Process mapping is a Lean Six Sigma technique used to diagram and illustrate the tasks or steps involved in the production of a product or a service. The most effective method to describe any process is to classify it with a unique name, demonstrate the workflow with a Process Map and explain its purpose with an operational narrative.
A process is defined as a series of actions or steps to convert inputs to outputs. From the perspective of the company engaging in the process, the objective of each task, activity, and step is to add value by converting the inputs into the desired output. If a step does not add value in the eyes of the customer, it is considered waste. To effectively remove waste and streamline a process, that process must be fully understood. Thus, there are several reasons for creating a Process map:
- It serves as a tool to enable all levels of a company including management, engineering, operations, etc. to understand the details of any process by reducing “jargon” and relying on a visual method of communication. A picture is worth a thousand words.
- When each step is identified it is easier to find which do not add value and thus are opportunities for improvement.
- A process map can put into perspective, for all individuals involved in that process, how the macro process or “big picture” is influenced by their contributions.
- Process mapping can be an effective tool in training new employees.
- Process mapping creates a foundation and source for the data needed in subsequent Lean Six Sigma Tools.
- Process maps can help incorporate new compliance and auditing requirements by identifying the best placement of an audit/compliance step to reduce the impact to the overall process.