What is Process Mapping in Six Sigma? Objectives, Benefits, Types, Steps

  • Post last modified:18 March 2023
  • Reading time:14 mins read
  • Post category:Lean Six Sigma
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What is Process Mapping in Six Sigma?

Process mapping is a tool used in Six Sigma to visually represent and analyze the flow of a process, from start to finish. It helps to identify areas of inefficiency, waste, and defects and allows for improvements to be made to the process to eliminate these issues.

The process mapping technique typically involves creating a detailed flowchart of the process, which shows each step of the process, the inputs and outputs at each step, and any decision points or branches in the process. This helps to identify the critical steps, handoffs, and bottlenecks in the process, as well as areas where errors or defects may occur.

Process mapping is one of the basic quality tools used in the Six Sigma methodology. Process mapping is not only a planning tool but also a management tool. It enables a visual depiction of the process. The map created at the end of process mapping is a process map. A series of events that result in an end product can be seen in a process map. Various terms are synonymous to process maps.

These include business flow diagrams, flowcharts, functional flowcharts, functional process charts, process charts, process flow diagrams, process flowcharts, process models, workflow diagrams, etc. Process maps help to understand processes and improve process efficiency.

Using process maps, we can show resources involved in a process and also reveal areas where a process should be improved. Process maps can be used in any kind of business or organization.

Objectives of Process Mapping

One objective of process mapping is improvement in efficiency within organizations. Some other objectives of process mapping are as follows:

  • Provides better insights into a process to the management and other stakeholders.

  • Helps the project teams bring process improvement by brainstorming ideas, an increased opportunity for communication, and for carrying out process documentation.

  • Helps the project teams in identifying the bottlenecks such as redundancy, repetition, and delays.

  • Eases up the process of defining process boundaries, ownership, and responsibilities.

  • Helps in determining the measures of process effectiveness.

Another important purpose of process mapping is to offer a better understanding of a process to all stakeholders. With process mapping, it becomes easier to highlight areas of waste and streamline work processes. It becomes possible to visually communicate important process details eliminating the need to write extensive directions.

Benefits of Process Mapping

The benefits of using a process mapping tool are listed as follows:

  • Acquiring process understanding
  • Identifying the scope for process improvement
  • Displaying all process steps
  • Enhancing interpersonal communication between team members
  • Documenting the process steps
  • Aiding in project planning
  • Help in problem-solving and decision-making
  • Identifying problems and proposing possible solutions
  • Symbols used in process mapping are easy to remember and follow
  • Easier to visualize the end-to end-process

Types of Process Maps

We will discuss the types of process maps used in Six Sigma

Activity Process Map

It includes activities that are value-adding and non-value adding.

Detailed Process Map

This map includes a lot of detailing around process steps.

Document Maps

This map documents process inputs and outputs.

High-level Process Map

It’s a bird’s eye view of a process that includes elements such as Supplier, Input, Process, Output, and Customer (SIPOC).

Rendered Process Map

This map is representative of the existing state and the future state of a process indicating the process improvement areas.

Swim Lane Map

The sub-process responsibilities are separated in this type of map.

Value-added Chain Diagram

A simplified representation using unconnected boxes.

Value Stream Map

It is a process analysis and improvement technique in lean management.

Process maps are created with the help of certain symbols. A process map contains elements such as actions carried out or required, steps of activities, decision points, functions, inputs and outputs, people and resources, process measurements and required time, etc. For each element, there is a unique symbol by which it is represented in a process map.

The unique symbol assigned to each processing element might be an arrow, box, circle, diamond, oval or rectangle, etc. However, the international standard for drawing process maps is the Unified Modelling Language (UML). Some commonly used process map symbols.

Process mapping is used in many areas of business including business process redesign, documentation, reengineering, quality improvement, simulation, training, information technology, work measurement, process analysis, operational process design, process integration, business process improvement, etc.

Manufacturing and service industry regulations necessitate documentation. Some industry standards such as ISO 9000 or ISO 9001 require process documentation. Process mapping plays an important role in fulfilling these requirements.

Process Mapping Steps

Commercially available software has made process mapping easy. Commonly used application software programs such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or Excel have process mapping capabilities. Many other programs can be customized for including the process mapping feature. Knowledge about how to map a process helps managers in building strong communication and understanding among team members. The steps involved in process mapping are as follows:

Step 1: Problem Identification

In this step, the process that requires visualization is selected and the name of the process is used as the document title.

Step 2: Process Activity Brainstorming

In this step, all activities needed for the process are identified. Also, the granularity needed in breaking down the project is determined. Also, the responsibilities and activity timings are identified.

Step 3: Identify Process Boundaries

In this step, the process starts and end dates are specified.

Step 4: Sequencing of the Steps

The general flow of the process may be displayed or the action or decision details may be mentioned depending on the requirements of the project.

Step 5: Start Preparing the Process Map Using Basic Symbols

In this step, all the elements in the process flow are represented by their respective symbols.

Step 6: Process Map Finalisation

Team members, workers, process owners, supervisors, suppliers, customers, etc. are the stakeholders who should be approached for a consensus on the final process map. The process map should have all relevant information such as title, date, etc. for easy future reference.

It is amply clear that process maps are capable of providing valuable insights into the strategy that a business or an organization can adopt to improve its processes. Visual presentation of the process information through a process map helps in better understanding and collaboration between teams working on any project.

Article Source
  • Ferraro, J. (2012). Project management for non-project managers. New York: AMACOM.

  • Jeff Furman. (2015). The Project Management Answer Book; 2nd Edition. Management Concepts, Inc.

  • Open Source Six Sigma. (2017). Opensourcesixsigma.com. Retrieved 27 March 2023, from http://www.opensourcesixsigma. com/Default.asp

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