A Simple Process Map
This approach will help you easily identify areas for improvement
by T. Gourishankar
Traditional organizations built on functional lines suffer from a silo syndrome. Each function or department acts like a silo whose output is tossed over the wall to the next function. Such an arrangement can make operations efficient within each department but hinders results between the department and its internal and external customers.1 There are bound to be disconnects or overlaps among successive processes.
To help reveal these anomalies in your organization, you can conduct a process mapping exercise. Don't be surprised if you find a few skeletons lurking among the steps of your process.
Process mapping is an organized way to record all the activities performed by a person or machine, with a customer or on materials, and it can be carried out for manufacturing and nonmanufacturing processes. The exercise will help you identify improvement opportunities in quality, cycle time, capacity and manpower deployment, rework and waste elimination. All the activities in any process can be grouped into six categories: operations, transportation, delay, inspection, storage and rework (see Figure 1).2
How is process mapping carried out?
Although there are various ways to map processes, the following approach is effective in most situations:
1. Define the objective of the process mapping exercise.
2. Study the organization and its business.
3. #009; Identify key external customers and critical inputs, such as raw material and human resources.
4. Identify the organization's macro processes, including sales, manufacturing and engineering.
5. Study each macro process. Be sure to keep in mind:
- The beginning and end of each process.
- The internal and external customers for each macro process.
- Any subprocesses.
- The sequence of activities in each subprocess.
- The category each activity falls into (see Figure 1).
- All apparent nonvalue adding activities.
- Any improvement opportunities to reduce cycle times, rework, waste and manpower.
6. Brainstorm for improvement opportunities.
The output of a process mapping exercise is presented as a flowchart or worksheet (see Figure 2). After you prepare the flowchart, you should look for improvement opportunities within the process. During this creative part of the process analysis, you should ask the what, when, who, where and how long questions, and challenge each of the steps in the process. There may be a better way, but someone still needs to think of it.3
1. J.M. Juran and Frank Gryna, Quality Planning and Analysis, fourth edition, McGraw-Hill, 2000.
2. Lee J. Krajewski and Larry P. Ritzman, Operations Management: Strategy and Analysis, sixth edition, Prentice Hall, 2001.
South Bank University website at www.sbu.ac.uk/image/Process_mapping/Process_mapping.htm.
T. GOURISHANKAR is a freelance management consultant in Chennai, India, specializing in business process improvement. He earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Regional Engineering College in Warangal, India. He is also a member of ASQ and a certified quality manager.