Workplace Organization: The 6 C’s

With employees pushing product in a matter of seconds, it’s easy for things to get a little disorganized. Tools get misplaced, the trash can is found in a different spot than it was the day before, and dust piles up in that little corner we never think to look at. Sometimes we focus so much on pushing out as much product as we can that we don’t take the time to breathe for a few seconds and look around us. The busy work days filled with goals and deadlines has brought us to a six step process that ensures our workplace environment is organized so that we can reach our goals. Recently, we initiated a company-wide project called the 6 C’s.

So what are the 6 C’s and how does it keep the workplace organized?

The 6 C’s is a six-step process that takes a workplace from tornado disaster to fully efficient. It was designed to support Lean Manufacturing by eliminating potential wastes that come from workplace disorganization, such as looking for that misplaced tool. From the production floor to the customer service desk, we follow the 6 C’s in every department to create the fastest, most efficient, waste-free work flow.

Before diving into the specific steps of the 6 C’s, it is important to note that following the six steps is like climbing a staircase. For the best results, one cannot take the next step until they have fully completed the previous step, full foot on the ground. This is, after all, about eliminating as many wastes in the workflow as possible to ensure a faster and more efficient flow of production.


Level 1 – Clear

The very first step to the 6 C’s is to clear your workspace of all unnecessary items. These are things that are not required to perform your job and meet your goals. This includes inventory, unused equipment, tables, chairs, work benches, tools, fixtures, gauges, file cabinets, and so-on. Donate, sell, or throw them into the trash.

Once we completely clear our area, we are able to see how much extra space we actually have to play with. Sometimes we think we need a bigger desk, bigger facility, or bigger office. But once we clear out our work space of unused, unnecessary items, we are able to see that we have more space than we originally believed.

Level 2 – Confine

In this step, you need to confine everything to specific spot within your work space, and we mean everything, including that waste basket on the floor. Every single item needs to have a specific home that it belongs too, but that doesn’t mean the item has to stay there 100% of the time. The item may leave its home when it is being used, however, once you are done using that item you must return it back to the home it was originally designated.  For example, if you need a broom, you’ll always know where to go to grab it and spend less time searching for it.  This is a visual step in that it must be obvious that a certain spot is an item’s home, similar to the address numbers posted on your home. Confining items prevent things from getting lost or misplaced. “A place for everything and everything in its place,” is how Cliff Stites, co-owner of CabDoor, describes this step.

“A place for everything and everything in its place.” – Cliff Stites, Co-Owner.

As you confine things, if you happen to find an item that can’t be given a home within your work space, then it probably doesn’t belong to your area. Give it to the correct department to confine. For example, you may have found a wrench in your work space that was needed it a fix a machine you use. If you can’t find a home for it because it’s not something you use to complete your daily work goals, you’ll most likely need to give it to the maintenance department to confine.

Level 3 – Control

Step three is all about how you control things flowing in, around, and near your work space. It requires developing specific and controlled channels of distribution to and from the work space. This includes adding “Kanbans” which are cards or visual signals about your workflow, having minimal inventory by following lean’s Just-In-Time strategy, and setting specifically sized queues for your work flow.

Level 4 – Clean

In this step, you may begin doing what is commonly viewed as cleaning: sweeping, dusting, adding a fresh coats of paint, etc. In this step, it is also very important to document and solve equipment issues (oil and grease leaks, software issues, etc.), making sure they are addressed and fully corrected. This step is important because the buildup of grease and dust or errors in software may cause maintenance issues down the road, therefore slowing down your productivity.

Level 5 – Communicate

Once you have reached step 5, your work space should be looking fresh, cleaned, and organized. After putting in all of that hard work of reorganizing, I’m sure we’ll want to keep it that way as long as possible. Your employees, team, or coworkers may know where things go, but what if they forget to put things back or to control flow? To prevent this, we throw out the tribal knowledge and we communicate! In this step, communication is not done by speaking words,  but rather by posting signs, drawing arrows, printing pictures, and color-coding areas. Communication in step 5 of the 6 C’s is anything visual that your employees, team, and coworkers can clearly understand. Visuals may include labeling where things go, how many items can be in queue, performance measures, process training modules, and safety standards.

Level 6 – Continue

Step 6 is where we ask ourselves one last time how we can ensure the work space will stay organized and clean. We have visuals that clearly communicate where things go, flow, and stay, but how do we ensure that the visuals are being followed? In step six, we answer this question by managing an audit process along with some sort of measurement, reward, and recognition process. The key being: Keep the improvement process going and never allow it to slip back in the slightest.

At CabDoor, we practice the sixth step of the 6 C’s every day to ensure things stay organized and in place. However, every few years we need to update our work space and refresh, so we start the 6 C’s process all over again. When we refresh and start from square one, we encourage our employees to follow the 6 C’s by turning it into a competition. Our company voted Mayra, our Team Leader for the Custom Cell, and her team as the winners of the 6 C’s challenge this summer because she and her team reorganized their work cell pretty close to perfect. “Production and communication is much faster and smoother now because we are spending less time asking each other questions and looking for parts,” said Mayr,a after asking her how the 6 C’s has benefited her team.

“Production and communication is much faster and smoother now because we are spending less time asking each other questions and looking for parts.” – Mayra, Team Leader for Custom Cell.

Is disorganization interrupting your workflow? Are you feeling like your work space or company could use some time to reorganize? We recommend following the 6 C’s. What other processes or tools do you use to stay organized?

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