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 –
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:
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.