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Process Mapping

Control Your Processes and Control Your Business

Simple 'Help' Process MapProcess mapping involves drawing the flow of information, customers, equipment and materials through the various steps of a process. Process maps are also known as flowcharts, flow diagrams, relationship maps or blueprints. Process maps can be nested within each other allowing complex processes such as "Sales Order Processing" to be displayed as a single item on a top level process map and in detail at lower levels. With software these maps can be linked together allowing drill downs to take place. When made available on a company intranet these maps become a powerful training and reference tool. The effects of changes can be easily seen with process maps. When activity processing times are added to process maps it is possible to assess the overall cycle time - the time to process one product (product implies services as well as manufactured goods). Management can review the effectiveness of processes by reviewing activity times in conjunction with resource availability and comparing this to the demand for products by the customer. Through further analysis, breaking activities down into the amount of value added and non-value added activity will identify ways to improve a process to deliver more customer value. Managers who adopt a process view of their business will make better decisions to control and improve that business.


Work Centre B is the bottleneckA bottleneck is an activity in the process that determines the maximum output of a process. All processes contain a bottleneck. The process map example shown details a three stage process where work center B can only produce 50 units per hour. Despite A and C being able to produce 200 units per hour the whole process can only deliver 50 units per hour to the customer. If a company decides to improve activity A or C it will have wasted its resources as this will make no difference to overall work rate. Only by improving activity B will an increase in overall work rate be achieved. Process maps are an excellent tool for highlighting bottlenecks and where to concentrate process improvement activity.


Software for Process Mapping I use Microsoft Visio with a specialist manufacturing add in called eVSM . As an alternative you can use Smart Draw. eVSM turns Visio into the most powerful "drag & drop" value stream mapping and analysis tool available. It seamlessly links in with Microsoft Excel allowing clear process maps drawn in visio to store data which can then be analyzed in a spreadsheet and transfers back any analysis results onto the process map. Takt time calculations to identify process capability are simplified with this tool. The system can also be used for critical path identification, activity based costing, and much more.

Theory of Constraints (TOC) Eliyahu Goldratt is credited with the theory of constraints, first published in 1984 in the book The Goal. TOC is an organizational change method that is focused on profit improvement. The essential concept of TOC is that every organization must have at least one constraint. A constraint is any factor that limits the organization from getting more of whatever it strives for, which is usually profit. The Goal focuses on constraints as bottleneck processes in a job-shop manufacturing organization. However, many non-manufacturing constraints exist, such as market demand, or a sales department’s ability to translate market demand into orders. TOC differs from Lean in the approach towards bottlenecks. Lean attempts to balance resources in a process so that all activities take the same time. In our example above (assuming the best that B can do is 50 per hour) lean would reduce the resources at A & C to 50 per hour as this excess resource is waste. TOC would say that there are always variations in an activity. TOC predicts that if you balance resources so that each activity in a process chain takes the same time then small variations at each work center compound and the total output will be below 50 per hour. TOC suggests that you should do everything to maximize the output of the constraint, for example ensure it doesn't run out of material and leave the other processes with excess capacity giving an output of 50 units per hour. TOC goes further than simple time based bottlenecks as it looks to map the value (profit) that a process produces and uses activity based costing to reveal the true costs of processes.

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