What is process mapping?

Process mapping is a tool used to show the sequence of steps within a business process from beginning to end. Mangers and Lean practitioners use process mapping to evaluate workflow, look for areas of improvement, and identify non-value-added activities. Whether you work in a restaurant or a manufacturing facility, a process map can be a helpful tool to manage improvement.

Starting a Process Map

Completing a process map begins with defining the scope. You could map out the entirety of the production line, or you may choose to just look at one part of the process. Either way, decide how much detail you want the map to have and remember to involve employees from all levels. The next step is to list out the steps the current process follows, arranging them in order by sequence. Process maps sometimes utilize chart symbols to represent actions or operations.

Walk through the facility and observe processes up close; list the time it takes for job tasks to be completed and use one continuous line to map out the flow and direction that work passes through. It is important to adhere to the level of detail you decided on previously, so refer to that when you unsure what to include and what not to include. Talk with workers involved in these tasks and make sure you have detailed the steps and observations accurately.

Now that your process map has been completed, you have the foundation to implement Lean tools. Analyze the map for bottlenecks and inefficiency, see what tasks aren’t adding value, or where inventory is held up for long periods of time. These are all areas that have room for improvement and will help guide you to the next Lean step. For example, you notice that materials spend extra time at a workstation because the operator needs to find the right tool in a disorganized bucket of tools. Your best solution would be to implement 5S and clean up the space, so it is easier to work in and people can find what they need right away.


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