The Map to Success: How Can Six Sigma Training Help with Your Process Mapping?

Want to increase the efficiency of your business’s planning, development, and production processes?  Learn how Six Sigma methodology and process mapping will improve the quality of your products and help you WOW your customers.  

Six Sigma is a proven, data-driven philosophy that benefits businesses and organizations of all sizes.  Process mapping is at the heart of it.  Let’s see why.   

What Is Six Sigma?

Introduced in the 1980s, Six Sigma aims to increase the quality of products and services by eliminating defects from any process involved in their production.  

The Greek letter “Sigma” comes from statistics.  Sigma measures how much a given process deviates from perfection.  It is also known as the standard deviation of the process from its mean.

Six Sigma provides a structured approach to measuring the number of “defects” in a process and then focuses on ways to reduce variance and drive toward “zero defects” as much as possible.

Businesses using Six Sigma shoot for 99.99966% of their products to be free of defects.  Another way of stating the Six Sigma standard is to say that defects are reduced to 3.4 per one million opportunities.

Among statisticians, that’s known as “a gnat’s eyelash”.   

Reducing variance and errors in processes is crucial to achieving dependability and repeatability in those processes.  That improvement ultimately leads to higher quality goods and services to customers.  That’s what it’s all about, right? 

So, now we know what Six Sigma’s goals are.  But how is it implemented and where does process mapping come in?

Remember, this is a structured approach to defect reduction.  Structure means having a framework of actionable steps that any business can follow.  First, we need to hear about DMAIC and the role that mapping and flowcharting play in it.

What Is DMAIC?

To achieve the Six Sigma goal of eliminating defects in processes, the quality improvement strategy known as DMAIC is used.  That breaks down as follows:

  • Define the process and its relation to customer requirements, and identify areas for improvement 
    • This first step is where process mapping first comes in – read on!
  • Measure the performance of the current process
    • Collect relevant data to determine shortfalls in the “as-is” process that affect the quality of the product in any way
  • Analyze the data to determine the root cause of defects or inefficiencies
    • Need to determine cause-and-effect relationships to get to the root
      • Helpful to use fishbone diagrams and flowcharting
  • Improve or optimize the current process in order to create a new “to-be” process (future state)
    • More process mapping using flowcharting!
    • Must establish pilot runs in order to test new process capability
  • Control the “to-be” future state process to ensure high performance
    • Implement data-based control systems to continuously monitor
    • Repeat the “to-be” process until improvements are shown to be sustainable

Process Mapping Is Key to Success

A cross-functional team of your employees is the best way to build a process map that defines the current steps of any process within your business.

Team composition should be held to 10-15 members (or fewer for a small business) who are representative of the different departments that contribute to the process being defined and analyzed.

You want the different perspectives from a diverse team as to how a process currently works and what can be improved to build a new future state process.

Key Benefits of Process Mapping

  • Visually documents process activities, describes relationships and how the interaction of those activities contributes to the final product
    • A cross-functional flow chart is a great tool for visual depiction
    • See the entire process in one view
  • Identifies steps of the process that add complexity or create inefficiency and need to be simplified
    • Flowcharting helps detect “no value added” areas quicker
  • Graphically compares the current “as-is” process to the future “to-be” process
    • Can view both current and future flowcharts side-by-side
  • Enables easier explanation of processes to others outside the team
    • Can store flowcharts for future reference and training of new hires

How to Build a Process Map

  • Determine the process boundaries
    • Set context and scope 
    • Where does the process begin and where does it end?
  • List all the steps in the process
    • List all inputs and outputs associated with each step
      • Items or data received (input)
      • The intended result from that step (output)
  • Put all steps of the current process in the correct sequence
    • Easier to identify areas for improvement
  • Utilize the right symbols
    • Standard flow chart symbology
    • Each symbol represents a different action or point
    • Ensure the entire team understands the meaning of each symbol
  • Review for completeness
    • Review to ensure every step of the current process is listed and described

Now, the most valuable step – improving the process! 

  • Team members should analyze all process steps and look for ways to improve
    • Redundant or wasteful steps?
    • Can any steps be combined or removed altogether?
    • Are there delays (choke points) in the process and if so, what is causing them?
  • Create a new process map with your future “to-be” state, using the same mechanism as listed above

How Can Six Sigma Training Help My Business?

Certified Six Sigma trainers are key facilitators of effective process mapping and to implementing the Six Sigma methodology throughout all facets of your business. 

There are different certification levels, ranging from Green Belt to Black Belt to Master Black Belt. Get more info here.

In today’s business climate, anything you can do to set your company apart from your competition is worth pursuing.  Delivering consistently reliable, quality products or services to your customers is what they want…and what they expect!

Looking for Help Finding a Business That…?

Need help with process mapping, or anything else in the Six Sigma world?  We have the resources to steer you in the right direction, saving you time and money!  Click here to search.