that we have the challenge of dealing with the economic fiasco it could be the right time to train people apparel skills. If we offered TWI training for our youth they could be a creating a “hands on” way to bring their visions to market.

    Thanks for FI!

  3. Mary Lombard says:

    This is awesome. I didn’t have a clue about this subject; now I have some reading to do! The Rosie the Riveter stories have always inspired me as a woman, never knew there was a training program for those ladies. Lately I’ve been sad about the loss of manufacturing here in the U.S. (even though I’ve been working as an offshore tech for 6 years). I’d love to see a trend to produce here again.

  4. Lisa B. in Portland says:

    What April said.

    And I’d like to have my own shop some day, but I’d also like to teach people how to sew. I still have my book of seam samples from sewing class at AI (even though I’ve been sewing for a looooong time, it was only on home machines and AI has industrial machines [plus it was an easy A :-) ] ).

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