First I want to say that I am a TWI trainer.  My business is spent exclusively delivering the TWI programs although I am capable of advising people about all aspects of Lean.  So this opinion is from a perhaps biased person.  However, from my 40 years experience in industry, this is what I believe to be true.

I am writing this because when I speak to people about TWI, they question whether or not their organization should spend the time and money to use the programs.  Although they are easy and fairly straightforward, they do take time to implement.  And although the results are always beneficial and justifiable after the fact, most people cannot create a financial justification before the fact.  I hear people ask, “Is TWI something I should be doing?”  One person even wrote that the TWI programs are “the next thing consultants can sell.”

Is it necessary to use the TWI programs in my organization?  Yes, if you want your organization to be as successful as it can be.  Will the TWI programs solve all my problems? No, nothing will do that; but they are necessary to successfully compete in any competitive industry. 

There are only two requirements for running a business: a product and customers.  Everything else is optional.  The product can be something physical or it can be a service or it can be a combination of the two, such as is found in a restaurant.  Everything else is optional.  Omitting some factors will make your company more or less successful or more or less legal, but there is nothing else you need.  You will incorporate some factors unconsciously even if you willfully do not use them.  A bookkeeping system is an example of this.  It is very likely that even if you do not have a written bookkeeping system, you will keep tract of income, expenses and outflow in your head.  If you do not do this, your business must be self-sustaining.  If it is that easy to make money, you will soon be out of business because of either competition or the law.  There are many examples of legal factors and one of them is collecting a sales tax (in communities that require it) for a product.  If you sell a product and do not collect sales tax, you will operate your business until you are jailed for not doing so or for some other reason.  It may take a while for that to happen, but there is really no way to avoid it.   Depending on what the legal factor is that you are omitting, it may take various amounts of time for you to change what you do.  Some people avoid paying income taxes for several years before they are caught. There are many examples of success factors that result in a successful company; and like the legal factors, they also are optional.  Many people do not know which of all possible success factors they should use and thus they often imitate others who are successful.  All success factors are optional as are all legal factors.  However, there is no place where one can go to find out what success factors one must use for his or her own business.  Some factors are obvious.  For example, selling a product that everyone wants.  Others depend on your business.  When hiring workers to pick apples in your orchard, you would like them to be somewhat physically fit, and able to respond to orders.  You do not care whether or not they can read or write.  You can give verbally them all the directions they need.  If your operation requires written instructions, a success factor would be that the worker knows how to read.  If you hire several workers, you may find that all workers do not have to know how to read because some can assist the others who can’t.  Depending on what you product is, where you are and the available labor supply, you will make a decision on how many people you can hire who cannot read.  In many manufacturing companies in the USA, we require that everybody who works for us knows how to read.  One way we determine this is to have them fill out an application.  People are very clever, however, and get around this by having others complete their application for them.  Once they are employed, they ‘get by’ by watching and listening very carefully.  Thus, we might think that knowing how to read is a mandated factor for success, but many ‘get by’ without this skill.  The result is that they are not as successful as they could be and as a result, our company is not as successful as it could be. 

Knowing how to read and write are implied success factors in the USA, but that does not mean they are necessary in a successful company.  It was determined a long time ago that all people should know the three R’s: reading, writing and arithmetic.  We thus set up a public school system to make sure everyone received as least that minimal amount of education.  Having employees who do not have these skills merely means that without them, the company (depending on what it is) will not be as successful as it could be with them.  You may operate and you may make a profit, but a lack of these skills will hold back your company to some degree. 

The same is true for the TWI programs.  They are not necessary in order to operate a business because you need only a product and a customer.  But they are necessary if you want to be as successful as you can be.

Skills your employees should have:

  • read
  • write
  • add, subtract, multiply, divide
  • JIT
  • JMT
  • JRT
  • 5S
  • SMED
  • VSM

US News

Little Progress on Adult Literacy

January 13, 2009 12:07 PM ET | Jessica Calefati | Permanent Link | Print


One in seven adults lacks the literacy skills required to read anything more complex than a children's book, a staggering statistic that has not improved in more than 10 years, according to a federal study released last week.

The 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy surveyed more than 18,500 Americans ages 16 and older and found about 14 percent could not read, could not understand text written in English, or could comprehend only basic, simple text. This study's predecessor, 1992's National Adult Literacy Survey, also found that about 14 percent of the 24,000 adults interviewed lacked moderate or advanced literacy skills. Because the overall population of the United States has grown by about 23 million adults, the number of adults with low literacy skills has grown by 3.6 million since 1992.

Unlike the earlier survey, the recently released study breaks down rates of literacy by state and even by county. Some states made significant progress in reducing their number of adult residents with low literacy skills. The number of adults with basic to no literacy skills in Alabama, for example, dropped from 21 percent in 1992 to 15 percent in 2003. But in several large states, including California, New York, Florida, and Nevada, the number of adults with low literacy skills rose, according to USA Today.

Another study released last week identifies the skills and types of instruction most effective in helping children up to age 5 develop a capacity to read. This knowledge, if attained at a young age, would reduce the number of illiterate adults in the future. The Report of the National Early Literacy Panel identifies skills like knowledge of the alphabet, ability to sound out certain parts of words, and ability to write one's own name as crucial indicators of a child's ability to master literacy later. The study (whose conclusions are based on a summary of leading early childhood education research) also found that reading books to children and enrolling them in preschool and kindergarten improve young children's language development.