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Process Mapping Flowcharts; How to map the Value Stream

Updated on November 21, 2014
LeanMan profile image

I am a trainer and consultant in lean manufacturing, Six Sigma, quality management, and business management.

Why Process Map your Workflow

Just what are process mapping flowcharts and why do you need to know how to map the value stream?

By mapping out exactly what really happens within your process you have a chance to identify all of the wasteful steps within your processes giving yourself the opportunity to redesign your processes to remove those wastes (Seven wastes) and save your business time and money.

You can map any aspect of your business processes from an overall presentation of your whole business or discrete operations within individual departments.

Value Stream Map

Value Stream Mapping Example
Value Stream Mapping Example | Source

Value Stream Mapping

Value Stream Mapping is a specific type of process mapping flowchart which will show the flows of material and information within your organization from supplier to customer. The value stream map will show the length of time that product is within your factory as well as the total processing time so that you can ascertain exactly for what percentage of its time product is being worked on within your organization.

Often the processing time is a mere fraction of a percent when compared to the overall lead time through the factory. Indicating the potential reduction in lead time and work in progress that could be achieved through the application of lean manufacturing.

Value Stream Mapping is a very valuable tool within Lean Manufacturing and is often where many consultants will start their investigation. The VSM will show where the delays are and how much inefficiency there is within your processes. However VSM re not always that simple to construct especially if you have multiple value streams.

If you want to learn how to create a value stream map in detail then look at this hub on how to create a value stream map.

Process Mapping for Continuous Improvement

Process Mapping Flowchart
Process Mapping Flowchart | Source

Business Process Mapping

Business process mapping is similar to value stream mapping in that you are analyzing how value flows through your organization but for specific processes. The aim being to identify the wasteful steps in your process. Once identified you have the opportunity to find ways to either remove these wasteful steps or reduce their impact on your organization.

Mapping your Business Processes

Flowcharts and Process Mapping
Flowcharts and Process Mapping | Source
Business Process Map Flowchart
Business Process Map Flowchart | Source

Mapping your Business Processes

Creating a business process map is actually a very simple process, the main tools that you will need are a pencil, a pad of post-its, and your brain. Sometimes it is worth also timing various aspects of the flow however most people do not like people standing over them with a stopwatch!

What you need to do is walk through the entire process from start to finish, observing exactly what actually happens, not what it says in your company procedures. Ask questions at each point of the operation, find out how long delays are, how many items there are in the queue, basically any and all relevant data. The more data you collect the batter an analysis you will be able to make at a later stage.

Each step should be recorded on an individual post-it, along with the relevant data, this can then be organized on a chart in the correct order when it is time to analyze what you are doing.

I once tried to walk the CEO of a company through a particularly bad office process, he was the "approval document" and we walked him through the entire process and explained all of the delays etc. He only made it about a third of the way through the process before he was banging the table and demanding changes be made!

Using Teams to Create a Business Process Map

Any process flow diagram or business process map is best created using the people that are involved in actually conducting the process being mapped. By involving the actual people and not creating a map based on procedures and a consultant hidden away in an office you will get a truer picture of what really happens.

For some processes it is useful to video what is being done, videoing different people and even shifts to highlight differences in what is being done. This allows you to not only map the process but to get the team to settle on the best process to be used rather than having variation between them. Standardizing a process is vital if you then want to improve on it.

Process Flowchart software video

Flowchart software

Microsoft Visio Professional 2010
Microsoft Visio Professional 2010

Probably one of the most versatile programs on the market for creating flow charts.


Process Mapping Software

It is possible to buy specific software to do process mapping flowcharts however it is relatively simple to use software that is available to most businesses;

•          VISIO – Select new file and use the ‘Basic Flowchart’ template

•          EXCEL – Show the Drawing toolbar and AutoShapes – Flowchart

•          WORD – Show the Drawing toolbar and AutoShapes – Flowchart

•          POWERPOINT – Show the Drawing toolbar and AutoShapes – Flowchart

Personally however I prefer to do my process mapping flowcharts by hand using the post-it method unless you have to present the data back in a “professional” manner. Post-its are fantastic in that you can move them around easily, change their colours to highlight types of steps and so on.

Process Mapping Example

Process Mapping Analysis

What you are looking for within your analysis is to identify all of the wasteful steps in the process, look at the seven wastes of lean manufacturing to help you identify what the wasteful steps are.

The types of things that we are looking to eliminate or reduce are waiting time, piles of inventory, delays and so on. You may also find duplicated effort and totally unnecessary work. It is common for departments to require totally unnecessary information and forms from other departments that are never required!

The 5W's and 1H are your most powerful tools to use in trying to simplify any process flow chart; Why, who, where, when, what and how! The first question that you should ask is always "Why":

  • Why are we doing this?
  • Why is it done now (When)
  • Why is it done here? (Where)
  • Why is done by this person / department (Who)
  • What are we actually doing and how?

Many people just try to optimize how something is being done and end up making you better at doing something that is a wasteful process! Often when we ask why are we doing this we discover that we do not need to do it at all!

This hub about simplifying processes will give you more detailed instructions.

Process Mapping Flowchart Optimisation

Process Optimization through Mapping with Flowcharts

Once you have analyzed your data and identified all of the wasteful steps we need to look at optimizing the process, either through small tweaks to improve flow of material and information or potentially a revolutionary new process.

You can lay out your new process in exactly the same way as you did the current process so that you can measure the new lead time for the process, reduction in workload, work in progress and so on.

It is best to develop the new process as a team effort with those involved in the current process so that they can be part of this process, in this way they are involved in crafting their own processes rather than having them forced upon them!

Process Improvement Tools

Process mapping for continuous Improvement
Process mapping for continuous Improvement | Source

Continuous Process Improvement

Process Mapping Flowcharts are great tools to help you visualize your processes and to make process optimization happen. Continuous Process Improvement however has to be planned to make it happen. This will take many other tools other than just flowcharts.

Flowcharts work best when used in conjunction with all of the other quality tools; you can learn about these by looking at the 7 quality tools.


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    • LeanMan profile image

      Tony 7 years ago from At the Gemba

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment Pakpub, I am glad that you see the value of flowcharts and process mapping.

    • pakpub profile image

      pakpub 7 years ago from Ohio

      Process mapping flowcharts are a very important part of any plan. They are especially useful in business organization. Informative hub.

    • LeanMan profile image

      Tony 7 years ago from At the Gemba

      No parties for me wavegirl, spend all my time mapping processes and making flowcharts... Thanks for commenting..

    • wavegirl22 profile image

      Shari 7 years ago from New York, NY

      as they say if you don't know where you came from how can you know where you are going . .good thing there are maps, and with the added addition of flowcharts you really know where you have been ! Did I know how smart you were .. . to think I thought you were just a party animal ;)

    • LeanMan profile image

      Tony 7 years ago from At the Gemba

      thank you also for your comments K9, I am creating these process flowcharts all the time with my line of work!!

    • LeanMan profile image

      Tony 7 years ago from At the Gemba

      Thanks for your comments Jane, it would make life a little easier to have a few little process maps to introduce people to the 60DC.

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 7 years ago from Northern, California

      I really enjoyed watching the video and really learning how to create a functioning Process mapping flowchart. I can see Jane@CM's point about a chart for 60DC! Lots of very practicle information in this hub, up and awesome!


    • Jane@CM profile image

      Jane@CM 7 years ago

      Thumbs up! Maybe we need a map for the 60dc :)

    • LeanMan profile image

      Tony 7 years ago from At the Gemba

      Thank you for your comments Money, glad that I can be of help.

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 7 years ago from Texas

      Nice hub, man did I need this last year when I was attempting to map a flowchart for one of my college classes. It didn't make sense then, but it does now. Thumbs up!:)