Business Process Mapping

April 19, 2021

AndBusiness processes are the regularly repeated series of tasks, steps, or actions that are taken at your company and the people, teams, or groups that are involved in carrying out each step. Whether they be a daily process like pushing work orders to the shop floor, a weekly process like payroll, a monthly process like paying your vendors, or an annual process like tax season. A process is basically everything you do. Because your business is a series of these small processes happening at all times everywhere, it is imperative that you know and understand what each process entails so that you can work toward streamlining and improving these processes wherever possible to unlock the maximum potential in your business.

But how can you do track and see everything you do?

This is the job of business process mapping. A good business process map allows you to visualize your business processes and quickly spot the product and the waste. And once you find the waste, LEAN thinking is there to help you cut waste, easily remembered by the acronym DOWNTIME, and improve your company productivity and profit.

For more information on waste, see our white paper on Cutting Waste with LEAN Thinking.

Figure 1: The 8 DOWNTIME wastes

Mapping Processes

In a process map, you draw out each step in a process and connect them with arrows to show the process flow and how each element connects to another. A basic process map to make a sandwich may look like this:

Based on the type of process map, there are standard symbols that should be used for every action, decision, start, end, or documents created by the process. Here are the most commonly used ones:

Mapping Types

To ensure business processes are mapped in the most understandable way, there are multiple types of map that can be used for a process, these include: process flowcharts, detailed process maps, cross-functional maps, value stream maps, and SIPOC maps.

Process Flowchart

The original process flowchart focuses on laying out processes in a visual, easy to use, easy to understand map that flows from the start to the end.

Process flowcharts are normally used:

  • When planning new projects
  • To model existing processes for review and modifications
  • To analyze workflows

Figure 2: Process Flowchart example

Value Chain Maps

Value chain maps are high-level process maps that give you a top-down view of a process. These maps show the main actions for the process but without adding detail on decisions, persons involved, etc.

Value chain maps are normally used when designing a business process to define and identify key actions and details of the process.

Figure 3: Value chain map example 

Swimlane Diagram

Swimlane charts show the relationship between an action in the process and the persons or groups that affect that action. They are sometimes referred to as deployment flowcharts or cross-functional maps.

Swimlane charts are normally used:

  • When you need to identify the roles responsible for parts of the process and their interrelation
  • To show how a process moves between business units
  • To identify potential waste

Figure 4: Swimlane Diagram example

SIPOC Diagrams

The SIPOC diagram focuses on the Supplier, Inputs, Processes, Outputs, and Customer of a process. This is a simplified map that only displays the basics of the process and those involved. This allows a focus on key process elements.

SIPOC diagrams are normally used:

  • When you need to identify the elements of the process before creating a more detailed map
  • To define process scope

Figure 5: SIPOC Diagram example

Value Stream Map

Used in LEAN and six sigma methodologies, the value stream map requires some training to be able to analyze at a glace while containing more information that grants an in-depth visual of the process.

Value stream maps are normally used to:

  • Record process inputs and output values
  • Identify potential waste
  • Manage and improve the process workflow

Figure 6: Value Stream Map example

Creating Process Maps

Now that you know the most common type of process maps, you are ready to map your business process. In the simplest terms, mapping a process requires that you:

  1. Identify the process
  2. Gather resources and information
  3. Draw the map

Once the map is created, you can use the map to:

  1. Analyze the map for improvements
  2. Plan the improvements
  3. Implement improvements
  4. Review the process for regular refinements and update the business process map

A few key items to keep in mind when creating process maps:

  • Identify the process start and end steps first. This helps you and your team set the limits on what process is being mapped.
  • Make the map simple to read so that it is accessible to anyone at your company.
  • Keep the map details down to only key information.
  • Use the standardized process map symbols to improve accessibility.
  • Share the process map with key stakeholders regularly to ensure that relevant data and actions are accounted for.
  • If possible, use business process mapping software to simplify recording, sharing, and updating the process map.

Identify the process

This is pretty straight forward but can still come with its own set of questions:

  • What process are you going to map? Where is the start and end?
  • Is this part of a global rethinking for your company or for small refinements?

Gather resources and information

Once you know the process and what the end goal is, you are ready to assemble a team to build the map and gather information related to the process. Things to consider:

  • Does the team include key stakeholders for the process?
  • Where are the inputs and outputs for the process?
  • What actions taken on the inputs?
  • Who does what? When? Where? How?

Be sure to record the sequence of actions taken on the process.

Draw the map

Having gathered the data, create the business process map. To ensure clarity, place the steps in sequence either from right to left, or top down.

With the map drawn out, you are ready for the next phase of the business process map.

Analyze, Plan, Implement, Review

With the map created, analyze the steps taken and determine if any actions are larger than they need to be, unrequired, or counter-productive. Once you know what to change, create an implementation plan to effect the desired changes. Then, you just have to implement the plan and review the end result to ensure that your desired changes are having the desired positive effect on the process.

The main goal of this part of the business process map is to find DOWNTIME waste and modify the process to cut it.

Figure 7: Simplified Business Process Map lifecycle

Like many other manufacturing techniques tied to LEAN, business process mapping becomes a virtuous cycle of constant process improvement with waste being shed with every turn of the wheel.

Other benefits of Business Process Mapping include:

  • Clearer process definition for your whole enterprise, leading to faster understanding for all affected groups
  • Required for many standards and certifications
  • Better documentation and training materials
  • Improves role and responsibility clarity for groups involved and other stakeholders
  • Better user engagement for process improvement and makes waste easier to spot
  • Team performance and job satisfaction improvements
  • Improves process efficiency measurability
  • Helps model future scenarios
  • Presents your company as an efficient and reliable to investors and clients

Conclusion

All of these process map types have been or can be easily digitized, though many project managers prefer to use a written chart for easy access. However, new software tools and decreases in the cost of hardware have made creating business process maps, and updating any data on them, a simple process with easy visuals on larger screens. There are also benefits to creating your business process map on a digital record, such as:

  • Tracking the process after it has been modified
  • Tracking issues created by process changes, such as negative feedback, bottlenecks, or missed deadlines
  • Remote access to the map for process teams and stakeholders

In summation, a good business process map starts by recording what you are doing and allows you to engage in process improvement or re-design to help keep your company productive and competitive.

Where OnRamp Helps You

OnRamp is a single point database ERP system that was designed from the ground up to touch all your business units and improve their processes and communication with each other.

Added to our best-in-class ERP is our dedicated business process mapping tools that allow you to enter your processes and track changes to them. And since OnRamp digitizes many of your processes, all the changes are immediately felt within OnRamp. All this in one system. This means no paper copies, no added IT systems, no flowchart vendors or outside project management consultants, no messy 3rd party plug-ins, and no added costs. All your data instantly shared with all your business units. To help you get started quickly and with your best foot forward, OnRamp’s consulting team has decades of combined experience in manufacturing and implementing proven management methodologies that will improve your bottom line. Whatever you make, we can help you make it better.

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