In the world of manufacturing, how do you define "the best"? Revenue, of course, comes to mind, but that's too simple -- an end, not a means. How about global reach? Workforce strength? Corporate citizenship? Competitiveness? Consistent best practices? The answer, of course, is all of the above. But though there is no shortage of contenders, we've yet to find the company that perfectly embodies every ingredient of success. Undaunted, the editors of IndustryWeek (with some generous help from readers and other savvy observers of manufacturing) have identified five diverse companies whose strategies and practices should be heeded. The companies (in no particular order) -- Nestl SA, Brazeway Inc., Merck & Co. Inc., Toyota Motor Corp., and Kingston Technology Co. Inc. -- range from small and private to huge and public, and in both products and geography are all over the map. Each company represents an approach to doing business that sets it apart from the rest. There is Nestl's model of global reach. Kingston's remarkable relationship with its employees. Merck's outstanding corporate citizenship. Brazeway's little-company-that-could competitiveness. Toyota's leadership and influence on production systems. Our intention with the Best Manufacturing Companies program is to spotlight additional companies each year, in time creating an honor roll of -- or perhaps we should say, a textbook on -- manufacturing excellence. Here are the first five chapters. Are you taking notes? Nestl SA Role model for worldwide production and marketing. Brazeway Inc. Small company adopts big-company practices. Merck & Co. Inc. Strategic philanthropy enhances reputation. Toyota Motor Corp. Pioneering production methods spread globally. Kingston Technology Co. Inc. Enthusiastic, loyal workforce ensures success.