Many organisations attempt to improve by striving to learn the “secrets of world class organisations” and by implementing various projects, initiatives and programmes. Yet, despite this, few organisations have achieved sustainable success.
One of the main reasons for this is that it is often not appreciated that successful companies follow a comprehensive approach towards continuous operations improvement – they address various aspects of improvement in an integrated way, communicated with one consistent framework. Such companies also involve people at all levels and they successfully establish an internal capability and culture for improvement.
20 Keys is the vehicle towards continuous improvement
- Create a culture of continuous improvement in the business.
- Implement world class practices in the organisation in a sustainable, holistic and participative way.
- Benchmark yourself against world class practices.
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’.
- Implement best practices to achieve world class, operational excellence.
- Achieve the strategic goals of the business.
- Improve the speed of learning and innovation of the business.
- Identify and eliminate all forms of waste (non-value adding activities) to improve customer satisfaction and market share by making products and services better, faster and cheaper.
- Energise and motivate all employees to work towards the achievement of goals.
- Improve productivity, profitability and the long-term sustainable competitiveness of the business
- Comprises of 20 very practical and synergistically integrated key methods required to strengthen the organisation’s delivery system, focusing on making products and services better, faster and cheaper.
- 20 Keys is the roadmap towards a World Class company.
- Creates a common vision of where we are (AS-IS), and where we want to be (TO-BE), as well as establishing a common language for improvement.
- A well-proven methodology for sustainable business improvement.
- A comprehensive benchmarking system, used in-house to monitor improvement progress that utilises visual descriptions (maps) and detailed checksheets to depict the levels of improvement towards world class performance.
- Involves everyone in the organisation on all levels and functions.
- Builds upon and strengthens current initiatives (ISO, HACCP, 6 Sigma, Lean, CRM, etc.)
20 Keys involves all employees in the accomplishment of the overall company goals – improved quality, reduced costs, improved delivery (throughput time) and service, high morale and a safe work environment. Many companies report significant improvements in terms of,
- productivity increases (up to 200%),
- reduction of defects / errors (up to 80%),
- reduction of inventory / WIP (up to 50%),
- significant cost reductions (up to 20% overall),
- strengthening the skills of all employees,
- improved morale,
- better communication and an understanding of the business goals and issues influencing those goals, with an overall benchmark score improvement of 20 – 40 points over a three year period.
The 20 Keys
The main objective of Key 1 is to make work more safe, easier, and more productive, by creating organised and clean workplaces that all people are proud of. This leads to energised work teams, improved motivation, and improved productivity of people and machines.
Key 2 focuses on having an effective organisation structure, with goal alignment at all levels. Within the structure, the various work groups are organised as “mini-businesses”, or MBs. Each MB is guided by Quality, Cost, Delivery, Safety and Morale performance indicators (QCDSM measures)
Key 3 involves forming small groups, who get together to solve problems. These problem solving groups are called SGAs (small group activities). A SGA consists of a small group who “brainstorm” specific problems relating to quality, cost-effectiveness, delivery, safety, etc., and who then addresses identified issues by using the SGA methodology, and various tools and techniques. Key 3 also engages everyone with thinking about improvements which might not necessarily require a small group for improvement (suggestions and innovations)
The Key 4 approach, together with other Keys, enables an organisation to reduce work-in-process (WIP), thereby achieving space savings, reducing working capital, having shorter customer supply lead times, as well as other inventory reduction related benefits
Key 5 provides a methodology for continuously reducing changeover times. Doing this has an impact on reducing inventory in the system, as well as on becoming more flexible in quickly supplying different products to customers
With Key 6, processes and procedures are analysed, with the objective of improving productivity. Processes and procedures are studied for improvement by means of process flow diagrams like activity flow diagrams and physical flow diagrams, as well as operation improvement sheets.
This Key focuses on the elimination of waste in the form of monitoring. Equipment monitoring, for example, watching machines while they run, or monitoring it to detect possible defects is not value adding. Equipment and machines must be improved so that there are no problems, or no defects are produced in the first place. The same principle applies to the monitoring of people while they work; if trained, they should be able to work without someone monitoring their activities, and where there is an issue, they should ask for support
Coupled manufacturing is about a strategy, and methods to link processes in order to ensure a smooth, fast process, product and information flow, with low inventory levels, and effective communication between the different up- and downstream processes/functions.
The main focus of this Key is on improving the effectiveness of machines and equipment. This is done by involving the operators and users of the equipment with first-line maintenance, by doing daily and routine preventive maintenance tasks, and correctly operating equipment, with maintenance artisans and engineers focusing on implementing the maintenance strategy, and using proactive maintenance management methods for sustaining high levels of equipment effectiveness.
This Key focuses on the creation of a positive atmosphere, maintaining a high level of commitment in the workplace, and respect amongst people. Attitudes that are promoted include adherence to values, organisation policies and rules, safety, Key 1 discipline, and time discipline. The emphasis is on the application of self-discipline by all.
The aim of Key 11 is to assure quality at source, through a quality focused workplace. The ultimate aim is to achieve zero defects, and non-conformances, by having high levels of process capability, where right first time quality is produced, with quality built into the process.
This Key is about developing external suppliers of material and services, based on the principle that suppliers are partners in the value chain. It introduces a formal method for managing and developing suppliers, based on a supplier development strategy, supplier service agreements, and measurement of supplier performance. The principles are also applied to internal suppliers (upstream processes).
Key 13 is about the elimination of wasteful activities in the workplace. Seen in a broad context, waste is anything that doesn’t add value. With this Key, the focus is on time wastage, and specifically, how people spend their time in the workplace. The aim is to increase the time spent on value adding tasks.
Team empowerment is characterised by well-informed, multi-skilled team members that take initiative, are able to investigate problems, are empowered to make decisions, and implement improvements suggested.
Skill versatility and cross training is about ongoing implementation of learning and development as part of the business strategy, to develop individuals to have more skills, and higher levels of competencies. Apart from individual development, the aim is also to have flexible teams, with a high level of skill versatility within, and between all teams; in production and supporting functions.
The aim of Key 16 is to ensure consistent, high levels of achieving production and work schedules, and on-time delivery to customers. Scheduling principles implemented include backwards/reverse planning and scheduling, finite scheduling, schedule achievement measurement at control points, load levelling, work tracking, and visual management.
With efficiency control, realistic and motivating output rates and targets are established for processes and tasks, with the involvement of teams in production and supporting functions. Actual performance is measured against targets, for teams to control their performance.
The emphasis in Key 18 is on having an information systems strategy which is aligned with the business strategy and objectives, with seamlessly integrated systems in Production and all supporting functions. Everyone should be trained to effectively and efficiently use systems relevant to their workplaces, both in terms of day-to-day operations, and as an enabler for continuous improvement.
Key 19 focuses on making people at all levels, and in all functions, aware of how they can help to save energy and material in their workplaces. Doing this, even in small ways, contributes greatly towards assisting the organisation to be cost effective. Apart from this awareness, it is also about continuously looking at energy and material saving opportunities, through the implementation of relevant technologies.
Leading technology refers to the equipment or hardware used, and available to the company, to design, make, or produce products or services. Site technology is about the set of skills and know-how the company has acquired and developed over time. The critical aspect in Key 20 is the speed of technology development, and assimilation.
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PPORF 20 Keys Programme
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