Process Mapping

Process mapping is defined as the process of detailing the particular actions that are taken throughout the entire process or a particular portion of your processes. There are huge numbers of process mapping tools that can be used to map your business; some of them are Flow Chart, Value Stream Mapping (VSM), Brown Paper Exercise, String Diagrams / Spaghetti Diagrams. Process mapping guides to see work processes visually which identifies problem areas and create opportunities for process improvement. It provides easy understanding of the entire process and particular roles and contributions of process participants.

Need of process mapping
Process mapping is one of the most important tools in Lean manufacturing; it is identifies the areas and steps required for improvement within the firm by using the many other tools of lean manufacturing. By utilizing the various process mapping tools you can identify the various process steps that either add value or not and reduce cost to your company. Whatever, a tool can only highlights the areas for improvement, it is useless unless you making the improvements or corrective actions. Another biggest problem that companies faces is taking actions without clearly defining the future state that they wish to achieve. Only a future state map gives you with the clear vision that you need to achieve.

Value chain
The value chain is the process of adding value to each and every process from raw materials to delivery of finished goods to the customer. During this process journey your product will undergo a number of steps, some of which add value and others may not or leave your product idle for a week. When mapping the value chain we can identify those value adding and non-value adding process steps and delays which allow us to eliminate or to reduce those steps that cost money and increase lead times. In fact, in lean manufacturing we are struggling to reduce the lead time from order receipt to cash, by using this we can reduce time that our cash is locked in stock and work in progress. If you know lean principles, the second principle is to identify the value chain, and the third is to make that value flow by removing challenges and delays, process mapping tools helps you to determine your process flow and enable improvements to be made.

Types of Process mapping
Depending on the scope and purpose there are different mapping tools that we can use. But before starting any mapping exercise we must clear about what exactly that we need to map, we must set the boundaries for our map. Some tools such as Value Chain Mapping are very good tools for visualizing the whole process but are not detailed enough to analyse a particular process for that we may need a process flow diagram or a string diagram.

Value Stream Mapping is a useful overall view of your firm’s processes from raw material supplier to customer. It shows product as well as information flow internally and externally. It also intimate stock levels, work force utilization, process timings and information that can be used to interpret overall process flow. The VSM intimate will clearly show your potential opportunity to reduce lead times and stock holding. Value stream mapping is usually implemented with a team that having the people within the areas being mapped, multiple products are manufactured by a company it is important to select the correct product or group of products to map. Either you choose the most important or the one that is easy to improve depending on the requirement of the business. The current process mapping should reflect the reality; data should be collected at the work place directly, not based on already specified procedures. Once the current process state map is completed then it is the time to think about future state map, this is a map of where would you like to be within a fixed time frame.

Flow chart is a simple charting process to enumerate individual steps within a particular process such as order receipt, designing, etc. it is usually applied to a particular sub process rather than applying and concentrating on the whole value chain as in VSM above. Flowchart is a useful and easy way to enumerate value added and non-value added steps within the process, it can also give you a clear standardized process flow to use as the standard procedure for working.

String Diagram
The string diagram, as it resembles it is a visual representation of your workflow will be drawn as a diagram of your shop floor processes. It will explore how far information, products and operators have to travel across your process. This is a most powerful and useful process mapping tool for improvements and is often avoided because of its simplicity.

Brown paper Exercise
A brown paper exercise is a mixture of many mapping tools, a cross between flowchart and string diagram. It is manufactured on a large piece of brown wrapping paper but now using a roll of white paper but with the name. It is generally stuck to the wall in a common room where everyone can add to it and discuss on it. It generally covers all the aspects of a particular process flows, you can find yourself sticking forms, printouts, post it notes and other relevant information to communicate the entire flow and its complexity. The value of this exercise can be valuable, when someone sees and discuss about the number of steps and the people and forms that are involved in a simple process.