Developing a process flowchart early in the DMAIC methodology has several benefits –
1. 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.
Traditional process flow charts link process steps using various symbol shapes depicting start and end points, documentation, delays, etc. These chart types are covered below.
Another popular flow chart is referred to as a SIPOC, which stands for Suppliers, Inputs, Processes, Outputs, and Customers. SIPOCs are a great starting point for understanding a process at a high level, ensuring that important inputs, customers, etc., are accounted for.
The following symbols are used in traditional process flowcharts –
After the initial flowchart is completed, we recommend adding the inputs (x’s) and outputs (y’s) of 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 flow charted.
- Define ahead of time where the process starts and ends.
- Start by putting all process steps into a simple list. Then take a step back and see if anything is missing, prior to creating the flowchart.