20 Keys of Iwao Kobayashi-San

A practical ‘Cook-book Style’ Improving approach

What is PPORF or ’20 Keys’?

20 Keys by Iwao Kobayashi

What is known as ‘the ‘20 Keys of  Kobayashi‘ in the Western world, is called PPORF in Japan.

’20 Keys’ is quite same system as PPORF and these are created by Iwao Kobayashi.

Who developed the 20 Keys?

Mr. Kobayashi, who is Chairman of PDI (PPORF Development Institute Inc.) in Japan, developed a very pragmatic way to improve a (manufacturing) company by Japanese management concepts.

He describes 20 ‘Keys’ that are crucial to develop a world class company.

The keys cover 5S, quick changeover, scheduling, reducing inventory, maintenance, skill building activities, eliminating waste, value analysis, empowering workers, quality, developing supplier, etc. Each key  is further divided into five levels from novice to “world class” status.

The Seiko Watch Company set up a consulting company with Mr. Kobayashi to teach the 20 Keys to all of their suppliers and other companies in Japan.


Which topics do the 20 keys comprise?

Key 1: Cleaning and Organizing

Key 2: Rationalizing the System/MBOs

Key 3: Improvement Team Activities

Key 4: Reducing Inventory (Shortening Lead Times)

Key 5: Quick Changeover Technology

Key 6: Manufacturing Value Analysis (Methods Improvement)

Key 7: Zero Monitor Manufacturing

Key 8: Coupled Manufacturing

Key 9: Maintaining Equipment

Key 10: Time Control and Commitment

Key 11: Quality Assurance System

Key 12: Developing Your Suppliers

Key 13: Eliminating Waste (Treasure Map)

Key 14: Empowering Workers to Make Improvements

Key 15: Skill Versatility and Cross Training

Key 16: Production Scheduling

Key 17: Efficiency Control

Key 18: Using Information Systems

Key 19: Conserving Energy and Materials

Key 20: Leading Technology and Site Technology

’20 Keys’ are not a model; it is an approach!

Looking carefully to the keys, you might discover some overlap like ‘getting 100% efficiency – waste elimination – reduction in change over’; one being a part of the other. Remember: this is not a MODEL but a pragmatic approach, a roadmap if you like, based on years of experience.

Mr Kobayashi over the years found out: This is what needs to be done over and over again, if you do those things, you will approve.

The disadvantage

This pragmatic approach also has a disadvantage: you will have to ‘translate’ some keys when not applied to manufacturing facilities (i.e. healthcare, or other services).

A very important learning from mr. Kobayashi’s approach is to keep as much as possible balance between the development of the keys; mr. Kobayashi states we should not develop óne key without keeping track of the others. Here we see an example of the ‘harmony model’ that is too often forgotten in our attempts to move quick – which actually slows us down and frustrates us…


You will recognize –parts of– those 20 keys (maybe in another form) in many other improvement programs; however here it is quite clear what needs to be achieved to reach a certain level. And so one can monitor whether all keys are developed harmoniously!

20 keys and Lean or Six Sigma

Even if you are ‘into Lean’ or ‘into Six Sigma’ it would be still a great help to use the 20 Keys! They will give you a pragmatic set of guidelines which elements within your lean- or six-sigma program should be taken care of.

How do the 20 Keys relate to Makigami?

Makigami has a strong focus on the PROCESS of value creation and therefore it show WHAT needs to be done in the first place. The 20 keys give a beautiful ‘checklist’ of the things that might to be done in either way. 

Implementing the Keys?

20 keys is a way to create a Monozukuri way of working. Keep in mind: if you apply 20 keys as a tool-set: you still need to know about what’s behind, what is the mindset. Need to know more? Just send a message!

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