Flowchart

Developing a process flowchart early in the DMAIC methodology has several benefits -

1.  Not all team members are familiar with the entire process at the start of the project.  Developing a process flowchart in a group session gives all team members a full appreciation for the inputs, outputs, controls, and value-added operations.

2.  A good flowchart helps structure the Analyze phase, as team members consider possible sources of variation. It’s easy to overlook major causes of variation, and a complete process flowchart will help minimize this risk.

3.  During the Control phase the team must decide on process controls and mistake proofing measures for long term control.  Having a flowchart makes this process easier, especially as the team tries to work as far “upstream” as possible when implementing process controls.

The following symbols are typically used in process flowcharts –

flowcharting symbols

After the initial flowchart is completed, we recommend adding the inputs (x’s) and outputs (y’s) of each process step.  Here is a sample flowchart with the x’s and y’s noted below and above each process step:

example process flowchart

Powerpoint® file

There are a number of software tools available for creating process flowcharts, but Microsoft’s Powerpoint® package is available to most professionals and contains the symbols necessary to create a process flowchart.  Here are a few tips for planning a productive flowcharting session –

  • Identify a facilitator who is not an expert on the process being flowcharted.
  • Define ahead of time where the process starts and ends.
  • Start by listing out all of the process steps in a simple list.  Then take a step back and see if anything is missing, prior to creating the flowchart.
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