Are you looking for an “easy” way to improve safety? How about profitability? Throughput? Order Velocity? Quality?

Well, there is no easy way. But, cleanliness is the lowest of the low-hanging fruit available – and it has a positive affect on nearly everything. It may seem mundane, but cleanliness should nearly always be your first target.


We’re not talking about the bodily cleanliness (which we all practice…), but cleanliness in your office, work area, computer or otherwise! Give the example below a consideration.

The left side makes for a great game, but a less entertaining work area.

Which situation is easier to find Waldo? In which situation do you think it would be easier to find the tool or file you’re looking for?

You’ve heard it before… “I have a system! I know where everything is!“. Well, sorry! Even if you live in a vacuum and no one else will ever interact with your area, I’ve yet to meet the person who’s work gets better the more cluttered they are!

Even worse, in a production environment, clutter allows parts to be forgotten and quality to slip. The problem might not be as catastrophic as in an operating room, but it’s definitely a big problem for your customers!

Horizontal Surfaces

Here’s the general rule: if you’ve got a horizontal surface, something will collect on it.

In a more general term, your stuff will expand to take up the space available. Get a bigger house and somehow it will fill up.

The more counter-space, the more appliances. The larger your storage cart, the more work-in-progress that will pile up. The bigger your desk, the more papers you can clutter. The larger the worktable, the more tools that will be left out.

Clutter is a viscous cycle. The more clutter you have, the more space you’ll need and ask for. The more space you get, the more clutter you’ll collect.

It doesn’t have to be this way! Understanding the Law of Horizontal Surfaces allows you to leverage it in the inverse. If clutter expands to take up the space available, reduce the space! It’s simple and rather straightforward. Remove a work-cart, shrink the available work area, eliminate a table.

If the space is available to you, start now! Don’t even wait to finish reading!! 🙂

If you’re working with folks to improve their work center, get them involved! Please, don’t just show up and authoritatively take away workspace… You’ll only stress folks out and encourage them to hunker-down against you. Change management is hard, but it’s the only recipe for lasting results.

Thanks for reading!


PS – Don’t even get me started on manufacturing spaces with doors over the shelves and covers around the cluttered areas to make them “look” good. Choose to be good instead.