Attempting to improve competitiveness as you become aware of problems will end in haphazard improvements and lack of unity. Improvement must occur across the whole business and close the gaps between the current situation and the business objectives. This book introduces a method for making significant improvement across your entire manufacturing business. A structure as laid out in “20 Keys” can provide the platform for activities that add flexibility and adaptability.

On an initial read, this book may appear to be a very simplistic guide about how to be successful in your factory/business. You may even be tempted to say “We are already very advanced with most of that.” However, the content of the book is deep and thorough, and I strongly believe there are few businesses that can claim they are very advanced in all the areas down the excellence path prescribed by Iwao Kobayashi.

The “20 Keys” shows the relationship between all the keys which lead to better quality, lower cost and faster manufacturing time. The four principle keys are:

  • Key 1. Cleaning and Organizing
  • Key 2. Rationalizing the System/Management of Objectives
  • Key 3. Small Group Activities
  • Key 20. Leading Technology/Site Technology

I suggest one way to use 20Keys to Workplace Improvement is to treat it as the basis of a thorough audit guide for your manufacturing business. Each of the 20 Keys has 5 levels and each of these levels can be taken just-as-written or modified to best suit your own business. I would be cautious with any modifications and losing the intent of the Key.

This book “20 Keys” is nearly 30 years old now and it is still very relevant today. I recommend this book as a valuable addition to your library.

20 Keys to Workplace Improvement
Iwao Kobayashi
Productivity Press ISBN 0-915299-61-5
Original Japanese version 1988
English translation 1990 by Productivity Press

Peter Gardner is a Senior Lean Consultant with Shinka Management focusing on business profit improvement utilizing lean manufacturing practices. Peter has been involved in leading lean manufacturing programs for the past three decades. In his previous role as Global Manufacturing Engineering Director at TI Automotive, Peter had responsibility for manufacturing operations at 80 factories.

Shinka Management provides lean consulting, lean training and Japan study tours including Toyota factory visits and tours to several plants in the Toyota supply chain to learn about the application of TPS.