6Sigma Tools: Process Mapping-Standard Symbols
As I said last week, process mapping is one of my favorite 6Sigma tools and the best thing about it is that anyone can do it. Now as with all things 6Sigma it can be as complicated or as easy as you want it to be. It may seem like process maps have a secret language, but this week’s blog helps you decipher the code.
What is it?
Rectangle illustrates an activity within the process. When activities are described in a rectangle they generally begin with a verb.
When you see a diamond, a decision has to be made. These decisions are generally yes/no or go/stop.
An arrow shows you which way the process is flowing and where it is connected.
A parallelogram shows that this step in the process is a data point.
An ellipse shows the start and ending of a process but some people like ovals or circles. I like circles myself, it really doesn’t matter but if you want to get technical ellipses are the Alpha and omegas of process maps.
Some people swear by MS Project or Visio, but the truth is that MS Excel or MS Word is just as effective for producing process map. The meat of this tool is that you illustrate the steps. I’ve provided an example of one of the process maps I designed for a client, when you first start mapping a process it’s better to focus on something simpler. This process is just an example of what a finished process map looks like.
What should it include?
At a bare minimum it should show how and where the process starts, who/what influences it (inputs) and the end goal/product. A more desirable map shows cycle times, value and non-value added tasks and activities, decision points, problems with immediate fix capabilities and process control needs. But that is not a hard and fast rule; your client will dictate what the map needs to show. As you can see from my process, my client wanted a “no-fluff” chart, a map that only illustrated the tasks that actually took place.
Why use it?
Aside from the clarity that comes with visualization, process mapping is good for:
- Visualizing improvement points
- Understanding root cause possibilities
- Complementing analytical tools with the data it provides
- Identifying what you will need to make improvements.
What doesn’t it do?
Every tool has its limitations and the process map does not give you a silver bullet. It cannot determine the level of variation, but it can determine if there is variation. It cannot stabilize your process but it can illustrate the best place to start looking for improvements. When you are ready to start giving your processes a deeper look, let SPC help get you started.
Process mapping is an excellent tool that doesn’t have to be monopolized by 6Sigma professionals. The best thing about a process map is the ability to illustrate the problem. Often times in an organization we understand that there is an issue, but we just don’t know what it is. Process mapping helps you to literally see the problem.
How does it work?
Like all things 6Sigma it can be as complicated or as simple as you would like for it to be, having said that there are a few steps that I think you should include in your mapping effort.
1. Define what you need to know.
2. Identify one process at a time and take the process from cradle to grave.
3. In the beginning, stick to linear maps and be sure to define decision points.
4. Identify if different departments/people participate in the process and define those elements.
What does it look like?
Bottom line –a process map should illustrate your steps and show your organization exactly where you are. When you know where you are, you know where to go. This is a minimum, but give us a call and we can help you with the specifics.
The Pareto principle, most commonly known as the 80-20 rule, is known by business owners as the simple fact that 80% of your problems are caused by 20% of the people. Really the theory was about wealth and power distribution, but the general premise applies. Most of your issues can be attributed to a fairly small distribution of root causes.
What does it look like?
What does it do?
A Pareto Charts work in levels to help you identify the root cause of the tallest bar (the biggest issue).
How do I use it?
The trick with Pareto is to start high and whittle away. What does that mean? It means that when you find out department A is supplying department b with all of the material that ends up in their rework, don’t go to department b and shut everything down. I know that it seems counterintuitive, but jumping the gun before you find out why that material ends up in the rework pile, leads to rework on department a’s part, causing more defects.
What doesn’t it do?
Pareto doesn’t provide an instant Ah-ha moment, it’s a method that requires patience and adherence to the process to be effective. If you need the answer now, it may not be the method for you. You may be better suited to process mapping or the 5 Why’s which will point you in a direction immediately. I have to say however, if you want the right answer validated by numbers then Pareto is right for you.
In 6Sigma the devil is in the details and a successful improvement initiative depends heavily on the selection of the right tool for the engagement. A successful selection depends heavily on the knowledge and skill of your belt, so use that library of knowledge and if that belt isn’t asking you a thousand questions about your end goal-move on!
With every improvement project you learn something valuable and a tool for improvements that need to happen quickly are Kaizen events. Kaizen events are rapid responses to very specific areas usually taking 3-5 days. Kaizen events are not difficult, but if you do not put the appropriate planning in place before you begin you will not realize any improvements. To begin with a basic structure of a Kaizen event should include the following:
- Training-what Kaizen is and how it works.
- Defining the problem/goals
- Documenting the current state
- Brainstorming and developing a future state
- Developing a follow-up plan
- Presenting results
- Celebrating successes
The most important thing to remember is that a Kaizen event is driven by two principles: What can we continuously improve and what waste can we eliminate? Those two principles bring us to my next point.
What Can’t Kaizen Events Do?
Kaizen cannot solve any 6Sigma problem. It is a tool that works best with situations that are not heavily focused on metrics. Situations such as yield improvements or variation reduction would not benefit from a Kaizen exercise.
There are many tools for a Kaizen checklist, but as with most 6Sigma tools the best advice often comes from your belt. If you are looking for a quick introduction to 6Sigma without the total commitment often necessary for a 6Sigma improvement project, Kaizen may be your answer.
In any lean project there are a ton of buzzwords, but the one thing that is a universal truth in all lean initiative is that for any tool used to be successful it must be understood. In today’s blog we are going to talk about a Gemba walk and why it works.
What is it?
A Gemba walk is literally seeing where the work happens and the value of work. The reason for the walk can be varied but its importance is to illustrate the process to the people who will be responsible for improving it. I like Gemba because it takes 6Sigma out of theory and metrics and illustrates it in a tangible way that makes sense to the people using it.
What do I do?
This is by no means a comprehensive checklist, but it is a place to start when you are planning your Gemba walk. I provided a simple but comprehensive checklist to create your Gemba walk below.
- Identify the processes (internal/external) that the customer pays for and has an expected output.
- Identify who understands the process- What you are looking for here is not the person/division/team responsible for the process, but the person who designed the process and understands why it operates the way it does. This person should understand the performance gap analysis and have a plan to correct the gap (or at least the beginning of an idea).This step is hard for a lot of people because the knowledge master generally isn’t the person with the official responsibility, but it is critical that you get this step right.
- Focus on the steps of the process that add value, show standardization or show how the work is distributed.
- Know the expected outputs-Are they gaps? Are you asking why? Are you assigning blame? (If are, you shouldn’t be.)
- Identify the areas of the process that are going well, what is making that success happen?
- Now that you know what is working and what is not, create your checklist based on this information.
- Remember to steer clear of the 3M’s and educated your process leaders on them. Muda-Waste, Mura-process variation not caused by the customer, and Muri-overburden on facility, people and equipment caused by Mura and Muda.
This is pretty comprehensive checklist, but as with all my posts this is just to introduce you to the Gemba Walk tool. Consulting with your belt will give you the most useful questions and sources of information in your walk. Done correctly a Gemba walk jumpstart rapid improvement events, done incorrectly they can derail an entire initiative. What will you value today?