Keeping with the theme from the last issue – Training Within Industry – this month's column is going to focus on Job Methods, the third major Job or "J" program that was part of the original Training Within Industry Services and conducted by the War Manpower Commission's Bureau of Training.
Prior to now we've talked about Job Instruction and Job Relations which, along with Job Methods, made up the three core programs of TWI. And like Job Instruction and Job Relations, the Job Methods program relies on a basic four-step process, four steps that are mirrored in the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle and rooted in the scientific method: observe, hypothesize, test, analyze.
Creativity before capital
During the development of all of the TWI programs, those responsible for the content had to be cognizant of the fact that, because of the war, there was more than just a shortage of time and people but also a shortage of materials. The war effort, as it would become known, was using up every conceivable scrap of material of every kind, every size, and every shape possible. Creating a program to teach people how to "produce greater quantities of quality products in less time by making the best use of the manpower, machines and materials now available" meant that the program needed to teach people how to be creative in their usage of these critical materials, and not to wait for or rely on new and better "machines and materials."
In other words, the improvements needed to come from the existing process, and the people who knew these processes the best were the people who were knee-deep in them. Many Lean practitioners would extol it as the collective experience of the employees that could and would solve problems. It was the reduction or elimination of what would later be called one of the Eight Wastes: not utilizing our employees' creativities and talents.
Job Methods has three simple premises
According to Don Dinero, founder of the TWI Learning Partnership and author of the Shingo Prize winning book Training Within Industry, The Foundation of Lean (Productivity Press, 2005), the TWI services board stressed three concepts whenever Job Methods training was being discussed. These were:
1. Special training is not required. The TWI services board created the Job Methods program on what Dinero refers to as a "non-professional level, which would not require doing anything that a typical supervisor would not normally do."
This is a key because it means that the development of the new method was not exclusively done by a select few, typically engineers, and therefore could be easily absorbed by every supervisor and then transferred to his or her employees through the Job Instruction method.
2. Improvements to increase speed are process oriented. A tenet of Lean is that safety of the employee is inviolate, and sacrificing safety for speed is absolutely not tolerated. Job Methods emphasizes that the "improvement (is) not accomplished through speed-up but through elimination of unnecessary details." (TWI Report, War Manpower Commission, 1945)
Those of you who have been exposed to Lean and the eight wastes can probably see the direct link between Job Methods and what is taught today – eliminate "unnecessary details" – waste – rather than trying to optimize the speed of a machine or make a person work faster. Those approaches to increased rates of production are both unsound and unsafe.
3. Supervisors are responsible for departmental improvements. Since the improvements came from within the supervisor's own department and no special training was required, TWI believed that "a good supervisor was responsible for the productivity in his or her department and therefore should do whatever was necessary to increase its productivity." (Dinero, 2005)
While this last one may be seen by many as an obvious statement – that department supervisors are responsible for improvements in his or her own department – many supervisors, in fact, do not do "whatever (is) necessary to increase … productivity" for one very simple reason: fear.
Lean ≠ layoffs
Supervisors are human, too, and like everyone else they feel the pain of layoffs, so they will try to do everything possible to avoid having to let someone go. Too many in today's business world still fear that by making improvements in productivity they will be forced into letting go some of their staff. These are people with whom they've invested time, effort and emotion and, often, have built a relationship with their employees where they feel it's their duty to protect them. They're right, it is their duty, but we in management shouldn't force our supervisors into a corner by making them choose between improvements that will benefit everyone and maintaining the status quo, the old and inefficient ways of the past.
The Four Steps of Job Methods
Job Methods' four steps are:
1. Break down the job. Just like with Job Instruction we need to break down the current job or method, listing all details of the job exactly as it is currently performed.
Make sure that every detail is included about material handling, machine work and movements made by the person doing the task.
2. Question every detail. Question everything about the job at the same time – machines, materials, equipment, tools, product design, layout, movement, safety. Ask these questions:
Why is it necessary?
What is its purpose?
Where should it be done?
When should it be done?
Who is best qualified to do it?
How is the best way to do it?
3. Develop the new method. After answering the questions above, create a new method to:
Eliminate unnecessary details (waste);
Combine details when practical;
Rearrange details for better sequence;
Simplify all necessary details to make the job safer and easier to do;
Work out ideas with others (collective experiences) and write up the proposed new method.
4. Apply the new method by selling the proposed new method to any decision maker(s) and co-workers affected by the change, getting their buy-in and approval and then put it to work by using the Job Instruction method to transfer the knowledge about the new method others.
If you can follow this method then you will have given your supervisors and employees a simple but powerful tool for making real, lasting change, change that they won't be afraid to be a part of and will embrace. Using this four-step method you will tap into a wealth of knowledge that exists today in the thoughts and abilities of your employees and you will strengthen your company going forward into tomorrow, and beyond.