History of 20 Keys Continuous Operations Improvement

Iwao Kobayashi

The 20 Keys system was developed in Japan by Iwao Kobayashi when he, after completing industrial studies at university, joined Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Soon after joining them, he developed the first mixed-lot automated assembly line in Japan (and arguably in the world).

He was also known as the expert in Japan on quick changeover technology, and shared learning experiences with other great Japanese engineers like Taiicho Ohno, and Shigeo Shingeo. Practical, in the workplace learning, together with inputs from employees, the shopfloor and production technologies, led to the development of the 20 Keys.

He later authorised a timeless book on productivity improvement, “20 Keys to Workplace Improvement”.

In 1981, Iwao formed the PPORF Development Institute (PDI) in Japan, for promoting and implementing the 20 Keys (called, A Practical Programme Of Revolution in Factories (and other organisations)) in Japan. Successful implementation in a large number of prominent Japanese companies followed. In 1993, ODI went into partnership with PDI, with the aim of introducing the system to South African organisations, and also to help spread it across the world. Implementations were subsequently done in 38 countries. Dr Yoshiyuki Kobayashi, Iwao’s son, is continuing the passion and work of his father, as President of PDI, Japan.

The 20 Keys is a proven system for continuous operations improvement. At ODI, we stay true to its original intention; to support organisations to bring about a revolution with productivity of people, processes, and technology, by engaging all their people. The focus is on the transfer of knowledge through training, and the enhancement of knowledge application through coaching and implementation support in the workplace.

Yoshiyuki Kobayash

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