A primary component of Lean Six Sigma is eliminating documented and undocumented waste.
Documented waste, frequently tracked through an organization’s automated systems, is easier to measure and correct. However, undocumented waste – non-value-added steps and events unintentionally incorporated into a process over time, sometimes along with required value-added steps – is often more troubling.
That’s when Process Mapping becomes a useful tool.
Process Mapping Overview
Process Mapping is a proven method used to find both value-added and non-value-added steps. It shows the current process for making products. By documenting, analyzing, and designing the best flow of materials and information needed to produce a good (or service) and bring it to the consumer, you can identify problems to correct and find opportunities to save time and money.
Using a value stream in Lean Six Sigma requires you to consider every part of the work system. This includes people, activities, and information, because even small problems can create big waste over time.
Though Process Mapping is a technique most often associated with manufacturing, other segments of the business community – service, supply chain, and logistics – have implemented it as well.
In fact, a friend recently explained a situation in the human resources department of her company. Though she didn’t realize it at the time, she was implementing a similar technique.
Apply Process Mapping to Simple Tasks
My friend explained that the human resources department had long been responsible for employment verifications. However, during a conversation with an assistant, my friend learned about the current process.
Seems that when the department receives an employment verification form it is recorded in a log. Then some of the information requested on the form is completed. A copy is made and sent to payroll and the original form is held in the log file. Payroll notes financial information and returns the copy to human resources.
Human resources transfers the payroll information from the copy to the original, signs it, makes another copy of the completed form, and mails the original. The completed copy goes in the employee’s personnel file.
After shaking her head for a few moments, my friend suggested that payroll complete the entire process and then send human resources a copy for the employee file. End of story.
The purpose of this story is to demonstrate how easy it is to turn a simple process into a complicated one. That’s what many companies do without realizing it.