In the August 2013 “Speaking of Quality” column, flowcharts, process mapping and turtle diagrams were examined, explained and compared. When it comes to flowcharts and process mapping, ASQ has found that there will always be a need to visit and revisit these tools. For this column we return to flowcharts and process maps but add to it the value stream map.

Before we address value stream maps (VSM), let’s tackle the other map and the only chart.

Flowchart  Process Mapping

The most likely reason process maps and flowcharts are mistakenly seen as interchangeable is that they look similar and use many of the same graphic symbols. However, the goals of each are different.

A process map “is an essential technique,” writes Miriam Boudreaux in her article, “On the Map,” (Quality Progress, November 2010) “for identifying all the processes that take place in an organization, as well as their interrelation. This visual tool makes it easy to understand the sequence in which these processes take place.” A process map is detailed, yet easy to follow and includes the following components:


Core processes

Interactions shown by arrows


Support processes

A process map then is meant to be of use to the company in a strategic way and to empower staff based on team and individual goals. The article “Knowledge Map and Process Map Overview,” published by APQC (October 2009), states that you should use a process map to:

Ensure everyone understands the shared vision
of a process.

Provide an accurate snapshot of the process.

Aid in identifying non-value added tasks.

Facilitate training of new employees.

Determine where in?process measures need to be used.

The following table helps differentiate the process map and flowchart in more detail.

From “On the Map,” Miriam Boudreaux (Quality Progress, November 2010)

As with flowcharts and process maps, there is some confusion over the use of process and value stream maps. Unlike process maps, value stream mapping is directly linked to lean methodology, and combines processing methods, information flow and other related data into one map. Because of the detail offered in a value stream map (VSM), this tool provides much more information than a flowchart will.

In his article, “Value Stream Mapping—an Introduction,” (Quality Progress, 2006) Tony Manos listed the steps you should take to properly develop a VSM.

Value Stream Scope—Make sure you determine, with your team, the scope of the value stream under examination. “Think of the scope,” says Manos, “as the door to door process for a facility level map.”

Ready a Team for the Event—Never draft a map alone. Form a cross-functional team—including areas and roles that are not directly quality-related—of seven to 10 members.

Kaizen Kick-Off—Typically, a three day kaizen (Japanese for “change for the better”) event gives the team enough time to create current and future state maps. Manos states that the team must complete these four steps during the event:

Determine the process family.

Draw the current state map.

Determine and draw the future
state map.

Draft a plan to arrive at the future state.

Process Family—A process (or product) family is a group of products or services that go through the same or similar processing steps. Create a matrix that lists the process steps along the top row and the products your organization makes in the first column. Moving through the matrix, correspond product and process step and place an x in the box.

Plotting the Current State—The current state map should illustrate how your organization’s processes perform in today’s work environment.

Pencil and Paper—Once the information has been collected, Manos recommends drawing the map on 11 by 17 inch paper (landscape) using pencil and, “probably a large eraser.” Key areas on the map are:

The upper right corner for customer information.

The upper left corner for supplier information.

The top half of the paper for information flow.

The bottom half for material (or product) flow.

The gutters on top and bottom to calculate value added and non-value added time.

Future State Map—Now set your sights on creating the future state map. Make sure the team members have some basic training on lean principles to develop a realistic future state map.

Draft Plan—Creating (and executing) the draft plan is the most important part of VSM. Creating the maps can be an enlightening experience.

Process maps, flowcharts and value stream maps are three useful tools in your QMS. As you continue and strengthen your improvement efforts, be sure to explore each tool’s unique qualities.

 Keep the process improving.