TWI Materials in Japan - Roots of Kaizen - Day 1 in the WRHS Archives

Alan Robinson, keynote speaker at TWI Summit 2008, told me that during his research into TWI he looked through some materials of Lowell Mellen, President of TWI, Inc. Mellen was a TWI District Representative for the Cleveland office during WWII. After the service was decommisioned, Mellen’s management consulting company landed a contract with the U.S. and Japanese governements in order to bring TWI to Japan in the 1950’s.

Well, I couldn’t leave this alone. I have to see this stuff for myself. I called the Western Reserve Historical Society and made my first visit to the genba today. Mellen donated about 7 linear feet of material to WRHS; linear feet is the currency of an archive. I made it through about two boxes today. There are about 7 more boxes to go through. My favorite discoveries today:

· “Installation of The Training Within Industry Programs in Japan” Final Report

· “Problem Solving Training” Manual

· “Job Instruction Training Manual” Copyright 1952. There are several modifications to the JIT manual that will be of interest to current JIT Master Trainers.

· Wooden JMT fixtures and props, bundled with PST Manual.

· TWI Inc. graphic that looks surprisingly similar to the one I made for TWI Service. When I get home, I’ll probably adopt or modify it and use it for the TWI Service website.

I will elaborate on each of these findings as the days pass. My biggest surprise was that given the known published material regarding Japan and TWI, I was expecting/hoping to find the Toyota & TWI, Inc. connection. I did see a reference to Sappuro Toyota Auto Company listing the company representatives attending the JIT training. However, TWI, Inc., as far as I can tell today, landed their first contract after an initial phase of JIT training in 1951. Part of TWI, Inc’s. contract stipulated that they would train Japanese consultants in Conductor Institute training in order to conduct refresher training for the “500 JIT trainers” already in existence from the 1951 training program.

So, unless I can dig out an obscure reference to who brought TWI to Japan in 1951, we may not know who originally brought TWI to Japan. (Unless I've missed something in existing research/publications, which is very possible, if you know, please comment here!) This really may not matter though, as it is clear the TWI, Inc. group was instrumental in laying a solid foundation for the training of supervisors and foremen in problem solving, standardization and leadership in Japan.

More to come in the following days.



At March 11, 2008 at 10:41 PM , Blogger Islands Innovation said...


That's Awesome!!! Keep up the good work my friend...this is the stuff history is made up of.

Does it appear that Program Development may have morphed into Problem Solving? Is there evidence of the familiar 7 or 8 step problem solving process that Toyota uses? Any indication that "Work Simplification" (Mogensen's adaptation of Gilbreth's Motion Study) played any role?

Wow this is very exciting!


At March 11, 2008 at 11:07 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

Evening Jeff,

It is pretty exciting...we are learning about what makes the kaizen clock tick!

I'm really oversimplifying this but only for the sake of conveying what I saw to you:

1) PST manual is basically all three J modules with PD underlying the whole thing! Just what we thought it would be!

2) JMT (a descendant of work simplification) has been beefed up with TQC symbols and flowcharting ala Ben Graham/Mogensen/Shingo

It really focuses on "what is the problem", etc., etc., etc. and helps you "choose" the path of J modules and other improvement approaches via TWI thinking.

In other words, it gets the trainees systematically thinking and analysing first and then choosing the tool later. This is drastically different than our current western lean approach, yet the eastern approach to lean was taught by westerners! To quote a great man, Charlie Brown: "AAAARRRRGGGH!"

Jeff, I'm getting a copy of as much as possible made up for us...it's everything we wanted!


At March 12, 2008 at 11:52 AM , Blogger Sylvain Martel said...

Hey Bryan,
Very interesting to follow your blog and I am looking forward to read more about Dr. Robinson keynotes


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