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5C Workplace Organization for Lean Manufacturing

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I am a trainer and consultant in Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, quality management, and business management.

Steps in 5C workplace organisation

Steps in 5C workplace organisation

What is 5C Workplace Organisation?

5C workplace organisation for lean manufacturing is a method to organize your working environment into a safe, efficient, ergonomic working space with clear visual management. 5C has been developed from the Japanese tool 5S (part of Lean manufacturing) and is basically the same thing by a different name. The idea of implementing 5C is to eliminate or reduce the impact of the seven wastes on your working environment.

The steps of Lean Manufacturing 5C Workplace Organisation are:

C1: Clearing (Seiri, Sort)

C2: Configure (Seiton, Set in order)

C3: Clean and Check (Seiso, Shine & Check)

C4: Conformity (Seiketsu, Standardise)

C5: Consensus or Custom & Practice (Shitsuke, Sustain)

This is a westernized version of the original 5S tool, which forms one of the most important foundation stones of Lean manufacturing. This is often the first tool that a company will implement in its drive to improve its business performance through lean manufacturing; 5C or 5S is just as effective if implemented as a stand-alone tool. Implementing a 5C workplace organization is a very important first step in achieving lean production processes or even a lean office environment.

Implementing 5C Workplace Organisation

Below I will detail the main steps of 5C workplace organisation. For more information regarding benefits, implementation and hiring a trainer to help you put these steps in place, please look at the following articles on 5S. Remember that 5C and 5S are as applicable in service or office-based environments as they are on the factory floor. Typical improvements through applying the principles of 5C are efficiency improvements in the order of 10% to 30%. The benefits of lean manufacturing are well documented and proven over and over again.

5S: The various steps of 5S and the implementation of 5S, the original Japanese version of the 5C workplace organisation tool.

5S Benefits: The benefits and origins of implementing 5S. The same benefits can be attributed to 5C workplace organisation.

5S Training: How to source, hire and check the effectiveness of training for 5S or 5C workplace organisation. You will need to get yourself an expert in Lean manufacturing 5C to have a smooth and effective introduction to 5C.

5S Office: Application of 5S or 5C in the office environment can be as important as for your production processes. In fact, in many cases even more important.

Remember, if you really want to implement 5C / 5S or any other lean manufacturing tool, then it is important to either get lean training or invest in a lean consultant.

Why Workplace Organisation?

What would you rather have?

A workplace that is laid out in a visually obvious manner in which you can quickly see if everything is functioning as it should be? In which every item has a place and is in that place? A workplace that is laid out in a safe and ergonomic manner to ensure your operators' safety and well-being? A production process (or even office process) that is efficient and free from delays? A workplace that can showcase your lean production processes to customers and potential customers?

Or would you rather have a production process that is cluttered, visually confusing, unsafe and demanding on your operators? One which is full of delays and inefficiencies? One that has to be tidied and repainted every time someone visits?

I know which I would prefer! 5C Workplace organisation can help you gain many benefits and is easy to implement, usually at a minimal cost.

5C Clearing (Seiri, Sort): Stage 1 of Workplace Organisation

Just as with 5S, the first step of 5C workplace organization is Clearing—removing all of the unwanted clutter from the workplace to ensure that all that is left are the items that are required.

Obvious junk should be treated as that and skipped to remove them from the workplace, obviously recyclable materials should be recycled where possible such as valuable metals and so on.

Items that you are not sure about should be placed into a quarantine area until later and items that are not required or broken that are too difficult to move should be identified with a red tag.

At the end of this step of 5C, the whole team along with relevant members of management and other departments need to review the items that have been quarantined along with the red-tagged items and agree disposition. Either put back in the workplace, in deep storage or junk.

5C Configure (Seiton, Set In order): Stage 2 of Workplace Organisation

As with the second step in 5S, this step of 5C workplace organization is about organizing or “configuring” the tools, equipment and materials required in the workspace. There should be a defined space for everything, and everything should be in its place. Locations should be labelled, or it should be clear what belongs there through the use of shadow boards and the like. Gangways and locations for incoming and finished materials should all be identified to that everything is clear to both the people that work there as well as an outsider.

How to Decide What Goes Where

In deciding where items belong, you should assess how often the item is used; those items that are used the most frequently should be placed as close as possible to where they are required, whereas those that are needed only periodically can be stored further away to give space for the more frequently used items. The Pareto (80:20) rule usually comes into effect here, only 20% of your items being used 80% of the time.

Consider also the ease of use and handling, do not place heavy items on high or low shelves as the user could injure themselves when retrieving them. Consider how handling can be achieved without the use (and required space for) of heavy handling equipment; things such as roller tables can be used to push tools by hand into your machines.

When you look at your layout and location of items, you need to consider the seven wastes.

5C Clean and Check (Seiso, Shine and Check): Stage 3 of Workplace Organisation

The third stage of 5C workplace organization, Clean and Check, is about clearing down the area and ensuring that everything is functioning as it should be. Keeping everything clean and tidy will ensure that not only do you have an effective marketing tool for your business, but oil leaks and other problems become immediately obvious.

This step needs to be formalized to ensure ongoing cleanliness, responsibilities need to be defined, and cleaning sheets detailing, who, what, how, where and when need to be compiled.

5C in operation

5C in operation

5C Conformity (Seiketsu, Standardise): Stage 4 of Workplace Organisation

Stage four of 5C workplace organization is Conformity: having a standardised way of doing things across our processes. Are we doing what we say we will do? Audits should be defined and conducted in all areas to ensure that we maintain the 5C improvements. Audits typically are scored in a non-subjective manner enabling comparisons to be made between areas and for improvement progress to be monitored.

Often companies will have awards for the best performing areas enabling competition between different areas in the factory and the offices.

5C / 5S story board

5C / 5S story board

5C Consensus or Custom and Practice (Shitsuke, Sustain): Stage 5 of Workplace Organisation

Consensus / Custom & Practice is the fifth stage of 5C workplace organization and is about ensuring that the first 4 steps are part of the culture of the business and are maintained and continually improved. Far too often businesses go to the effort of implementing the first 3 or 4 steps of 5C or 5S only to allow the improvements made to slowly dissolve.

People begin to ignore the markings on the floor designating where materials belong, tools do not get put away, shadow boards start to empty, audits are not conducted, and graphs are not updated. When this happens, it actually looks worse than if you had never done 5C or 5S in the first place, as it shows a lack of discipline in your management, supervision and general employees.

Don’t let this happen; the benefits of implementing lean manufacturing, specifically 5C or 5S, are too great to let slide. Maintain the benefits that you gain, and you will be in a better position to compete within your marketplace.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Ro Carter-Wilson on May 18, 2017:

Solid resource to understand the implementation of LEAN.

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on June 12, 2010:

As an Ex-Quality Manager I used to hate writing ISO procedures.. I always preferred to use tools such as 5C, 5S, Poka Yoke and visual management techniques so that people had to do things right without resorting to lots of written documents that never got read..

Katie McMurray from Ohio on June 11, 2010:

Aw yes a place for everything and everything in it's place on the ready to be utilized. I love strong organizational skills plus documentation, I enjoyed writing ISO procedures as they too are vital. Thanks :)