Process Maps: Building block basics for your business

Posted by Gretchen Clifton on Feb 22, 2017 1:39:33 PM

Written by Gretchen Clifton, IMEC Technical Specialist

The new ISO 9001:2015 standard places more emphasis on understanding our processes; how they impact our business from an individual process standpoint as well as how they integrate with other processes. The key to success is creating processes that are efficient and effective, integrate well with others for a cohesive flow from start to finish, and ultimately, provide the results we need.

Many companies have a high level process map that fulfills the requirements of ISO or TS, or perhaps as an outcome of a value stream mapping activity. They created it, but has it really been used for anything?

Example: Sample high-level process map

Process map

What can you do with a process map once it has been created?

I have found that creating “process descriptions” for each process provides a better understanding of what is expected to happen in the process, what actually should happen, and what are the expectations for the process results (i.e. how do we monitor or measure the outcomes? Or, what key performance measures should be achieved within the process?).

So what does a Process Description entail and what does it look like?

It can be any format that makes sense in a graphic depiction; a flow chart (above), a Word document map, or others.

Start with the following basics to break down your Process Descriptions:

  • Inputs
  • Outputs
  • Criteria methods and standards for control
  • Results or Key Performance Indicators
  • Resources required
  • Process owner
  • Potential Risks

Example: Process Description

Process Owner: Tom Jones

Process Map Descriptions

With a clearer picture of what is expected from your process, how can you use this information?

  • Quality system compliance - Show the interaction of your processes, identifying Risks and expected Goals for the process to determine effectiveness. This will allow you to better manage your processes.
  • Training - This can be a road map for a new employee or supervisor to ensure they understand the process, their job, and the expectations for the work area.
  • Internal auditing - This can serve as an audit road map of items that can be reviewed and observed as part of the audit process to ensure the process is effective.
  • Corrective Action – This may provide a better understanding of the process and what aspects might need assistance to correct an issue.

Finally, all of the above may serve as inputs to the management review if you are having issues or are trying to identify why one process works better than another. Often, we find process descriptions can also be helpful when looking from process to process to identify future improvement opportunities.

Whether you have been using process maps in the business or are just beginning a map for the first time, let this information be a guide for how to get started. You may find even a simple map will help to clear any misunderstanding about process maps or the expectations of its capabilities.

Learn more about Gretchen Clifton, IMEC Technical Specialist in the field of quality management and continuous improvement.

Gretchen Clifton

Written by Gretchen Clifton

Topics: iso, process management, operations

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