Process mapping is seen as the essential first step to any process improvement effort and is a powerful tool in for any Lean organization. It will give managers a better understanding of processes and serve as a comprehensive overview of the current state of processes. Process mapping refers to the practice of communicating the process to others and some of the most common types include activity process maps, document maps, cross-functional maps, and value stream maps.
Although there are different types of maps and different methods for the practice, process mapping efforts generally follow the same outline:
- Gather a team: As with many other Lean methods, it is important to involve employees. Once you have a general idea of the process you want to improve, bring together a small team of assembly operators, frontline workers, and any other individuals affected by the process.
- Define the scope: Set clear boundaries for your analysis and decide on the level of detail you want to include in the map.
- Identify the steps of the process: List out all the steps that go into the process you are analyzing and arrange them in the order of operations and documenting any and all process variations.
- Go to the Gemba: It is important that managers and supervisors do not get all of their information from meetings and interviews with workers. They should be going own to the assembly line and observe, seeing how processes are actually running and discuss any present issues with operators.
- Verify: The process map is then verified with the team and other stakeholders to ensure you have not omitted any essential process steps, relevant information, or anything else.
Creating a process map is only the beginning of your process improvement project. Process maps offer valuable insights that may be critical for future decisions. It will help you improve your processes, increase understanding of your organization’s facility, and fuel collaboration between employees.