process flow Digram

(1) The Process Flow Diagram

A process flow chart is a process analysis tool which maps out a process and its steps through a set of standardised flow chart symbols. The process flow chart is an initial step in process re-engineering and continuous improvement/initiatives that help understand the different process steps, the sub-steps within these and the nature of these steps. It is a similar approach to value stream mapping where the value stream of a product or service is mapped from raw materials to customer distribution. Some process flow charts can be very complex and used in engineering design and plant designs, these are usually known as schematic diagrams and use a different set of symbols and provide more detail of the process.

Process Flowchart symbols

The symbols are used to represent a value adding task (a rectangle), an arrow represents a material / WIP movement, a square with a rounded side is the symbol for a delay, and an inverted triangle represents an inventory holding area.

Please refer to here for further explanation on process flow chart symbols The process flowcart can contain a variety of information, depending on its intended use and complexity. It is up to the user to collect the required information to put on the flow chart.

Uses of a process flowcharts

The use of process flow charts are usually used to identify problems within a production process and inefficiencies. A list is presented below:

-Understanding a productive process
-Identifying process bottlenecks and excessive waiting periods within the process
-Identify redundant or unnecessary process tasks
-Identify potential improvements in labour productivity
-Identify inefficient inventory management and unnecessary inventory costs 

The items above are the main reasons why process engineers or industrial engineers involved in improving process performance will map a process or value stream with a process flow chart. Lean teams also use them for similar reasons and as a basis for their kaizen initiatives to identify sources of waste to eliminate to make any process more efficient.

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Process and Production/Manufacturing Process Analysis

Process analysis is important not only in operations or production management but also in managing and running a business. If managers and staff do not understand an organization or value adding process it is very difficult to both manage and run them to their most efficient level and attain a sustainable competitive advantage. Knowing a process well will give business owners and mangers a clear and precise idea of manufacturing costs, inventory costs, use of company assets, capacity utilization and the different processes currently in place to produce the outputs required. It can also provide an insight into cost saving and efficiency opportunities to reduce the overall cost base without any impact on product quality and customer satisfaction, and provide the data to set the operations strategy for the organization.

So what is a process one might ask? A process in this sense is referred to a series of steps in a supply chain or value stream which transform raw materials and inputs such as labour into finished goods in customer's hands. Any subset of this process can also be a stand alone process, depending on its nature and complexity. These can include service processes such as providing a hotel room for a night or a manufacturing process. 

Process analysis can also set the base for which the process can be modelled under different or future circumstances in order to answer management questions on how will the processes react, handle or the cost base change under the new conditions. 

Process analysis consists of several steps and can be achieved with the use of different tools and concepts. 

Process Analysis steps

Understand the process - This usually is the first step in order to be able to understand what are the inputs, outputs, steps and tasks that comprise the productive process. Visual inspection and observation will always provide a better understanding than theory or a process diagram alone. 

Collect data - Observation, production data collection, customer surveys, sales and marketing information can contain useful data in analysing a process. 

Process/analyse data - This is the biggest and an important step in process analysis, this can be done in a variety of ways depending on the data available, complexity of the process and resources available to perform the analysis.